Last Updated: June 29, 2023, 00:24 IST
Holding the steering wheel of the government buses for over twenty years, Asia’s first woman bus driver, Vasanthakumari, got rejected several times for not being a man, but did not give up her dream career.
She is now an inspiration to woman drivers across the country, who has managed to pursue her dreams along with taking care of six kids.
Speaking to News18, Vasanthakumari said that her license application got rejected many times, saying “that even men find it difficult to sit behind the steering wheel and so definitely I cannot manage.”
“I didn’t even get an opportunity for a skill test,” she said, adding that only after “various requests” she went pass the test.
In fact, when she used to drive the bus, officers behaved differently and ran multiple safety tests because they thought she was cause an accident.
“….but they were completely wrong. I drove the bus skillfully and the officers were awestruck and they now have no reasons to reject my application…..I haven’t done any accidents in my entire service until I retired,” she highlighted.
“No concessions were given to me on gender basis. At first I found it difficult as every other woman in the new workplace but later I started dealing with things in my style and then it was way more easier,” she added.
Vasanthakumari was was born in Kanyakumari Disrtict’s Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu and got married at the age of 19. The man she married had four children from his previous marriage, and the couple together had two more kids.
Vasanthakumari started working to make ends meet for a large family and turned her passion for driving into a job. This was also the time when the ruling Congress passed a reservation of 30 percent for women in all sectors in 1986.
Speaking about her work day, Vasanthakumari said that her shift starts from 6:00 AM and ended at 2:00 PM as she reaches home early to take care of her kids.
She is no less than a star in Tamil Nadu, she has acted in a movie, in the role of a woman driver. Children throw flowers on her when she drives and following her footsteps, several women have taken to driving lorries, Ambulances, auto and private buses.
“Representation of women at each sector is important. The general perception of women as unsafe drivers needs to be changed. Policies focusing on the reservation of women as bus drivers should also be adopted to generalize women driving heavy mass transit systems,” she said.
“With more women keen on being in the driver’s seat, vehicle manufacturers are making them more women-friendly. Power steering, a light-touch clutch and gear shifts on the side rather than the middle and easy hydraulics makes vehicles women-friendly. Women need role models in any underrepresented field. Highlighting women leaders and their contributions will help,” she added.
When speaking about the Private Bus driver Sharmila who got instant fame due to the social media attention and later lost her job, Vasanthakumari said “If you wanna achieve something first don’t seek publicity, strive hard and climb on the ladder of success until you achieve success stay patient. Work is worship. I had my name in the LIMCA book of records for being the first women driver in Asia. I used to drive 600 kilometers a day just like my male colleagues.
On speaking about her future plans, she said “I will be opening a driving school only for the women to promote their contribution in the field of transportation.”