NEW DELHI: The clock strikes 8 pm. Kashish Verma, 34, a female e-rickshaw driver on the streets of Delhi University’s north campus, calls out for passengers, as do the male e-rickshaw drivers who dominate the profession.
“Will you drive at this hour?” some people ask her with concern. Kashish usually leaves her house at Malkaganj on her brand-new vehicle at 7.30 am every day, first drops her son at school and then begins her work. The bold woman doesn’t time her return perfectly.
“I drive till the time I like. People and other drivers find it strange. They ask me why, and I respond by saying, ‘did I ask you why you are out till late’,” she says.
Wearing a checkered kurta with jeans and black wedges, and carrying a purple satchel in which she puts her hard-earned money, the chirpy woman is a familiar face in the area between Hindu Rao Hospital and GTB Nagar metro station, where she picks and drops passengers.
“I bought the rickshaw for Rs 1.4 lakh. I am yet to pay 40 instalments.”
There are hardly any women taking up this job, but those like Kashish who are charting a new course in the city work in the face of some opposition. Though Kashish, who was born and brought up in Delhi, says she doesn’t find it difficult to deal with passengers and other drivers, Kamlesh Prasad, 38, who is from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, says fellow drivers often make derogatory remarks and vulgar jibes at her. “They laugh, they talk nonsense. I ignore it. At times they try to dominate me, which frustrates me and I often lose my temper and fight with them. I am not scared of any of them.” She bought her e-rickshaw second-hand for Rs 25,000.
Many passengers, she said, choose her rickshaw over those driven by men to help her. “Everybody thinks differently. There are also some who look down on me. I don’t pay much heed to this kind of attitude and continue working hard.”
She has three children -- two sons and a daughter -- enrolled in schools near her house in Model Town. She herself couldn’t study beyond class 2. “This job is fine for me but I don’t want this kind of a life for my children. They should get educated and do something nice.”
For her daughter, who is studying in Lower Kindergarten at a private school, she wishes “good education and independence” when she grows up.
Both Kashish and Kamlesh have been driving e-rickshaws for just a few months. They have their individual stories of struggle and different reasons for taking up this work. A common factor in their choice of work, however, is the urge to be independent. The two women say they earn about Rs 700-800 in a day.
Kamlesh, who earlier used to work as a domestic help, says, “I had to take up this job as it made me feel independent. I don’t have to ask anyone for a salary. Also, I make much more money than earlier.”