She comes back home after work at around 1 AM every night. At 5AM she is again up and at her kitchen to prepare lunch for her husband who leaves for work at 7AM. After he leaves she catches up with some leftover sleep for another two hours. Then her day starts in full swing. She prepares lunch for the family; sends her little son off to school, gets ready herself for the day. The entire span of a city like Mumbai is her workplace. There is traffic. There are potholes. There is water logging during the monsoon. There are male competitors. But nothing stops this young lady’s indomitable spirit to cruise through all this with always a smile on her face. Is she a superwoman?
Meet Yojana Deshmukh, one of the smart, young, brave drivers of Priyadarshini Taxi service in Mumbai.
Life Before Driving
Born in Karar in Satara district of Maharashtra, Yojana was her father’s darling right from her birth. Her father never put any restrictions on her for being a girl. She was a tomboy.
“From swimming to climbing trees, I did everything a boy does with my gang of girls. I participated in state level running. I used to ride a scooter. I tried to learn driving a car, but could not do it properly.” says Yojana with a big smile on her face.
After her marriage at the age of 19, she came to Mumbai with her husband and resumed her studies to complete her graduation from Mumbai University. But the urge to drive a car was still there in her heart. She shared her wish to learn driving with her husband. Yojana’s husband enrolled her into a motor training school. Yojana completed the course and obtained a license too.
“However, even after completing the driving course I was not confident of driving a car on the busy roads of Mumbai. So I went on with my life as a homemaker,” Says Yojana.
Things changed when she met Dr Usha Nair, the Manager at Priyadarshini Taxi Service Company, in her son’s school. She came there to talk about the Priyadarshini Taxi service founded by Susieben Shah, an entrepreneur, social activist and a politician, where women can get an opportunity to be self employed and financially empowered as cab drivers. Susie Ben also extends help to the aspiring women driviers with a comprehensive training course through a 80G Charitable Trust called Stree Shakti Kendra of which she is the President. Yojana promptly approached Susie Ben and expressed her wish to join the service.
Life Took A U turn
Her life took a U turn from there. After a 3 month’s comprehensive training at Stree Shakti Kendra which includes driving a car with skill and confidence, learning preventive maintenance of cars, acquiring knowledge on places of tourist attractions in Mumbai, communications skills, self-defence techniques, basic accounting principles, first-aid to handle emergencies, yoga and meditation sessions, etiquette, manners and cleanliness, Yojana was ready to be behind the wheel to ferry passengers across Mumbai city.
“I still remember my first day as a driver at Priyadarshini Taxi. My first passengers were an old couple whom I picked up from Mumbai airport. They were little apprehensive perhaps of a woman driver’s driving skill and asked me lot of questions such as how long I had been driving and about my family. I didn’t want to make them nervous by telling them that it was my first day. On reaching their destination they tipped me with 50 rupees to buy sweets for my child. The same day my last passengers – a group of three women from Assam visiting Mumbai wanted me to find out a hotel for them when they didn’t get rooms in their desired hotel. I hardly had any idea of hotels in Juhu area, I called up our Supervisor madam to help me and she told me at which hotel to take them to. And I earned a handsome commission of 2500 rupees from the hotel. I ended up earning some extra amount the very first day,” Yojana recollects happily.
Yojana gifted her mother in law with a new cell phone and bought a T-shirt for her son with her first month’s salary.
Today it’s almost a year Yojana has been driving her own Priyadarshini taxi and is happy to bring home some extra income.
“Now I can buy something I wish for with my money. My wish is to buy a new home with my income”, says Yojana with dreams in her eyes.
The Vision Behind Priyadarshini Taxi Service
The Founder of Priyadarshini Taxi Service, Susiben Shah saw this dream, this urge to go out and achieve something in the eyes of the women from chawls and slums of Mumbai through her career as a social activist and a politician. She knew given a chance, women always invest their earnings for the betterment of their entire family, children and home, unlike men blowing off money many a times on wining, dining and womanizing. Owing to their motherly and caring nature, empowered women play a very important role in the economy.
“I help them to get a loan to buy the car, we provide them free training and thus offer them an opportunity to be self-sufficient,” says Susieben.
Priyadarshini Taxi Service was founded in 2007.
And this is the story of 55 women so far and soon going to be hundred – widows, single mothers, spinsters, married women, mostly from lower-income group families, whose lives have changed for so much better after they joined Priyadarshini Taxi Service – a woman friendly, GPS secured taxi service ferrying increasingly growing numbers of working women, women tourists, safely.
Economic empowerment of women is vital and necessary for the overall upliftment of the country and the world at large. India is at the lower bottom ten nations of the world in terms of women’s role in the nation’s economy. A social enterprise such as Priyadarshini Taxi Service is truly instrumental in opening up opportunities for women to work and be self-employed. `
Truly Priyadarshini – which means beautiful!