“There is nothing a woman can’t do,” says 33-year-old Vankadarath Saritha, a resident of Nalgonda district. She has her fingers crossed after giving an interview for a job in the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) on Sunday.
The journey to become a bus driver began nearly 15 years ago, she says. It was a means to financially support her parents. "I have four older sisters. After they got married, I was worried about who will take care of my parents. So, I first learnt to drive an auto rickshaw from my brother-in-law who is an auto driver,” she recalls.
Saritha drove for four years in Hyderabad before moving on to work a bus driver for Holy Mary College in the city.
But being behind the wheels of a public transport bus isn’t new to her. Saritha has been working in the capital for the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) for two-and-a-half years. Currently posted at Sarojini Nagar depot in New Delhi, she drives nearly 135 km a day.
“Initially, my colleagues would comment saying, how will I manage as I am woman. When I joined DTC, one male driver said, ‘Oh she is going to hit the vehicle somewhere.’ But then when they saw my driving, they started appreciating me,” she says.
But her stint with DTC was only temporary. And with Saritha being from an economically weak background, a government job, she says, would give her family financial stability.
“DTC said that they would give me a permanent job after six months but that did not happen. I make Rs 15,000 a month and in a place like Delhi, it is getting hard to manage expenses and send money back home. So, I decided to move back to my native place as I will be able to take care of my parents as well,” she explains.
Ask her about being behind the wheel of a bus and Saritha says, “When I hold the steering, I feel the weight of responsibility of so many people sitting in the bus. I consider myself a responsible driver,” she says.
Having driven a bus for nine years now, she observes, “It is important that stereotypes of women not being able to drive buses be broken.”She had moved to New Delhi in 2012 with an NGO, driving a taxi for three years before applying for DTC.
“There were seven other women who applied for the post of bus driver at DTC. But I got selected,” she says.
Sporting a shirt and a pair of trousers, and with her hair cut short, Saritha proudly says, “There are no jobs only for men, there is nothing a woman can’t do. It’s just that one has to trust themselves and stop thinking what others will think.”
On Friday, Saritha became the first woman in Telangana to apply for the bus driver’s post at TSRTC.
“We had conducted a recruitment procedure for women drivers one years ago, however, not a single woman turn up. Though there are several woman conductors, there are no woman drivers in TSRTC,” says G Kiran, spokesperson of TSRTC.
If Saritha is successful, she will become the state’s first woman bus driver.