It was at a very busy signal, 3 days ago, when our paths crossed. Sun shone mercilessly on a hapless Mumbai, and clouds of dust and smoke hung above and the smell of petrol filled the air and lungs of Mumbaikars.
Our car halted perpendicular to her auto while she tried to cross, a couple of passengers in toe. While I was struck by her awe, she drove away & disappeared in a mere moment.

Maybe it was my desire to meet her or maybe our paths were meant to cross again, 2 days later she was in queue waiting for passengers and I happened to be the one whose turn it was. One look at her side profile and I knew just who she was. Her huge enviable bun gave it away.

While walking towards her I smiled, as if I’d always known her, and she smiled back.
“Maya”, she replied when I asked her name and she asked mine in return. A mum of a working 23 YRO daughter and a 21 YRO son, she’s been driving the auto for four years.

She began by practicing in her locality. “Initially it was tough”, she shares, “I even met with an accident, trying to save a boy riding a bicycle, earphones on. We were injured; nothing worse happened”. Her kids have been concerned about her safety ever since.

But she didn’t give in to their fear, nor to hers, “tragedy can befall anyone anywhere. God’s there to help out”, her words mingling with soft nostalgic music of the seventies playing in the background.

“People are kind”, she adds, maneuvering killer potholes and uneven slopes with a professional ease. “If I don’t know the roads, I request them to guide and they put the map on. Smokers seek my approval before lighting a cigarette. Men are kind; they look at me more with respect than out of sympathy. Also help out whenever the vehicle breaks down. I’m still to master that part, you see.”

She lost her job during a family crisis; that’s when she took a loan and bought her vehicle. “I’m the owner of my business. I’m not answerable to anyone but myself”, she adds with pride. Morning chores done, she starts her business at 2 and wraps up at 10.

“I’ve never been to parlours, except for eyebrows”, she chuckles when I compliment her ageless complexion. “You should model for hair products”, I tease and she bursts in a loud laughter. 

Women like Maya are an embodiment of feminism; an idea so loosely and audaciously used in the world today, it sounds more opportunist than idealistic.

Brave, benevolent and beautiful, these women have buried their woes deep down in their hearts and are out there, building a whole new race where mental strength, will power, resilience blend perfectly with grace, warmth and compassion. These women have surpassed all boundaries of  gender discrimination, superficial beauty, verbal diarrhea of motivational speeches and phony displays of ego-nourishing greatness.

They deserve to be heard and written about in every place that serves as a source of inspiration to others…


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