Heavy vehicles like buses and trucks are often considered as men's zone. It needs a lot of physical strength to drive these heavy vehicles. But not anymore, meet Pratiksha Das, Mumbai's first female BEST bus, driver. The 24-year-old girl has just completed her mechanical engineering degree from Thakur College in Malad. Expressing her love for heavy vehicles she said, “It is something I’ve wanted to master for the last six years. But my love for heavy vehicles is not new. I started off with bikes, then larger cars and now, I can drive buses and trucks. And yes it feels good.” In the young age of 24 where every other girl likes to hang out with friends, watch movies go for shopping and salon, Patiksha has different priorities. Driving a six-tonne heavy bus around the city is her 'leisure activity'.
To become a bus driver was not an impulsive decision, her passion for driving and her dream to become an RTO officer, made this possible. “After completing my engineering degree, I was planning to become an RTO officer. For that, I needed a license in heavy vehicles as it is compulsory. Since I had wanted to learn to drive a bus, it was perfect. In fact, I want to drive various vehicles on the road. I started with my mama’s bike when I was in 8th grade in my village. Even he was surprised, how I learned driving within 2 days,” she said in her interview with the Times Of India.
"You are so tiny, will you be able to do it?’ They were referring to my height, which is just 5”4. I just told them not to worry as I can ride all kinds of bikes and even race cars.”
Recalling her first-day experience at the training centre she said, “I remember that the BEST bus trainers were tensed about training a girl for the first time. They kept saying, ‘Yeh ladki Chala Paaygi Ke Nahi?' Actually, the thing is, you need strength to drive a bus as it’s quite difficult to turn the wheel. It is not as smooth as a car’s wheel. They said, ‘You are so tiny, will you be able to do it?’ They were referring to my height, which is just 5”4. I just told them not to worry as I can ride all kinds of bikes and even race cars.” There's nothing a woman can't achieve if she sets her mind on that. “Who said women can't be on the driving seat? I dreamt and here I am. In fact, anyone can achieve their goals, they just have to set their minds to it,” said Pratiksha challenging all the gender stereotypes.
Driving on the city road
City roads full of portholes and heavy traffic makes it difficult for any driver to drive. On the first day of her 30-days long training period they made her familiar with all the gears. “You should not stop when you start a vehicle and get into first gear and not let it come to halt.” This was her first test which she cleared easily, after which she was allowed to drive on expressways. On the second day, she took Eastern Express Highway, for 16km at 6:30 am. This gave her more confidence and experience.
After driving heavy vehicles on the road, Patiksha wants to fly an aeroplane. For this, she plans to save her salary as a 40-hour-long class for flying costs 5-6 lakhs.
Talking about the challenges she told, “People use to stop and turn when they saw a young woman behind the staring wheel. Keeping my focus clear, I ignored the stares." Besides this, turning and changing lane was pretty challenging for her. But she managed to acquire that skill in no time.
Next thing on the bucket list
After driving heavy vehicles on the road, Patiksha wants to fly an aeroplane. For this, she plans to save her salary as a 40-hour-long class for flying costs 5-6 lakhs. She also plans to learn interstate luxury buses in Bengaluru. The next thing in her bucket list is 'a bike trip to Ladakh'. Expressing her excitement for her road trip, she said, “It’s every biker’s delight to ride that route. It’ a mixed group and guess what, a lady is going to lead the gang!”
Divya Tripathi is an intern with SheThePeople.TV