Aarti Goel knows how to hold her own among men. This 35-year-old has been running a workshop in her husbands petrol pump. She is also the only woman training to drive an autorickshaw at the Maruti Suzuki Institute of Driving Training and Research in Sarai Kale Khan.
Aarti admits that the men undergoing training with her were curious about her venturing into an area which has so far remained a male domain.
Their curiosity is justified considering that she is probably the first woman being trained to drive an autorickshaw in the capital in over a decade after Sunita Chaudhary,the first woman auto driver in Delhi.
During the theory class,the men in my class were curious about why I was undergoing training to drive a three-wheeler scooter rickshaw (TSR). They kept asking me for my reasons to join this class, Aarti said.
And her reasons are simple. I do look after a workshop and am used to being surrounded by men in my workplace. Besides,someone had to take this step. Why not me?
Her husband Sushil Kumar Goel runs a petrol pump in Hari Nagar and the family in Inderpuri.
My husband lost his left arm in an accident. I learnt to drive a car after that, Aarti,who has been driving since 1997,said.
Driving an autorickshaw is difficult even if you know how to drive a car. I drive an automatic car. Now,I am planning to drive a car with gears so I know how to change gears, she said.
Cheering her on in her efforts are her 11 year-old daughter,17-year old son and mother-in-law,besides her husband.
Everyone at home supports my decision to learn to drive an autorickshaw. Incidentally,I also met Sunita at my husbands petrol pump a few years ago and we got talking. She told me she does not drive her auto after 5 pm,but I have no issues driving late. I know there are safety concerns,but if something has to happen it will happen anyway, Aarti said.
Aarti hoped that other women will be inspired by her story to take up driving autorickshaws as means of livelihood.
I feel that more women should take up driving autos. It would make the city safer as many women prefer autos to cabs as they cheaper, she said.
Incidentally,Delhi governments attempts to operate an all-women corporate auto fleet of 1,000 vehicles,in groups of 250 each,have found no takers.
The idea of auto fleets driven by women was floated by the government to make travelling in Delhi safer after the recent gangrape of a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus on December 16,2012.
I will see if I want to eventually drive a cab or an auto depending on how the government supports us. I will have to figure out the formalities for applying for auto permit and a public service badge after my training, Aarti said.
Sanjay Kumar,a driving instructor at Maruti Suzuki Institute of Driving Training and Research,Sarai Kale Khan,said the good part about women drivers are that they are more curious and tend to ask more questions.
A TSR driver has to undergo 30 days or 15 hours of training. The course starts with a two-day theory class. The practical training starts with us explaining how to operate the vehicle followed by driving the auto in first and second gear initially, Kumar said.
Aarti is confident she can find her way about Delhi. I am a Dilli-6 girl. I know how the city works. I am pretty sure I will be able to manage my way around the city. Since I already drive a car,I am familiar with traffic rules, she said.