Dressed in a salwar-kameez,41-year-old Sunita Bhogale is a common sight in Byculla and south Mumbai area as she ferries children from home to their schools and back in a regular 25-seater bus,five days a week.
The glass ceiling takes on a new meaning each time she gets behind the wheel. Women have started driving autos and taxis. So,I thought,why should women hesitate to ply a bus? Why should there be any biases? I wanted to stand on my own feet and it has been quite a journey,which I began six years ago, says Bhogale,a mother of two.
Bhogale works as a private school bus driver for students from Gloria Convent High School in Byculla,St Xaviers High School near Metro cinema,Antonio Dsouza High School in Byculla and Fort Convent School in Colaba.
On any given work day,she ferries nearly 300 children.
Bhogale took her driving lessons in an Alto,but soon graduated to driving an Omni and then a Sumo. The next logical transition,according to her,was a bus.
I have studied till class 12. But I always wanted to have my own business and accordingly started a travel company,Tamo Travels. I wanted to have financial independence and work in an area that is perceived to be a mans world. My family has been very supportive and always motivated me to achieve greater heights, she said.
While her day starts at 6.30 am,her work gets over at 7.15 pm. During vacations,she also provides outstation services. I used to drop my own children to school. My neighbours also started sending their children with me. Thats when I first realised I should actually turn this into a successful venture, she added.
In the backdrop of increasing crimes against women,Bhogale said parents feel safe and secure with a woman bus driver.
And does she ever fear for her own security? Never. I dont feel scared or intimidated at all. There are some who eye me with surprise. But the others greet me with smiles and even salutes. And thats what makes me proud and keeps me going, she said.