At 6.30 am each morning, 28-year-old Rakesh Thakran, born and brought up in a village in Pataudi, steps onto one of the buses that runs along route 212 of the Gurugram City Bus Service.
Donning a light blue shirt and dark blue trousers, she hangs a card around her neck, indicating to all commuters who board the bus through the next eight hours that she is the conductor.
“Most people are not used to seeing women bus conductors. Once a man even saluted me before he got off at his stop. He told me I was the first woman he had seen who was working as a bus conductor, and told me he had a lot of respect for me,” says Thakran.
One of only two female conductors in a fleet of “around 140” working with the Gurugram City Bus Service Limited (GMCBL), Thakran took up the job on December 5 last year, following a stint as a physical education teacher at a school in Pataudi.
According to officials from GMCBL, two more women conductors will join when the next route is inaugurated.
Thakran’s father, a farmer, died around 20 years ago.
She has four sisters, and their mother took up different jobs, including working in other people’s fields and cooking mid-day meals at schools, to make ends meet. She died in December last year.
Thakran studied at a Government School in Pataudi and completed her graduation from a college in Rewari.
All her sisters are now married, while she lives at the family’s home in Pataudi’s Khor village.
“I was never interested in getting married and becoming a housewife. Instead, I wanted to be independent and have my own career. I have always believed that women have just as much right to have a profession, and just as much potential, as men,” says Thakran.
“It has not been easy to do this, because people even in my family or my village are not used to women like me. My uncle keeps telling me to get married, but I am determined… I take the bus to and from work. I usually finish by 3 pm so safety is not a problem in that sense,” says Thakran.
She added that she intends to complete a driver’s training with Haryana Roadways in the coming months to further her skills.
“I will take training for driving buses. I want to expand my skills to increase my options and to show people that women can achieve anything if they set their minds to it. I want to inspire young girls to do the same,” she says.