An Uber ricocheted down the road when the driver stopped at the green signal.
“Hey!”, I said, “You’ve taken a long road”
“Don’t worry ma’am”, she smiled adjusting the rear view mirror, looking straight into my eyes, with reluctant smile, “We’ll reach very much on time.
Bemused at her professional fluidity mixed of surprising gender change, I kick-started the conversation which allowed me sudden spring of enlightenment in the desert of my heart.
This is a tale-tell from the time when I harbored the fantasy of being self-sufficient autonomous individual with free wheeling opinions and their uninfluenced implications. Then I begged my finances from my man and he willingly gave me butter when I demanded milk. He sponsored my tours, financed my lavish shopping sprees, only because I mothered our biological share, and nursed for his ailing parents.
And one fine day, I met this cabby woman, Sandra. She drove from Mumbai central to Pune for a family reunion. It was a happy anticipation to meet all the cousins and their families, but a chance conversation with Sandra took a right turn in my life.
Apparently with spiked hair, and muscular body, she looked much like a man faraway. But a close look gave her a picture of a self assured haughty young woman in her late thirties.
Sometimes outer appearances can be deceitful.
Later, I learned that she was a stunner in character and bull in being. I usually transform into jagga jassoos when i something unusual to normal. While here Sandra drove my curiosity to brim, on why on the earth she chose driving Uber? That too night shift? When nobody from her gender would incline to driving a cab. I was also anxious on her safety. But I asked the Uber guys to send me a woman cabby as I was travelling all alone, I had my safety to see as well!
Turning to her on why she chose this profession, she conceded that though being uneducated she never preferred being a housemaid, cleaning and dusting and mopping the filth of someone else’s home. Moreover her father was in the same profession since last thirty years. Decidedly she carried the legacy, however not very delightful decision, she did.
But it was her husband who pushed her to strengthen her identity as a cabby as he thought that Sandra was just a speck of dust and he was good enough to provide for her and their daughter. She was forced to take humiliations from her in-laws because their son gave her the roof to stay. Whenever she raised her voice, she was silenced by saying that he was the bread earner and by default had the right of acting according to his whim. Sometimes the violations were taken by her six year old daughter when he came home, drunk and bitter.
It was that gloomy night when he came home with a sahib, and commanded Sandra to satisfy that man to his desires. This was the heights of anything she could take. With a iron rod she hit her husband on the head, groped her daughter and took the refuge to her father, leaving the sahib shell shocked and frightened. That was when she declared her independence.
She was not confused on why her husband sold her to that man! The answer was crystal clear, because he gave her food to eat and roof to hide. But a very crucial aspect was left behind in her marriage, that was vanity.
She felt a stab of guilt of forgetting her vanity, because she got roof, and food. And hence to earn that fabric of vanity to strengthen her character she started driving Uber. After all she had a daughter, who looked at her as her role model, she thought.
In 4 hours of my journey, I learnt a human story. A simple story of self esteem, and resilience and love. Without any showcase, she spoke adamantly on her choices. But there she left me wounded, pricking my balloon like happily-bubbled life. She said, “Ma’am I couldn’t afford to sell my dignity for some clothes and a piece of bread, and that realization allowed to refuse him as my boss. Yes! he cannot be my boss.”, she controlled her, not pain color it.
I was like deer in the headlights. Of course not paralyzed in fear, but shocked in wonder.
A wonder that praised her courage to drive the cab midnight, unafraid just to earn her shattered integrity, the more for her daughter.
Yes! lady he cannot be your boss!
~ Seema Virani Kholia