There is plenty of rudimentary traditional discourse around the domestic space as relegated to women while men own, dominate, shape, run and dictate the domains of politics, science, technology, economics, and even historicity. Prema Ramappa Nadapatti is one woman who has challenged this bifurcation of duties and has stepped out of the domain of the domestic.
The number of jokes around female drivers and their incapacity to drive actually has a very long history. Back in the Victorian period when trains came into existence, myth was that if women travel in the trains. Their wombs wouldn’t be compatible with the sheer speed of the vehicle and their uteruses would fly out causing instant insanity. Women have been denied the power of the steering wheel ever since. Also, Prema Ramappa Nadapatti breaks free of this stereotype. She becomes the exception to the norm as the only female lorry driver in Bangalore.
Previously a nurse, Prema was urged by circumstances of her husband’s death to take up the role of the breadwinner of her family. So, she left her profession in the medical field and became a bus driver in 2009. In the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC).
Prema is from a small village in Belgaum called Bhairnaddi and always enjoyed driving. Moreover, she got herself a four-wheeler license and made it into a profession as a full-time lorry driver after getting a permit for driving a heavy transport vehicle. Her next step was to apply to BMTC.
The gendered nature of her work is quite visible considering that the month-long training session before she started as a driver permits men to begin their driving after merely eight days of preparation. The Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation employs around 3000 women in its workforce of 36000 people. Therefore, the majority of women here work as conductors. Prema along with six other women had applied to this post, but the others chose to work as a conductor. On the other hand, Prema earnt the status of the only female lorry driver of the corporation.
Prema is respected among her male colleagues. She never meets any disrespect from her colleagues or passengers. She has a no accident record. Also, she has been in the trade for many years now and takes night shifts as well. Prema’s example is one of resilience to the stereotype of the system, persistence in her efforts to achieve her goals, and her courage to translate her passion for driving into a full-time job. So, what is common in western countries is often an exception in India.
Her entry in this ‘masculine job’ breaks the prejudice that has shackled women for time immemorial. Prema has become an inspiration to throes of women who fear the male domain. And, have only looked at with awe and as something inaccessible and unachievable for them. She has not only become a lorry driver but has also aced at the job proving that women are competent in any task at hand.
Prema also insists other women take the plunge and step in the male spaces and take up jobs that are otherwise men’s will dominate them. She refuses to be the exception to the rule and hopes that in time, female lorry drivers would be the norm. This lady believes that with proper training by BMTC, more women would be able to take up the job. She says that she would gladly train them herself.
Women like Prema Ramappa Nadapatti have changed the makeup of the little space that she occupies. She has touched lives and moved people to think of women as beings capable of the hearth as well as whatever else they choose to be.
Take away thought: No task is unconquerable for a woman if she sets her heart to it.