[Editor’s Note: It’s been five years since I moved to Bangalore. During our first few weeks settling into a new city, new office, new apartment, etc. auto rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers were our best friends. One of the taxi drivers who drove us around in his new Tata Indica was 22-year old Nagaraj. We still remember him because he was: a) studying for his LLB degree on nights and weekends while b) driving the Indica during the day, and c) making the car’s installment payments. What a remarkable story to welcome us to Bangalore, we thought. After reading our recent post, a blogger from iChangemycity shared a similar heart-warming and a more powerful against-all-odds story about a female auto driver who goes on to become a lawyer.]
Pic courtesy iChangemycity.com
Among thousands of autorickshaw drivers, Venkatalakshmi was unique in attitude, spirit, confidence and in her goals. For 13 years, she drove an auto that took care of her family’s subsistence that aided her to become what she dreamt of. Becoming a lawyer is what she aspired for and today, she is one. It was during the last five years of her life as an auto driver that she spent preparing for her law exams and in 2010 had successfully graduated from Babu Jagjivanram Law College in Basaveshwarnagar. She is now a successful lawyer with a dream and agenda of her own.
She was an ‘unwanted’ child of her parents as they were expecting the birth of a boy. She was brought up by her maternal uncle who inspired her to chase her dreams irrespective of her limitations. She aspired to be a police official and this was the time when she got into a legal tangle with some land sharks trying to grab her land. There were attempts even to kidnap her and this was when she was exposed to the corruption in the police department. It only made her to give up her aspiration of becoming a police officer.
While driving her auto, she got to interact with people of various backgrounds which helped her to develop her people skills. She travelled across the city which gave her a sense of location of offices and their jurisdiction. She was the sole bread winner for a long period of time, as her husband was not physically fit and her daughter was still studying in middle school. She also had to regularly go to her farm to supervise the cultivation.
The only time available for her to study for law was when she was at home and the time she spent waiting on road between trips. For her, the side of a pavement, an auto junction or even a traffic jam was study time.
On why she aspired to be a lawyer, Venkatalakshmi feels that it is a way to fight for justice. Her heroes are M.N.Venkatachalliah and Anna Hazare, are among them as they have the fight in them despite their ripe age. She has worked in the Gem and Jewel industry and even in an insurance company that helped her to get knowledge on the legal aspects of these sectors.
Asked on whether her stint as an autodriver had helped her law practice, Venkatalakshmi has an emphatic Yes for an answer. She relates to clients with ease, and driving through the potholes of Bangalore city had taught her the values of patience and fortitude.
This article was originally published on the iChangemycity blog by Janaagraha’s Divya Komala.