In India, driving a heavy vehicle is still considered a man’s job. However, 24-year-old Pratiksha Das is all set to change the notion by becoming the first woman to drive a BEST bus in Mumbai. She holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Thakur College, Malad. In a recent interview to TOI she said, “It is something I’ve been wanting to master for the last six years. My love for heavy vehicles is not new. I started off with bikes, then larger cars and now, I can drive buses and trucks.”
When Pratiksha had no qualms about her driving abilities, her trainers were not in agreement. They were skeptical about a woman driving a bus. “I remember that the BEST bus trainers were tensed about training a girl for the first time. They kept saying, Yeh ladki chala paaygi ke nahi?,” said Pratiksha. I could see that they had this big question written all over their faces, ‘Should we train her or not?’. During the initial stage of the training, you should not stop when you start a vehicle and get into first gear. They just wanted to see if I can keep the bus running and not let it come to a halt,” she added.
However, they came around when Pratiksha completed the test successfully. On the second day, she drove a bus for 16 km on the Eastern Express Highway. While driving, Pratiksha was subjected to stares from people, but she remained undeterred. “People use to stop and turn when they saw a young woman behind the steering wheel. Keeping my focus clear, I ignored the stares,” she said.
Pratiksha took up the job because she aims to be an RTO officer in the future, which requires her to have a licence in driving heavy vehicles. However, her dreams don’t stop her. She plans to learn how to drive an inter-state luxury bus and fly an aeroplane. At a time when women are being encouraged to break the glass ceiling, Pratiksha’s decision will give young girls around the country to take up jobs without thinking about their gender.