“Whether it is the middle of the night or an insufferably hot afternoon, I never refuse a ride to a woman. Even after my 8-9 hour shift has ended,” said 48-year-old Raji who has been driving an auto for 20 years now.
In a scenario when women are finding it hard to trust cabs and autos in the midnight, here comes Raji who would not consider time an obstacle and pick them up on time.
“Whether it is the middle of the night or an insufferably hot afternoon, I never refuse a ride to a woman. Even after my 8-9 hour shift has ended, I get many calls from women to go to Chennai airport, or from women working late shifts. I accept all the requests. My only condition is that they book the ride at least one hour in advance so I can schedule them,” said Raji.
Raji Akka works 8 to 9 hours everyday but she does not mind if the women in need call her after hours too. Raji offers free rides to young kids, senior citizens and those women who may not have the cab fare to pay.
Raji completes 30 trips everyday and earns about 30,000 to 40,000 as her monthly income.
Raji is originally from Palakkad, Kerala and has a BA in Philosophy. While she was still a student, she fell in love with Ashok, an auto-driver from the village, whom she married later. Although she didn’t go into the details of the struggles the couple initially faced but shortly after getting married, the two decided to shift to Coimbatore. Here, while Ashok drove an auto, Raji worked as an accountant at a travel agency.
However, the couple shifted base to Chennai after the 1998 bomb blasts in Coimbatore that took nearly 60 lives.
“The horrific blasts had affected hundreds of people, and we were two of them. We had no option but to restart our lives and so we came to Chennai. My brother worked here in the railways, so we had a strong base to restart our lives on. This change of city brought with it its share of challenges. For one, I could not find a job despite my qualification and experience. After several failed interviews, I decided to start driving an auto for a living just like my husband,” quoted Raji to the Better India.
Raji initially had gotten her license from Coimbatore but she believed she needed to learn more as a skilled Auto driver to understand the traffic scenario in Chennai. “These were hiccups in my journey but could not stop me from getting better. I traded my new auto for a second-hand one and practiced even more. Soon, there was no street in Chennai that was alien to me, and I could manage driving in the traffic as well as any local,” she said.
“Over the past few years, I have given motivational talks in over 13 colleges in Chennai. I also give free auto driving lessons to women interested in joining this profession. This is a great occupation for women, and I want to encourage more ladies to drive autos professionally,” concluded Raji.