Narsalakshmi is more than just an auto driver. The trailblazer in a male bastion, she is a ray of hope to many. The Yo! Vizag team catches up with her.
WHERE TO FIND HER: Gnanapuram Auto Stand
At the Gnanapuram auto stand, an unusual sight awaits us. A lady is sitting in the driver’s seat of an auto. For a minute one mistakes her to be a customer. But passers-by helpfully point out that she is Narsalakshmi, one of the few lady auto drivers in town.
Coming from a well- to- do family, Narsalakshmi’s life took a downward turn when post-marriage she realized that her husband was an alcoholic. She tried to change and help him, but all was in vain. They were soon in debt and she took up work in the textile business. The work helped for a while, but her burden of debt simply kept mounting. The scenario worsened when her husband sold all their property which in turn forced them to move into a rented house. She took up a job in Talasila star hotel, but the salary was barely enough. Baffled by what she could do differently, a TV programme came as the solution to her problems. ‘I was watching Meelo evaru koteeswarudu’ and came across Auto Bhawani.’ She related with the other woman who too had taken her problems head on with a novel career choice. That night in 2014, the idea of Auto Lakshmi was born. ‘I learnt driving right away, borrowed some money and purchased an auto rickshaw.’
Things had just started to show up for Narsalakshmi, but her share of troubles was not yet over. On the fateful eve of August 25, 2013, her husband went out and never came back. ‘His death was a terrible tragedy and we still don’t know how he died. I too wanted to commit suicide and end it all, but I saw the face of my son and decided to live for him’, she reveals. And not only did she survive, she rose from the lows of life.
Today Narsalakshmi is a stronger woman. She still has debts to pay, but the income she generates every month helps her to educate her son, meet expenses and even clear the loans bit by bit. ‘People think I have a lot of money now, but that’s not true. I still don’t save, as what I earn goes into meeting my needs.’ Her 13 year old son studies in Jubilee High School and says that he is proud of his mother. She has also given hope to many women like her. ‘An old man stopped me on the road and told me that after seeing my resilience, he too had opened a little shop for his sister. Today every woman should be self-sufficient.’ Yes, that’s true. Only through financial independence and self-sufficiency can women like Narsalakshmi change their course of destiny. More power to her!