22-year-old Yellamma earns her living from driving an autorickshaw. And she isn’t one
to let her strenuous job get in the way of her dreams — she is also preparing for the Indian Administrative
Service (IAS) examinations.
At the age of 18, Yellamma was forced to marry a flower decorator. Today, her husband is no longer with her — she is a single mother. She chose not depend on relatives for financial support for her and her young child, and decided she would earn her money herself.
She rented an autorickshaw and learnt to drive it with help from her brother-in-law. She faced trouble when looking for an auto; most owners refused to rent her a vehicle, citing her gender as reason. One mechanic finally agreed to rent her an auto for Rs. 130 per day.
She now drives from 6 AM to 8 PM every day. In the time she has between rides, she devours newspapers and magazines. She is currently preparing for her PUC (pre-university course, or 10+2). Her ultimate goal, however, is to clear the IAS exam. She hopes that being a part of the bureaucratic machinery that runs the country will enable her to help many more women like her.
She also says that while male autorickshaw drivers are less than kind towards her (they say that she’s “snatching their customers away”), passengers have only reacted with curiosity and goodwill. They encourage her to continue her studies, and sometimes even pay her a little extra over the meter charge.
Yellamma earns anywhere between Rs. 700–800 on an average working day; after paying rent and fuel, she is left with less than half of that amount.