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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Inspirationa-Shanti Devi, India’s Only Female Truck Mechanic, Fixes Tyres And Breaks Stereotypes.

At 60, she works 12 hours a day and rolls tyres as easily as she rolls a roti.

India’s only woman truck mechanic changes 50 kilo tyres like a boss? A woman and a truck mechanic – it often becomes difficult for our society to reconcile the two.

“You’re a woman. You cannot lift heavy weights.”
“Too much protein is not good for you. You don’t want to look like a man.”
“You don’t need muscle mass. You just need the right curves.”
“Women are weaker than men. It’s the way nature is.”
“Some jobs are not meant for women.”

More often than not, women are perceived as the weaker sex – more delicate than men.

 Sanjay Gandhi National Transport (SGNT), Asia’s largest halt point, to seek answers. SGTN is spread over an area of more than 75 acres and is reportedly the largest trucking stopover point in Asia. Over 70,000 trucks are parked here at any given time and around 20,000 trucks pass by every day. She was exchanging tools with some men while bargaining for flower pots at the same time. 
Shanti Devi was born in Gwalior and led a difficult life. She worked odd jobs like rolling beedis, cleaning, stitching and just when she had enough saved up, moved out of Gwalior and settled in Delhi. She even funded her own wedding with her savings of 4000 rupees. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a match made in heaven and her husband died an early death.

She remarried and together she and her husband Ram Bahadur ran a tea shop. Later, as the tea business started making a little money, it made way for a repair shop.

Not surprisingly, Shanti Devi is an early-riser. She starts her day at 5 am to finish her chores at home, and then leaves for work with her husband. When she's done with her 'day job', she comes back to cooking and cleaning before calling it a day.
She eat very little. She think it has more to do with mental strength.”

She wanted to help her family earn more. And she liked doing it, so she continued.she think it’s just like the work we do at home –She do it for her family. So it never felt odd to her. But yes, people did stare. Maybe they felt uncomfortable seeing a woman mechanic here. But they didn’t succeed in making her feel uncomfortable. Women don’t usually enter this field and even now she is the only one in this area who changes truck tyres or even car tyres. It might be shocking for them but she treat it like any other work.”

 We are equals in all respects. But  it’s not just about physical strength, its as much to do with the mind.  Shanti Devi was an eye-opener. The perfect example of gender equality at the workplace. The men working at her shop now treat her like any other co-worker and the male-female divide is non-existent. She does not question her strength or bother herself with “log kya kahenge”. “Women are not weaker than men. It’s true that women become weak during pregnancy and after every delivery, . But it is all about your will power. If you think you can change tyres, you can. At 60, Shanti Devi is a mother of 8 kids.

“But what if women feel they’re physically weak?”
“Toh taqat badhao,” she insisted. Increase your strength. “If you work every day, your strength will definitely increase. I did not know I could lift tyres till I tried and finally one day I could do it.”

While we chatted, she had managed to fix a tyre and was on her way to make tea.

In a career where men call the shots, Shanti Devi carved her path. She believes in working hard and overcame every possible obstacle with good cheer. Demonetization has dried her income these days; she rarely has a customer coming in. But that doesn't dampen her spirit. She's still at the shop, every day, waiting patiently for customers.

Here in the grubby, soiled, SGNT area, there’s a lesson in women empowerment for all of us to learn.

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