In the heart of Bathinda, Shinder Kaur’s story emerges as a testament to resilience and unwavering determination. Life, unkind to her from the beginning, dealt a raw deal as she faced the heart-wrenching loss of three children and endured abuse from an alcoholic husband. Undeterred, she dared to break free from the shackles of a toxic marriage, refusing to succumb to adversity.
Shinder, despite facing the dual challenges of a lack of education and employment opportunities, refused to be defined by societal expectations. For over a decade, she toiled alongside construction workers and in eateries, making ends meet. When these avenues proved insufficient, she did something extraordinary – she ventured into the male-dominated world of auto-rickshaw driving.
Securing an auto-rickshaw, however, wasn’t a smooth ride. Hindered by financial constraints, she found support in an unexpected place—a lady benefactor from Canada who recognized Shinder’s spirit and helped her procure the vehicle. What sets Shinder apart in Bathinda is not just her tenacity but also her choice to wear a turban, challenging societal norms and breaking gender stereotypes.
“I am the only woman here who drives an auto. Initially, I used to get fewer customers, so I thought, ‘let’s try wearing a turban, maybe because of this I’ll get more patrons’,” she shared, reflecting the innovative approach she adopted to attract more riders.
Yet, this bold choice has not shielded her from the challenges she faces. Shinder recounts the speculations about her gender from lady commuters who are unaware of her identity beneath the turban. Even her own family members, uncomfortable with her unconventional choice, often express their concerns.
Despite the hurdles, Shinder Kaur has become a beacon of inspiration for many in Bathinda. As the only female auto-rickshaw driver in the city, she strives to break the stigma associated with women in unconventional professions. However, acceptance from the predominantly male auto-rickshaw drivers’ union remains elusive, restricting her access to certain commuter hotspots.
Undeterred, she continues her trade, picking up passengers along the way, dropping them off at the bus stand, and slowly winning the support of the women of Bathinda. Many now prefer riding with her, appreciating not just her courage but also her commitment to providing a reliable service. Her contact number prominently displayed in the auto-rickshaw’s driver section symbolizes a new form of connection in the city.
As Shinder Kaur stands firm against societal norms, her journey becomes more than just a personal triumph—it symbolizes the collective strength of women breaking barriers in Bathinda and beyond. Her call for assistance is a reminder that societal change requires not just individual courage but also systemic support.