Her shift begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. every day
The only woman bus driver in the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) — that is how Prema Ramappa Nadabatti, formerly a resident of Belgaum, is known in the city.
It is a unique distinction , but behind Prema’s amiable façade, the story of BMTC’s sole woman driver is one of grit and sheer triumph of the will in face of life’s challenges.
Ms. Nadabatti did not want to be a bus driver, but the grim reality of earning a livelihood coupled with bringing up her son, led her to it after her husband passed away.
At first, she tried other jobs and wrote several entrance examinations, but without success.
Left with the option of joining as a bus driver, she took up the job.
That was five years ago. She now drives a bus on Route Number 18 starting from Jayanagar 9 Block to Majestic. Shopkeepers in Jayanagar 9 Block will readily tell anyone looking for her where they can find the “lady driver”.
Her shift begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. with more work at times. Steering a bus through the roads of Bangalore is full of tension. Invariably, the toughest part is negotiating the traffic jams in the Majestic area everyday. Yet, more women can work as bus drivers provided they get training, she says.
She says she has not faced any harassment. On the contrary, the men bus drivers and passengers are exceptionally courteous to her, with some passengers even offering her chocolates.
She said, “The other traffic always gives me ‘side’ (they let her go first)”.
A tea shop vendor at Jayanagar 9th Block bus stand said when it came to verbal volleys , she more than holds her own against her male colleagues. “If she doesn’t speak that way, she won’t survive in the profession,” he says.