When I talked to Ankita for the very first time, little did I know that her story would be stuck with me forever!
A resident of Palitana, Gujarat, Ankita Shah moved to Ahmedabad with her family almost a decade back. “My right leg was amputated due to polio in my childhood. There was an alternative to that severed leg, but regrettably not of my dreams,” she says.
Her father, when, was forced to leave work due to poor health, Ankita decided to step in to meet the needs of her family of 7 people.
A graduate in Economics, Shah’s degree became of no use when most of the companies started giving importance to her disability more than her talent — as a result of which, she never got a good job — she was either the job denied during interviews or was offered half the salary as compared to other candidates.
“I got a clerk job at a local high school in Palitana. He promised me a fixed salary after working for three months. I worked there for ten months, but could not get a single rupee in the name of salary. I did all kinds of things here in Ahmedabad — worked as a housekeeper in hotels, in call centres, real estate, stock market and whatnot, but I could not survive anywhere. A call centre asked me to quit because of my poor English, while in a real estate firm I came to know that I was being paid less salary due to my disability. I was refused outright in many interviews because of my disability,” Ankita further adds.
In June 2019, she knew that her fight had become longer when she came to know about her father’s cancer. At that time, she worked in a call centre where a 12-hour job would not have allowed her to go to the hospital with her father. As a result, she decided to quit her job.
“After that, I gave two more interviews for the post of a back office executive, but I was rejected again because of my disability. That day, I decided that whatever I will do, I will do it on my own,” she continues.
After thinking many things, making several calculations and predictions, she decided to become an auto-rickshaw driver.
Yes, there were many difficulties. Her family disagreed. But Ankita was firm on her decision. Her friend and fellow driver Lalji Barot taught her to drive autos and also helped her find a customized auto-rickshaw with hand-operated brakes.
It’s been more than a year since she became Ahmedabad’s first disabled female auto driver — and she never regretted her choice even for a bit!
The coronavirus lockdown did bring her a lot of stress of worries, but she eventually pulled through it.
But it was not just the lockdown that caused Ankita trouble. Being stared by people, mocked by bikers, and facing sexist comments by other male drivers became a part of her daily routine.
But Ankita, as I would say, is very obstinate — she never gave up!
She is fighting her fight every day. Pushing herself and making her siblings’ future bright. She wishes to run a cab in Uber or Ola after completing her auto’s EMI. As of now, Ankita’s younger brothers have also started working, and they also contribute to their father’s treatment and other household expenses.
Ankita Shah is just one of the many examples of women empowerment — a ray of hope and a constant source of motivation.
If you know someone who reminds you of this gritty lady, share their story with us, and we will share it with the world! #InfanoWomen