The kindest smile on her face, bravery brimming in her eyes and determined to give misogyny a run for its life – meet 67 years old Basheeran Bibi, Hyderabad’s only female taxi driver.
Basheeran got married in her teens and was gifted with an extremely strong and supportive husband. He was a policeman and owned a taxi, that he drove in free time to meet the ends. However, he was a man who believed that role of women extends beyond the kitchen.
Despite Basheeran’s lack of interest, her husband insisted that she learns how to drive. He gave her lessons so she is self-sustainable in his absence.
And it happened. 14 years after their marriage, he left the world due to cardiac arrest, leaving Basheeran as a widow and their 7 children as orphans.
Basheeran says that she didn’t have the strength to deal with it. She was always pampered by her parents and then her husband. But she had to compose herself for the sake of her children.
Her in-laws abandoned her. Instead of going back to her parents in Ranipur or begging for relatives’ mercy, she rented a house and moved in with her kids.
She started sewing clothes and handed the taxi to a driver – but it didn’t work out. The earning wasn’t enough for them. One day, she kept sewing machine in her taxi and just drove away.
She says it’s blur in her distant memory when she started to drive, but the price of five liters of petrol was 35 rupees back then.
She started with the driving on the route, Hyderabad to Kotri, but it was never easy.
“It was strange then for a woman to drive a taxi. Besides, I was young and beautiful, so people would give me strange looks. At first, I was frightened, but I had heard the song ‘Aye dil tujhe qasam hai, himmat na harna’.. and I decided to fight my circumstances.” (Source: DAWN).
She would gracefully drive on the roads and while waiting for her turn on the stop, she sewed clothes. She never allowed any man to take up her passengers seat, instead, a female occupied it or it remained vacant. This is how she fought the challenges and managed to raise her kids.
Back in 1988, when Sindi-Mohajir riots begin, her house was attacked and the taxi was snatched on gunpoint. She didn’t surrender. Basheeran moved to another location and purchased her own house along with two taxis on installments, after paying the little amount she had saved.
Her eldest sons learned driving from her and helped her. Things seemed to be in her favor finally before she married her oldest son off and he left her, moving to Punjab after marriage.
The other two sons also left her after getting married. Not only did they leave her, but also forcefully took the taxis from her. Youngest son started getting involved in criminal activities and hoodlums, slept on streets. After marrying her two daughters, she was all alone in her home.
It is when she decided to adopt her neighbor’s daughter, who was struggling financially. They were so poor that didn’t even have a bathroom in their house and went to mosque’s. She raised her like her own daughter and even arranged her marriage. She says she wanted to marry her to her youngest son, but she doesn’t deserve a man as irresponsible as him.
Deserted and disappointed by her sons, only her daughters and their in-laws visit her and own her today. But her strength is still young. She has still not given up.
Every wrinkle on her face tells a unique story of empowerment, bravery, and determination – while she continues to strongly conquer life.
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