Bilkis Khan Confidently Steering Through Life’s Umpteen Challenges

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From adversity to respect: The inspiring journey of Delhi’s female auto driver

Mohammad Alamullah | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – In a society where traditional gender roles often dictate the boundaries of women’s aspirations, Bilkis Khan stands as a testament to resilience and determination. Hailing from Delhi, this 35-year-old mother of three has defied stereotypes and societal norms by embracing the unconventional profession of an auto driver, challenging perceptions and earning respect with every turn her vehicle takes.

Bilkis Khan’s journey to become a self-sufficient breadwinner for her family was strewn with several hurdles. Faced with an unsupportive and alcoholic husband, she found herself shouldering the responsibility of providing for her children alone.

Reflecting on her struggles, Bilkis says philosophically that every woman wants a comfortable life. “But even after 17 years of marriage, happiness eluded me. I had to take charge for the sake of my children,” she said.

Turning to her sister, who herself navigated the roads as a bus driver, proved to be a turning point for Bilkis. Under the Delhi government’s free license scheme, she underwent rigorous auto driving training, earning her license and securing employment with a company operating in the electric auto sector.

Recalling the initial hiccups of becoming a female auto driver, Bilkis recounts: “Male drivers were resistant to the idea of a woman joining their ranks. There were confrontations, and even abuses were hurled at me. But I refused to back down.” Over time, societal attitudes softened, and passengers began to appreciate her driving skills, gradually accepting her presence behind the wheel.

For Bilkis Khan, the transition to auto driving wasn’t just about earning a livelihood; it was reclaiming control over her life. “I realised that driving an auto offered more than just financial stability. It symbolised empowerment and independence,” she affirms. With a monthly earning of Rs 15,000, Bilkis ensures her children’s education and household expenses are met, fostering a sense of security and stability for her family.

Her daughters, Sija and Zoya, are pursuing their studies, with aspirations for a brighter future, while her son, Ayaan, continues his schooling. Bilkis’s unwavering commitment to her children’s well-being is palpable as she asserts, “I want them to be self-reliant, to never have to depend on anyone else for their livelihood.”

Despite the challenges and occasional disputes over fares, Bilkis remains undeterred in her pursuit of providing a better life for her family. Embracing the digital age, she now juggles both online and offline rides, maximising her earning potential and ensuring a steady stream of passengers.

Her perseverance and dedication recently earned her the prestigious Pink Auto Rider Award in Delhi, a testament to her exemplary contribution to the field of transportation and gender equality. Looking ahead, Bilkis envisions a future where more women break barriers and pursue their aspirations unapologetically. “There’s no field where women lag,” she asserts confidently. “With determination, we can achieve anything, and society will have no choice but to respect us for our hard work and resilience,” she says.

As Bilkis Khan continues to navigate the bustling streets of Delhi, she epitomises the spirit of empowerment and defiance, challenging stereotypes and inspiring countless others to chart their paths, one ride at a time.

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