‘Braking’ stereotypes: Woman cabbie from Hyderabad defies all odds

Hyderabad: It is always a delight to see women working in male-dominated spaces, and more so to see a woman going against all odds to become an Uber driver! Dandu Lakshmi is one such woman who took up the profession because she enjoyed it. Soon, it became her everything.

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“People are always happy to see a female Uber driver,” she said. “People from bigger cities are not fazed, but female drivers are relatively a new concept in Hyderabad.”

A Mahabubnagar-native, Lakshmi started working for Uber four years ago. “Before that, I used to drive an Omni multi-seater van to take children to and from a school in Kushaiguda. I enjoyed it a lot. But I was out of a job during the pandemic, and signed up for the app.”

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She initially was inspired by another female cab driver who would pick up and drop off children at Bhavan’s college. “I saw her working and felt like I could do it too. So I enrolled in a driving school, and learned how to drive,” she said. Soon, chance came knocking at her doorstep.

Lakshmi’s husband supported her throughout the journey of becoming an Uber driver. “He was very happy when I told him I wanted to learn how to drive. He never doubted my ability,” she reminisced.

‘But the Pandemic changed everything.’

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lakshmi lost her husband. “He had been ill for a while. Then he caught the virus during the first wave. We did not have access to oxygen cylinders during that time, and he passed away in a week,” she recalled.

With her husband’s passing, Lakshmi’s family took a big hit. She suddenly became a single parent to two kids with major expenses on hand. She said, “My son was not given a hall ticket for his degree final exams as the fees were due. I had to borrow money to pay his fees, and I’m still paying off the interest.”

She gets paid Rs 2000 per day if she works 8-9 hours as an Uber driver, ferrying people across Hyderabad. “It gets difficult for me if I skip a few days of work. I drive when it rains, and even when I fall sick. Sometimes I work in the night, at 2 am or 3 am,” she remarked.

“My main expenses are the EMIs to pay-off the cost of the Xylo I currently drive, and the monthly rent expenses. My family is eligible for Telangana’s 2BHK housing scheme, so it would be a great help to be allotted a house. I hope I can get by this phase of my life if I work hard for another year,” she hoped.

City-based activist Hima Bindu was one of Lakshmi akka‘s customers, and understood her plight. She set up a fundraiser for Lakshmi, so she can still own the Xylo she depends on for her daily bread and butter. Currently, Hima Bindu aims to help Lakshmi with Rs 45,000 she needs to pay before August 15.

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