HER LONG DRIVE TO JUSTICE

You never know what sexual harassment does to a woman, do you? It made Venkata Lakshmi turn to the law books, while driving an auto to feed her family.

P A Venkata Lakshmi, a women auto driver in Bangalore city. Lakshmi is more than an auto driver. She is a law student. At the age of 33 years, this married woman and a mother of a 9 year old girl, has five semesters to complete before she can become a lawyer.

P A Venkata Lakshmi, a women auto driver in Bangalore city. Lakshmi is more than an auto driver. She is a law student. At the age of 33 years, this married woman and a mother of a 9 year old girl, has five semesters to complete before she can become a lawyer.

“She didn’t charge me a rupee more than the auto meter,” said an incredulous young girl who travelled in an auto in the city recently. She? Yes, the woman in question drives an auto, struggling to make a living in a man’s world. The auto driver-bit is, however, just one part of Venkata Lakshmi’s story.As the sole breadwinner for the family, she is also studying law. And that’s not because she wants to move onto a white collar job. After a lifetime of surmounting odds that would have felled a lesser woman, Lakshmi’s interest in law stems from the determination that others don’t encounter the travails she has.

P A Venkata Lakshmi, a women auto driver in Bangalore city showing an old kannada magazine tear sheet showing an article about her act of bravery as a young girl.

P A Venkata Lakshmi, a women auto driver in Bangalore city showing an old kannada magazine tear sheet showing an article about her act of bravery as a young girl.

NEVER SAY DIE

Lakshmi was an all-rounder at school. The youngest of three siblings, she was encouraged in all she did, especially by her uncle Paniyam Shankar Murthy. She passed SSLC with a first class. Lakshmi’s first choice of career was the Indian Police Service. She enrolled for 1st PUC at MES College and joined NCC too. On a morning jog, she saw a child about to be hit by a speeding bus. She flung herself on the road and in the nick of time, saved the child. A bravery award is proof of her act.

She had barely started her BA when her mother asked her to get married. Lakshmi, determined to continue her studies, moved to a government college with nominal fees. She taught private tuitions and sold vegetables grown in her backyard to support her education.

However, she subsequently had to discontinue. Not willing to go down without a fight, she enrolled herself as an external candidate in open university and worked in a SSI unit.

The turning point came when some anti-social elements tried to kidnap her over a small issue. She took the legal route to justice and became embroiled in a nine-year court battle.

Eventually, she dropped her studies and focused on her job and the case. She says she was repeatedly pressurised by police and politicians to give up the case and compromise with the culprits. She lost respect for the policing profession, which had captured her imagination once.


WEDDING BELLS

She finally agreed to get married to a man her mother had chosen for her. But after the wedding date was fixed, the dowry issue came up. The wedding was called off after all preparations. A family friend later introduced her to Rajendra, a welder who was then working in UAE. They got married.

Their daughter was born within the first year of marriage. With not enough income and job security from welding, Lakshmi’s husband bought an auto and started driving it. Lakshmi got a loan under Pradhanmantri Rozgar Yojana and started a canteen and catering business from home. With another loan, she built a floor above their house and leased it out.

MORE TROUBLE

But the repayment of loans soon became a burden and Lakshmi’s husband returned to Dubai. The auto was hired out to a driver. All was going well until her neighbour started harassing her. Her neighbour, Balaji Singh, wanted to have an affair. She flatly refused.

But he started pressuring her from various quarters. Her tenants moved out. The final blow was BESCOM shutting down her catering business as she had no commercial power supply at home. Exasperated, she got a driver’s license and started driving the auto. It’s been five years and it is now the only source of income for her family.

BACK TO COLLEGE

To escape her neighbour, she sold her house and moved to a rented place with her daughter. “If I had a good financial status and if I was a qualified professional like a doctor, advocate or engineer, then my family and I could lead a better life. With my arts background, I decided to pursue a degree in law. I approached the then principal of Babu Jagjeevan Ram Law College,” she explains.

She says she was initially apprehensive as she was already 31 years old. But looking at her educational background and her motivation, the principal and one of the lecturers, advocate Nagaraj, encouraged her to pursue her education there.

Everyday, she leaves home early in the morning, drops her daughter to school, and then ferries Bangaloreans till late morning and then goes to college. “I miss many classes. But the college administration has pardoned me. Friends help by sharing notes. I have completed four semesters with second class grades and without failing
in any subject so far,” she says.

Her lecturer Nagaraj says, “She has managed to pass in all subjects with good grades. She is motivated. The college is not in a position to give her a fee concession. If she is able to attend classes regularly, I am sure she can score better in exams.”

Meanwhile, her husband has returned to India. Welding has affected his sight and he can’t drive an auto. He says, “I am not educated and we have a daughter who goes to school. It will be better if at least one parent is educated. I am happy that my wife is studying law.”

Lakshmi has five more semesters to go. If the grit she has shown till now is any indication, expect her to don her robes in less than three years!

(Note: If you think you can help lakshmi in anyway, then please feel free to contact me)

Nishant Ratnakar
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Nishant Ratnakar

Photographer | Visual Storyteller at www.nishantratnakar.com
Nishant is a Bangalore, India based Wedding, Portrait & Editorial Photographer. He is available for assignments across India. He also conducts photography workshops and offers personal photography mentorship.
Nishant Ratnakar
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19 Comments on "HER LONG DRIVE TO JUSTICE"

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Murugesh
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count me in !!
let me know how i can contribute..

Murugesh
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count me in !!let me know how i can contribute..

snehats
Guest

its really movitivating to know how will showes the way. do let me know if she needs any help.

snehats
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its really movitivating to know how will showes the way. do let me know if she needs any help.

Flavia Pereira
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Indeed a great source of inspiration…lemme know if therez anything i can do to help…well liked ur blog…n on the ombhattygudda…herez a frds blog n his experience on the trek.http://questsofavagabond.blogspot.com/2008/02/ombattugudda.html

Flavia Pereira
Guest

Indeed a great source of inspiration…lemme know if therez anything i can do to help…well liked ur blog…n on the ombhattygudda…herez a frds blog n his experience on the trek.http://questsofavagabond.blogspot.com/2008/02/ombattugudda.html

Bangalore
Guest

Truly a tuff life she lead. Do write to me to [email protected] regarding any help with respect to her education.

Bangalore
Guest

Truly a tuff life she lead. Do write to me to [email protected] regarding any help with respect to her education.

Serendipity
Guest

I’d like to help as well , please mail me at [email protected]

Serendipity
Guest

I’d like to help as well , please mail me at [email protected]

Kiran
Guest

Really inspiring. I salute Venkata Lakshmi!

Kiran
Guest

Really inspiring. I salute Venkata Lakshmi!

Sudhir
Guest

Hi! Venkata Lakshmi was my classmate in my primary school. Lost touch long back. Me and the group would want to help her in any way…most importantly moral support…if I can have her contact number, it would be great.

Sudhir
Guest

Hi! Venkata Lakshmi was my classmate in my primary school. Lost touch long back. Me and the group would want to help her in any way…most importantly moral support…if I can have her contact number, it would be great.

rama
Guest

I wish you all the best lakshmi

rama
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I wish you all the best lakshmi

Srikanthchatrapathy
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Congratulations & Compliments to Smt Vankatalskhmi and Mr.Ratnakar. Please contact Rotary Bangalore DownTown -Srikanth Chatrapathy. 23347318
 

shiva kumar
Guest

Hi congradulations, venkatalakshmi and i studied in the same school for years,i’d like to help her, i would be great if i reach her in any way,

kumar
Guest

searching for some inspiration story and landed in this page..its been 8 years you wrote the column.. kindly please update to what was happened ..hope she completed her studies and in a good position now..

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