It's easy to have dreams but harder to follow them. But 26 -year- old Shonima C Padavil has not let anything come in the way of living hers. Giving up a lucrative corporate job, she prefers to be a woman cab driver on Bengaluru's roads, taking the unconventional road to happiness, even if it means taking a smaller pay packet home. Its not about the money, but pursuing a dream, she tells Shweta Singh.
She has packed quite a bit into her 26 years, wearing several hats, that of a sales manager in the corporate world, a dancer , and lastly, the most unusual of all three - a cab driver on Bengaluru’s roads!
There was little warning about what was to come as like all young girls toeing their family line, Shonima C Padavil did what was expected of her and specialised in marketing and went on to work with top firms like Eureka Forbes and Nippon Paint as project sales and corporate sales manager for about four- and -a -half years.
But then the driving bug bit her and without a second thought she chucked her lucrative corporate job to become a woman cab driver on the city’s roads, taking her family by surprise. “ Driving was always my second love after dance. I have performed on stage since I was a child, but my family wasn’t keen on me following both my passions, dance and driving,” says Shonima, with a rebellious glint in her eyes.
But her love for dance and driving was so strong that she has found a way to do both, and today drives a cab in the city whether late night or early morning, ferrying passengers to the airport and beyond, uncaring about the bigger money she could have made in the corporate world. “Money has never been a consideration. Its always been about my dreams and pursuing them,” says the plucky woman, who is undaunted by driving late hours in the city or driving passengers on long road trips outside it.
Although she is careful to drive only women passengers in keeping with the policy of the cab service provider she works for, she doesn’t think she is at risk driving alone at odd hours of night or early morning after she has made her drops. “There are enough safety features in the cab,” she says airily. Although her family has not taken kindly to her decision, they have accepted it.
Shonima,, who is from Kerala, first came to Bengaluru for her higher education and took the conventional route, doing an MBA, specialising in marketing before spending a few years in corporate and project sales in various companies. She fitted right in with her family’s expectations as her father runs a construction material business and her younger sister works in Cap Gemini in the city.
Her first defiance was pursuing dance against her family’s wishes. “I gave up dancing for a while in deference to my family. But I decided that once I started earning I would continue dancing. So once I got a job I joined the Kalarpana dance school run by danseuse/actress, Shobana in Chennai to learn bharatanatyam for about two years,” she recounts.
So keen was she on learning dance that she travelled to Chennai every weekend for the classes while working at her corporate job during the week. When the school later began classes in Bengaluru, she joined it here. “Now, I work with Shobana’s troupe. I also joined Attakkalari for a Diploma in Movement Arts to learn contemporary dance, ballet, bharatanatyam and kalari,” she reveals
But while dance satisfied the artiste in her, her hunger for driving was not satiated. Seeing a woman drive a cab at the Kempegowda International Airport proved a catalyst and Shomina knew the time had come to live her other dream too.
“I decided to quit my white collar job and pursue driving. I looked for women cab services and found “Womencabs” run by Mr. Shailendra, a retired army officer in Sarjapur. Although I was a little hesitant, I met him two years ago and shared my dream with him. Mr. Shailendra, immediately said yes and inducted me into his team. From there, I started my two months training where I learnt how to repair cars, change flat tyres and other technicalities,” says Shomina, her eyes shining with enthusiasm.
And there has been no looking back since. While some of her fellow cabbies are still not able to accept that a woman driver can be as good or better than male drivers, most treat her with respect, she says .
Shonima may have given up her corporate job, but dance continues to occupy a big part of her life. As her dance classes starts late in the evening, it’s easy for her to take rides in the morning and later perform on stage. “I am free during the day to drive. After finishing my dance practice, I do airport trips at midnight and early morning. And finally when I fall asleep I am content that I am doing all the things I want to in life,” she smiles. Does she think her unconventional choice of career will come in the way of her finding a husband? She shrugs, saying, “Any husband of mine will have to accept my choices. There’s no other way!”...