Shell India brings to us the inspiring story of Ankita, as part of their recent campaign #GreatThingsHappenWhenWeMove. Article sponsored by Shell.
“All of us have the strength to fight. It’s hidden inside of us. We just need courage and determination to ignite this strength,” says 38-year-old Ankita Shah. Ankita is Ahmedabad’s first differently-abled female auto driver and an inspiration for us all.
Speaking about her tumultuous journey, she says, “I was just a year old when I lost my right leg to Polio. It had to be amputated. I was lucky to be encouraged by my family to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Economics and make something of myself. The world, in general, wasn’t as encouraging.”
The next few years proved exceptionally hard for the new graduate. In 2009, she migrated from her hometown in Palitana in Gujarat, to Ahmedabad, in search of employment.
“I was rejected in numerous job interviews. And it was not just because I was from a small town or that I wasn’t fluent in English. It was because of my prosthetic limb. Some people even said that seeing a differently-abled person working in their company would ‘taint’ their reputation,” shares Ankita.
However, as the eldest child in a family of seven, she had responsibilities. When the offer came, she accepted any job she got — be it in a call centre or a real estate firm, and even as a housekeeper in hotels.
But none of these jobs matched her potential or qualification. She knew that she deserved more and after almost a decade of working through several jobs to survive, she decided to take control of her own life.
“In 2019, my father was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and that forced me to re-evaluate my life and career. I needed to be financially independent but not at anyone’s mercy or pity. I also needed the flexibility to balance work with my father’s treatment and a full-time desk job would not provide that. So, I decided to start something on my own,” says Ankita, who started driving an auto-rickshaw in the same year.
With the help of a friend and fellow auto driver, Lalji Barot, who was also differently-abled, she began to learn driving. He also helped Ankita get an auto-rickshaw customised with hand-operated brakes, which proved to be the wind beneath her wings.
“Every morning, I leave at 10.30 am and ferry passengers till 8.30 pm, in the area between Chandkheda and Kalupur Railway Station. On days when I am needed at home to take care of my father, I can adjust my timings accordingly. Driving the rickshaw enables me to be flexible in this manner,” she says, adding, “Thanks to my rickshaw, I earn double the amount I was earning in my previous jobs. To increase my earnings further, I have joined a cab aggregator platform as well.” Driving an auto-rickshaw has helped Ankita earn Rs 25,000 a month.
Today, she is not just the primary breadwinner of her family but also a beacon of hope and positivity for society. “My father’s health has improved, and with his support, I am stronger than ever. I hope my story inspires both women and the differently-abled, and I hope it reminds them of their potential. Having a strong support system always helps but we also need to realise that we are our biggest strength. All we need is to believe in ourselves,” she concludes.
Shell India recently unveiled the campaign, ‘Great things happen when we move’ in their continued quest to be a trusted partner in the country’s progress. Through this campaign, Shell aims to celebrate the indomitable spirit of Indians, their dreams, and aspirations along with their inspiring journeys. The campaign encourages Indian women to step out, move forward and chase their dreams by highlighting the stirring stories of women like Ankita. The core assertion of their stories is to establish that mobility is a key enabler of people’s progress.