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Life Story Worth Knowing, Manipuri Woman Autodriver Earns Daily Bread for Family

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I think I will drive my auto all my life. I like driving. It suits me, Pixabay

When Laibi Oinam got in the front seat of a second-hand auto-rickshaw as a driver almost a decade ago, she received a lot of negative attention from people in her home state of Manipur in northeast India. But her life took a new turn in 2015 when her struggle to get passengers and earn her daily bread to support her ailing husband and young sons caught a filmmakers attention.

Now in her 50s, Laibi has bought herself a new auto-rickshaw, her younger son is inching closer to his football dream and she enjoys respect in the same society that once looked down upon her for driving an auto and breaking another glass ceiling for women without really knowing it.

Laibi says that she didn’t take up the job of an autodriver in 2011 to challenge stereotypes. Her husband’s deteriorating health and sons’ education demanded more money. What she earned by working in a brick kiln was insufficient. So, she collected money through chit fund and bought a second-hand auto.

“I rented it out to others but we didn’t get much money out of it. Meanwhile my husband got unwell, so I decided to start driving,” Laibi told IANS in a telephonic interview from Imphal.

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The emotional story connected with many. It even bagged the best social issue film in the non-feature category at the 63rd edition of National Film awards. Pixabay

Whether it is fighting for a cause or selling vegetables or handloom weaving, traditional male bastions, women in Manipur have always been in the forefront of society. But the same can’t be said about autodrivers.

“When I started driving auto in 2011, I used to wear phanek (traditional wear of Manipuri women). Later on, I changed to pants as people often refused to take rides because of my gender and outfit,” said Laibi, who learnt how to drive on a Vespa.

Since the sight of women autodrivers was not a common one in Manipur, it caught the attention of film director Meena Longjam.

“I met her in 2012. It was an accidental encounter. There were many male autodrivers in the market and then there was this one woman waiting to get passengers in her auto. I had never thought that a woman could drive an auto in Manipur,” said the Madras Christian College alumnus.

An article on Laibi piqued Meena’s interest.

“Someone had written an article on her. Then I thought of talking to her. Also, I remember back in 2011, there was an economic blockade in Manipur for so many months that it crippled all of us. I thought of sending out a message to people through my film.

“I wanted to show how despite all the problems in the state, a woman is working hard to support her family,” said the filmmaker.

The documentary “Autodriver” is barely of 30 minutes but Meena gave about three years of her life to it.

“It took me time to build rapport with her. I wanted her to feel comfortable so that she could open up and tell me her story,” she said.

“While talking to her, I noticed that Laibi has big dreams for her children. Though one of her sons had to drop out of a Sainik school due to her financial condition, she still dreams big. She wants her elder son to become an IAS officer and younger son a footballer.

“Her journey is very emotional. She does all the household chores and then heads out to earn money as an autodriver — a challenging job for a woman in Manipur,” she added.

Auto Rickshaw
Laibi says that she didn’t take up the job of an autodriver in 2011 to challenge stereotypes. Her husband’s deteriorating health and sons’ education demanded more money. Pixabay

The emotional story connected with many. It even bagged the best social issue film in the non-feature category at the 63rd edition of National Film awards.

“Now I am a known face. A lot of people have started supporting me. Even traffic police officials don’t bother me much. My younger son is studying in a football academy in Chandigarh. The elder one is almost done with his graduation. I earn around Rs 1,000 per day,” said Laibi, almost twice what she earned when she started out on her challenging journey..

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So once her sons start earning, will she quit driving?

“I know how to make ‘phee’ (traditional Manipuri handloom long scarf) but I don’t enjoy doing it. I think I will drive my auto all my life. I like driving. It suits me,” said Laibi. (IANS)

Next Story

Find out Why Taking Your Pet on a Holiday With You is The Perfect Idea

Every pet owner should adopt the idea of taking their pets on a holiday with them

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Most people treat pets like their family, but a very few of them take their pets on a holiday with them. Pixabay

Here’s a fun fact, a study done by Booking.com reveals eighty perent of Indian pet owners consider their pets to be a fully fledged member of the family. But seventy percent of pet owners currently find that there is a lack of clear and quality information around travelling with their pets abroad or on a holiday

This ends up either putting a spanner in their vacation plans or traveling without the most favourite member of their family.

Here’s another interesting fact sixty sic percent of pet owners even admit that in the coming year they would choose their holiday destinations based on whether they can take their pets.

With this in mind, in 2020 one can expect to see pet-owners around the world making a conscious effort to put their pet(s) in the priority lane.

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Sixty six percent of pet owners admit that in the coming year they would choose their holiday destinations based on whether they can take their pets. Pixabay

In order to meet the needs of travellers seeking the purrfect pet-friendly accommodation it will be more and more important for pet-friendly accommodations around the world to create a welcoming environment for their guests and their precious companions. The year ahead will see accommodations offer pet-friendly amenities to cater for travellers’ pets’ needs, with the top five amenities for a paws-itively fun and furry vacation, according to the pet owners themselves.

Also Read- Friendly Regulation Policies Can Boost Up Drone Manufacturing in India, Says DFI

Commenting on the study, Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager, Booking.com, India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, said, “As we proceed towards a new decade, we will see travel becoming more and more sustainable and technologically-advanced, further aided by enhanced services and offerings that enable the modern day inquisitive traveller to experience the world. From catering to their peaked interest in lesser known destinations to counter over-tourism, to customised travel recommendations, we want to ensure that the travellers have the most diverse selection of places to stay at as we help them prepare and plan their travel in 2020 and beyond.” (IANS)