Commuters on Sansad Marg found the Monday afternoon a little more surreal than usual. Women in Delhi don’t ride horses wearing sarees. And if they do, they don’t trot past red beacon ambassadors carrying an unsheathed sword in hand.
But 35-year-old Sunita Chowdhary, hailed as north India’s first autorickshaw driver, did exactly that. Sunita was on her way to file her nomination paper for the upcoming vice presidential elections. “No woman has been elected or even considered for vice-presidency in this country so far,” said Sunita atop her ghodi. “So I have decided to emulate Rani Lakshmibai and do something for this country,” she added.
However, by the time Sunita passed the security check in Sansad Bhawan, she was informed she was already late to file the nomination for the day.
“Had they not kept me waiting on the pretext of security measures, I would have been able to file my nomination on time. But I’ll be back again tomorrow morning,” she said.
Born in Bahadurpur, a village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, Sunita came to the Capital after passing her Class X board exam. Cutting her long hair short and slipping into trousers and shirts, she took to driving an autorickshaw and broke the glass ceiling almost 10 years back. She plans to repeat the feat gain. “Former Union minister Jaswant Singh and vice president Hamid Ansari should give way to women. Reservation for women, violence and dowry are some of the issues among many which I would want to focus on if I get elected,” said Sunita.
From campaigning against sexual harassment to ferrying injured and sick commuters during strikes, Sunita has been doing her bit whenever the need arises. But is not filing nomination for a post, which requires 50 proposers and 50 seconders, stretching things a little too far?
She had tried her hand at the nomination for the presidential polls too only to be rejected, like the many others. So are these acts mere publicity stunts? “Maybe not today, maybe not in a thousand years, but at least I’m throwing a pebble at the glass ceiling. Someday it might just break, yet again,” said Sunita.
One remembers the emotionally charged lines from poetess Subadhra Kumari Chauhan: ‘Bundele harbolon ke mooh humne suni kahani thi, khoob ladi mardani woh toh Jhansi wali rani thi’.
Odes to the queen of Jhansi were sung by the bards of Bundelkhand. In the age of breaking news, Sunita doesn’t have to look for her bards too far. She knows presidential elections are as popular as the Rani’s last battle with the eighth King’s Royal Irish Hussars in Kotah ki Sarai.