Giving ‘wheels’ to her passion

Emana Aslam sets up first driving institute for women in Kashmir.

Mushtaq Bhat

Budgam, Mar, 27, : The idea of setting a driving institute for ladies only had struck her mind much earlier, but it took practical shape in 2019 only when a friend of hers asked her if she could teach her driving.

The 26-year-old Emana Aslam, a PG student, from Humhama, Budgam, took up the challenge of training her friend, and finally ended up establishing a ladies’ exclusive driving institute first time in Kashmir.

In 2019 I was at a local gym when one of my friends expressed her desire to learn driving from me after she had failed to find a female exclusive driving institute in Kashmir,” Emana said.

“Soon there were requests from some more females in the family seeking to learn driving. I was convinced that the female exclusive driving institute was the need of the hour,” she said.

Emana believes that most of the females would prefer to learn driving from an instructor of the same gender. “In some cases families keep their females from learning driving due to the lack of a female instructor,” she says.

In early 2019, Emana made up her mind to open a full-fledged driving institute for ladies only. “It was not an easy task given that other than driving I knew nothing about the processes and formalities to be completed for setting up a driving institute.”

In April 2019 she set up an office for a driving institute near her Humhuma home. “I went to the Regional transport officer’s office and also visited the transport commissioner’s office and started the paperwork for registration of my driving institute that I named ‘steer we go’,” she said.

“My file for registration was rejected twice due to lack of formalities; the authorities also saw some loopholes in my infrastructure. Despite my file being rejected twice I did not lose hope and I completed all the formalities to get my institute registered.

“I bought two low-end four wheelers and a two wheeler and started my institute,” Emana says.

She says that apart from putting an advertisement on social media she did not take help from any advertising but still she got a good response. In less than a year she has trained dozens of female students at her institute and has hired another female instructor. Emana says that they keep a high standard of learning in her institute’s driving curriculum so that her students learn without any flaw.

“We offer two driving courses for females— one is for 21 days for fresher who have to start from zero and another is a 19 days course depending upon the learning ability of students. Before taking the students on road for driving we train them theoretically by conducting classes and also teach them on a model. There are also classes for road safety and traffic rules.”

Emana says that her initiative to start an institute has won her both the praise and ridicule from the society. “But my family has supported me at every juncture.” “While on social media or during the time I teach my students on the road, I face hardships and bias, but I did not let that come in the way of my work. There were a lot of people who showered praises on me,” she says.

Emana was highly encouraged by administration for launching the institute. On its inauguration in April 2019, senior officials from the Transport department and district administration came to her institute to encourage her. Few months after she started her institute she was felicitated by Budgam district administration.

During an event she was given a certificate by former Chief Justice Geeta Mital for starting the first female exclusive driving institute in Kashmir. The event was attended by many dignitaries of District administration of Budgam.

Emana says that she continues to learn and get better so that she can pass the knowledge to her students. “Whenever there is any seminar or program on driving and road safety, I make sure to attend it and stay updated with the latest information. I believe that for females learning to drive or riding a two wheeler is an important thing to be safe and self-reliant.”

She further says that many working women come to her on daily basis for driving lessons.

Emana plans to expand her driving venture. “I want to open a branch in every district in Kashmir so that females from every district will have access to female-only driving institutes.”

Every day she receives calls from females who tell her they want a branch in their area and “I am hopeful that soon that will happen.”

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