‘Nothing to be ashamed of hard work and an honest job’
Kohima, Sep. 13 (EMN): Taking charge of the steering wheel, 25-year-old Sentila ferries passengers between Kohima and Dimapur, probably one of the first women taxi drivers on this route.
The second eldest among six siblings, Sentila stays at AG Colony, Kohima along with her younger brother and sister, who are pursuing their education, while her parents stay in Kiphire.
In an interaction with Eastern Mirror, the young woman shared how she ended up driving a zonal taxi on National Highway-29.
Humble yet inspiring start
Ever since she was a kid, she dreamed about becoming an entrepreneur as she wasn’t interested in studies. She dropped out of school in Class 10 and embarked upon the business field. By now, she has had hands-on experience in dealing with various kinds of businesses from running shops to selling used cars.
After years of saving, she decided to buy a plot of land and build a house. She thought it would help in providing some sort of security to her siblings and family. Back home in Kiphire, her parents were ready to support her in building the house, she narrated.
She then invested all of her savings, amounting to INR 3 lakh, and bought a plot of land, measuring 40 x 30 at Officer’s Hill colony, Kohima.
But unfortunately, the seller, who claimed to be the “first” landowner, duped her by selling the land which was already sold out.
‘The seller lied to me saying that she was the first owner (original landowner) and took my money, the amount never reached the landowner’, she lamented.
When queried, the (original) landowner told her that the land had been sold to another person already.
To add to her woes, the seller who took the money did not return a single rupee despite repeated appeals. She reached out to various police stations to file an FIR but was made to understand that she did not buy the plot of land.
‘I also went to the court but could not afford it and hence, the matter remains’, she said.
At home, Sentila and her father are the breadwinners of the family. Further, her family also supports her cousins financially.
‘For now, I am driving the taxi (which is not her own) to make ends meets’, she said.
Her brother, Lumtsingse L Sangtam, who is pursuing BA in Don Bosco College, said that his sister provides them with their pocket money and other daily essentials at home.
‘My sister dropped out of Class 10 and has been engaging in businesses ever since. She receives full support from mom, dad and us, the siblings, for any venture she takes on’, the brother added.
After being scammed, she was left with no option and is now driving a taxi to earn, he narrated.
Anything a man can do, a woman can do too
Sentila said that she reaches the taxi station at Old NST by 4:30-5 am and leaves for Dimapur at around 6:30-7 am.
She is able to move out early because of support and encouragement from her fellow male counterparts and line masters (referring to the person in-charge of taxi queues) at both the Dimapur and Kohima stations, she stated.
‘Everyone at the stations is so supportive and appreciative of what I am doing and would help me out’, she said.
Some of her passengers have even asked for her contact number for rides in the future while some women passengers search for her themselves, Sentila shared.
Though a profession that is dominated by men in a state like Nagaland, she said that ‘things done by a man can also be done by a woman’.
‘It is better to do something than sitting idle, and driving a taxi is not a bad idea’, she said of her profession.
‘Instead of by stealing and making a living out of a lie, doing hard work in an honest job is nothing to be ashamed of and it feels much better,’ she said.
A supportive friend
Livis Pao, an ‘elder sister-like friend’ as Sentila describes, shared that she appreciates her friend for shouldering the responsibility of providing for her siblings in the absence of her parents in Kohima.
‘Sometime back, she shared the idea of driving a taxi one day and I thought that was a good idea and supported her to go ahead as being financially independent for women is also appreciable’, Pao said.
‘Initially, she was feeling uncomfortable as she was not used to driving a taxi. So, I used to accompany her’, Pao added.
‘Taxi drivers normally wait in line for passengers. However, her colleagues are generous enough to refer their passengers over to her so that she can leave or go home early’, the friend narrated further.
Pao and Sentila are also neighbours and business partners. They have dealt in the second-hand car business together and would source vehicles from Dimapur and Assam.
‘Whenever we buy cars from Assam, she will be the one behind the wheel the entire journey. Sometimes, the car would break down in the middle of the night during the journey and she would repair it all by herself. She is really smart’, Pao added.