Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Stepping On The Accelerator

Lekha Rajendran’s life turned topsy-turvy when her husband died in an accident. But the mother of one refused to be cowed down. Today, she runs her own driving school at Kochi

By Shevlin Sebastian

At 6.30 a.m. on a recent day, Lekha Rajendran was sitting in the passenger seat of an Estilo as it moved through Kadavanthra, Kochi. In the driver’s seat was a 20-year-old girl who was staring intently at the road. Lekha asked the girl to change into second gear. The girl did so but took her leg off the clutch a bit too soon and the car jerked a bit before she managed to get it right.

Lekha runs the Leshya Driving School in Kochi. If somebody had told her a few years ago that she would be owning a driving school, she would have called that person mad.

But Lekha’s life changed irrevocably on April 1, 2013. At 11 p.m., she received a call on her mobile phone at her home in Salem. The caller said, “Your husband met with an accident near the railway gate. We are taking him to the government hospital.”

Along with her son Hariharan, who was an engineering student, Lekha rushed to the hospital.  

When they reached there, Lekha saw that her husband Rajendran was lying unattended on the floor next to a door. “They had not even administered first aid,” she says. “I shouted and protested.”

So, the nurses hurriedly took Rajendran into the ward and the blood stains were wiped away. But by this time, Rajendran began vomiting. So Lekha took him to a private hospital, where he was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit.

Earlier, while talking to the bystanders, she was able to piece together what had happened. Rajendran was travelling helmetless on a Suzuki bike on the main road. Suddenly, a young man on another bike raced from a side road and hit Rajendran.  

My husband fell to the side of the road, but a pointed stone entered his neck,” says Lekha.

Anyway, Rajendran remained in the hospital for 17 days. “He was breathing but did not open his eyes even once,” says Lekha. “Eventually, my husband passed away.”

Lekha went into shock. “I could not understand what had happened,” she says. “For a long time, I found his death difficult to accept. When I would read about accidents in the newspaper, I would think that this happened to other people and not us.”  

Meanwhile, the hospital bill came to a large amount. Rajendran, who was working as a contractor for the Railways, did not have much savings. So the burden to clear the debt fell on Lekha. She returned to Kerala, she belongs to Vaikom, and thanks to a friend, Sreevarma, she joined a pharmaceuticals company at Kochi as a medical representative. Her son remained at the hostel of the Thiagarajar College of Engineering at Madurai.  

For the next three years, Lekha travelled on a scooter to places like Kottayam and Ettumanoor. “I enjoyed the work but had to stop because I developed back pain,” she says. “The doctor told me to stop using a two-wheeler.”  

So, Lekha, after securing a driving license for four-wheelers, became an instructor in a driving school in end-2014. “I love driving,” she says. “I enjoy the control and the confidence that I feel whenever I sit behind the wheel. I also enjoy teaching.”

After two years, Lekha felt the desire to become independent. So, on November 13, 2017, she started her own school.

Today, Lekha has become a different person altogether. “It has been a tremendous change for me,” she says. “During my twenty-year marriage, I hardly ever stepped out of the house. I was a frog in the well. Now I have become outgoing and confident, although it took a tragedy for me to become a new person.”

This confidence has enabled her to tackle some of the negative experiences that she has faced. “When people come to know that I am a widow, they get different ideas,” says the 43-year-old. “And that is difficult to bear. Initially, they come with the idea of wanting to help, but later, they reveal their actual motive of wanting to get friendly with me.”

Meanwhile, she is proud of her son, who has a job at Kochi and is doing his M.Tech in SRM College at Chennai. He goes on weekends to attend the classes while he is also doing his MBA, through distance education, from Pondicherry University.

The driving lesson came to an end. The girl got out of the car. And so did Lekha. She went back to her office. Life goes on. But this woman, unlike many others, has refused to succumb to depression and passivity and has turned her life around. 

A quiet heroine of our times! 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode)

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