Jun 28, 2016

I rode with Uber India's first woman driver three years ago. RIP Bharathi.

I rode with Bharathi. She was unforgettable.

BYPankaj Mishra

Bharathi Veerath, 39, first came to Bengaluru looking for a job in 2005. After working at a tailoring unit for a few years, the enterprising, spunky and cheerful woman became a driver-partner with Uber in 2013.
This morning, Bharathi was found dead in her north Bengaluru home under mysterious circumstances. I rode with Bharathi a few years ago, and it was a memorable ride — so memorable, indeed, that I saved the emailed receipt all this while. Today, when I heard the news of her death, my short but unforgettable conversation with her came back to me.
Three years ago, I was waiting for my Uber to arrive in Bangalore’s Cubbon Park. I was with my three year old daughter, wife and mother. They were all in awe of the app and we’re excited about the first ride.
It was 3:41 pm on November 24, 2013 to be precise, as the receipt shows.
The driver pulled up after we spoke on the phone as I explained our exact location. I don’t remember the make of the car, but it was a sedan. Inside, Bharathi welcomed us, smiling and cheerful. The ladies were pleasantly surprised. My mother, who could only speak Hindi, asked me to find out how Bharathi became an Uber driver.
“It’s tough for women in every field, and driving is no exception,” she said. “I support my family, I am really happy with all the respect I get while driving Uber.”
Bharathi had joined Uber only a month ago, in October 2013. She was full of exuberance and positive energy, the kind of stuff you see in a young kid on the first day of the job.
My three-year-old daughter Anushka too was impressed and started asking if she could drive a car as well.
“Of course you can,” Bharathi said. She spoke about her early career struggles, including the tailoring job.
The ride lasted around 37 minutes, and cost me Rs 332.
Earlier today, after reading about Bharathi’s death, I called up my wife and mother.
“What a tragic end, what a beautiful life,” my wife said.
Lead image: Uber

FactorDaily’s journalism is produced by some of the best brains in the story-telling business. If you like our body of work – deep reportage, domain specialist write-ups, data stories, podcasts and the like – consider supporting the FactorDaily journey.

Support FactorDaily

Pankaj Mishra is a writer of FactorDaily.