Selvi – An Inspiring Woman Who Went From Traumatised Teen Bride To Empowered Woman

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Meet Selvi, a woman who believed in herself and decided to take her life into her own hands, running away from an abusive marriage and becoming the woman she is today.

Everyone’s life is a story in itself, some cheerful and blessed, while a few others rough and rocky. But then there are some inspiring stories of gloom to glory. One such story is of Selvi, a self-made woman who chose to see life in the eye!

Meet Selvi, a driver in Salem district who chose driving as a career to drive away the uncertainties of life! Driving goods autos and trucks, today she is happily married with two wonderful daughters and a supportive husband.

With a gleeful voice she confesses that her life revolves around them and her driving job. After many years of struggle, today she along with her husband plans to set up a driving school for better life, as both husband and wife share the same passion and profession of driving.

Early marriage and abuse

But not so long ago, Selvi was grappling with the uncertainties that life had exposed her to. Married off at the tender age of 14 much against her wish and having had to drop out of school, she recollects “I had no choice as that was the norm in my native town where most girls got married very early and discontinued their schooling”.

As if that was not enough the marriage itself turned out to be a rocky one with an abusive person for a husband. Soon things reached a point where she could not take it anymore. Even today after so many years she says, “I do not want to talk about or even remember my traumatic past”.

She says that she could not really understand what she was experiencing, then but in her heart she knew that all was not well, and that she could not continue to stay there against her conscience. She had to make a decision. Any compromise even if it were for the fear of society seemed impossible to her. She had chosen to walk out of her abusive marriage after which she briefly sought refuge with one of her siblings, but the thought of continuing to lead a life bereft of dignity or self-worth seemed overwhelmingly impossible to Selvi.

Escape

She felt that she didn’t want to become a burden on anyone, so one fine day she chose to rid herself from all the bonds of life by throwing herself in front of a moving bus. But when she saw it coming, she says, “I do not know how and why but I simply lifted my hands and the bus stopped. With no apprehensions about what life had in store for me, somehow I was at ease after boarding the bus. The destination really did not matter. I knew only one thing – I was engulfed with this feeling that I was not wrong, and that I didn’t have to suffer for no fault of mine. The negative thoughts of a suicide had suddenly evaporated, and there was a desperate urge in me to prove myself to the world lest I was pronounced guilty for life”.

Her boarding the bus proved to be a second life for her, and today she is glad that she chose not just to live but live on her terms.

The bus was headed to Mysore. On reaching the town she met Lucy, a social worker who referred her to an NGO called Odanaadi, a rehab home for women saved from human trafficking. She shares that living at the hostel in Odanaadi opened her to the realities of life when she met several other helpless women there all trying to cope and find meaning to life. But she confesses that the very thought of her escapade seems fearful to her today.

Learning to drive

She comes out as a practical person who seems to believe in taking life as it comes, meeting challenges each day that life offers and absolutely has no complaints or no one to blame whatsoever.

It was in Odanaadi that she was encouraged to learn driving and take it up as a profession by K.V. Stanley, the founder of Odanaadi. Although she could not pursue her studies she was keen to stand on her own hence she grabbed the opportunity and learnt driving. Initially she would pick up and drop school children but later worked as a driver at a health care institute for almost 5 years. It was here that she met her future husband with whom she is settled today in Salem, shuttling between driving a goods auto to support her husband and taking care of little ones.

In 2004 she met Elisa Polaschi, a Canadian documentary film maker at Odanaadi, who would visit every year. And each time she visited she saw an evolved Selvi and a story in her. A documentary film on Selvi was proposed.

Selvi was initially apprehensive about the attention and the whole concept of putting her life story in front of the whole world, but Elisa convinced her of the potential her story had in inspiring many young women and parents who may take a leaf out of her inspiring life story to seek the best from life instead of shunning life.

The documentary Driving With Selvi directed by Elisa Poloschi was released in 2015 and has received many awards and accolades with wide press and media coverage since then. It is a story that inspires and educates people.

Raising awareness

The team has started an awareness campaign called Selvi’s Bus Tour that has been screening the film across villages in India to raise awareness against Child Marriage and gender violence. The Women and Child Development Ministry has extended their appreciation for this initiative to sensitize masses about gender equalities and bringing to forefront this discussion of girl empowerment to change mindsets in the society in an innovative way.

The film has changed Selvi’s life where she has been travelling across India and beyond its shores speaking to local and international audiences sharing her life experiences, shuttling between the shoots, travel, and attending to her little daughters back home.

Going forward

Selvi plans to materialize her dream of setting up a Driving School once she is done with the screening schedules, and even has plans of offering free or rebated driving classes to needy women to empower them and support them in their hour of need as much as possible keeping her own financial constraints in mind. And even as she makes this promise to herself she says, “Every parent should stand by their daughters and have faith in them. They should believe that daughters too can achieve something in life, and shun the belief that girls who take to studies and school will eventually go against the honor of the family”.

Selvi’s journey from a traumatized runaway adolescent girl to a mature and empowered woman comes as a life lesson to many, because as the story reveals, finally it is only you who can make a difference to your life!

Image source: Selvi

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