People used to call her 'scootteramma!' That was half a century ago when Pushpalatha Pai got her driving licence and would zip around the streets of Kochi on her Vespa. A bit of a wonder then, Pushpalatha, however, breezed her way to grace the cover of Vanitha magazine. Years later, when Muralee Thummarukudy, chief of Disaster Risk Reduction at the United Nations, brought out a small note on the driving style of women along with a picture of the daring scootteramma, Pushpalatha was once again thrown into the limelight.
Meet the brave Pushpalatha, the first woman to be awarded a driving licence in Kerala.
The lady on her scooter was indeed an eyeful those days, with the traffic cops looking on in awe tinged with trepidation. She would look neither to the left nor to the right, but was focused only on the traffic. SRV schoolboys would come running with wolf whistles. Overall, she was the envy of many an onlooker, even as the dailies hailed her.
Pushpalatha was thus the precursor of daring times to come, when women would vroom around not only the mean streets of the city, but dare the heights of Leh and Ladakh too.
Kochi is no more that serene queen of the Arabian Sea. She's a hub of frenetic activity where vehicles see more women than men at the wheel. Looking on and enjoying the changes in Kochi are our scootteramma, in her sweet seventies, unfazed by age or other shortcomings.
The old Vanitha cover girl is as chirpy and as confident as she was years ago, when Vanitha sought her out.
She has two children, Satheesh and Aiswarya, both dentists who work abroad. She takes off at times to stay with them. Her late husband, S Pai was with Canara Bank. She decided to settle down in her Kochi house after his demise.
Despite her age, her memories are still on top gear. She recalls how she got her licence in the 1970s. Pushpalatha is thus not only the first woman to have got a driving licence in Kerala but also the first woman to start a driving school for women in the state.