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Single Mom Drives an E-Rickshaw With Her Son Strapped To Her Chest

Chanchal's story shows the realities of women who may have found a way to survive. But their struggles aren't over.

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Camera: Ribhu Chaterjee Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

We met Chanchal Sharma in her one-room home in Noida's Khora Colony. Her son was asleep on the floor hugging his 2 soft toys, next to him was an unkempt bed, and the smell of milk boiling on the stove filled the room.

Five minutes into the conversation, we hear a thud on the door and her drunk brother enters the room. After half an hour of persuasion, when Chanchal's brother refused to leave, we called the police.

Sitting in that room, waiting for the police with Chanchal and her one-year-old baby while her brother abused them verbally and threatened them, we get a glimpse into what her life is like.

Life of a single mother from the economically weaker section of society, who is struggling for survival every day.

I work hard every day for myself and my son to earn a living. This world is a cruel place, it's just that I have not given up yet.
Chanchal Sharma
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Chanchal Left Her Abusive Husband a Year Ago

Chanchal's husband started abusing her physically after a year into the marriage. He would beat her up for refusing to follow his commands, for raising her voice, he even hit her when she was nine months pregnant.

With the hope that her husband might change someday, maybe after the baby is born, Chanchal kept enduring this behaviour.

The Last Straw

After their baby was born, Chanchal had an argument with her husband over Rs 200 which she spent.

He started hitting me in front of all his relatives without even considering that I'd just conceived through an operation. I called for help, but no one helped me. I tried calling my family, but he took my phone away. That day I decided that I will have to step out of this hell hole if I want to make something out of my life.
Chanchal Sharma

Driving E-Rickshaw With Her Son Strapped To Her Chest Was The Only Way To Parent and Earn

Although Chanchal has 3 siblings and a mother but her relationship with her family is strained. She did not have anyone in the family to support her or help her raise her child. Everyone in her family earns just enough to look after themselves.

Chanchal knew a woman in her neighbourhood who drives an e-rickshaw, she eventually helped Chanchal get one rickshaw on rent.

Her son was only 2 months old when she started driving the e-rickshaw in and around Noida.

When the passengers sit in my e-rickshaw they look quite shocked. Then they start asking, 'Why are you driving in this condition?' 'Where is his father?' What should I tell everyone?
Chanchal Sharma

When the Going Got Tough, Her Child Gave Her Hope

Chanchal's job is not easy, she barely manages to earn Rs 200-300 per day. When the daily struggle got to her, she started getting suicidal thoughts. She considered committing suicide by drowning the e-rickshaw in some canal. But a look at her son's face made her change her mind.

I thought to myself, 'What's his fault?' If I would have lost all hope, I would surely have killed myself.
Chanchal Sharma

From Police on the road who'd puncture her rickshaw to passengers who'd misbehave or won't pay, make it tougher for Chanchal to earn.

But she knows one thing, if she doesn't step out to earn, there is no one to get milk and food for her child. They are surviving because she is stepping out and earning.

Whatever I earn, it is either spent getting milk or household things. I am not able to save anything. I work a lot but what I earn is barely enough to survive on a daily basis.
Chanchal Sharma

Chanchal wants to work hard and buy a house for herself and her son. She hopes to start food business along with driving her e-rickshaw.

She dreams of a better life for her son.

If it were in my hands, I would do a lot for women who are in trouble.But unfortunately, I can't do anything. I am barely able to help myself, how will I help someone else.
Chanchal Sharma

Chanchal's story represents the realities of women in India who may have found a way to survive. But their struggles are far from over.

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