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Monday, November 05, 2007

A woman's touch

If you've ever taken your car to a garage, it's quite possible that you have not spent much time admiring the mechanic's skills. But Namita Chibba stands out because she practices those skills and is one of the few women willing to get down and dirty under the chassis of a car.

However she isn't out to ruffle feathers and she told CNBC-TV18, "I'm a normal Indian woman. I live in a joint family with 12-13 people. I have a husband and two kids to take care of. If they haven't complained, it's obvious I'm taking good care of them. It's just my work that's different."

She is a doting mother to nine year old Arjun and four year old Aaliya. They could be just another content, middle class family but for Namita's unusual choice of career. She says, "The garage is my second home. I feel lost if I don't work here. I was married and on the verge of becoming a mother. I worked in the garage till the last moment, despite everybody advising against it. And I went straight to the labour room from here."

That's a braveheart for you. After all, it is not only about doing battle but also about being a trendsetter - being the first to do something different and that's what Namita has done. She is one of India's very few women mechanics. A philosophy graduate from Delhi's LSR college, she handled the accounts in her father's garage. But before she knew it, she was running the garage itself. She may have earned her stripes on the job. But new customers are still pleasantly shocked.

She agrees, "Many customers are surprised to see a girl here. They think I'm just here to hang around the garage or be with my dad. And when someone tells them that I'm running the show, they're very surprised. But usually they are happy with the work."

She adds, "In real terms, almost anyone can do anything. I consider changing a tyre a very minor thing. Women should know how to do it themselves. Even a loose terminal is a minor thing. All you have to do is hit it with a stone and your car starts up. So these kinds of things I don't think you should wait and say this is a man's job."

Namita doesn't just handle modern day beauties, her garage's speciality is dealing with vintage cars. Namita has always had a way with them. Withered metal comes alive under her care and ancient, stately beauties start sparkling again because she spends hours together on each car. If she can't find or make the parts herself, she has them flown down from London.

She explains, "Most of these cars are abandoned, until some car lover recovers them. One car came to us in cartons and we searched on the net and built it back, part by part."

It's such passion that's kept Namita going for almost 15 years. Her family is supportive enough not to complain and her husband, Vikram Chibba is proud of his wife. He elaborates, "I'm proud to have my wife work as a mechanic. I have a fleet of cars and it gives me peace of mind to know they won't be manhandled by someone who doesn't love them. And I know I won't be overcharged!"

So, if you are a typical male who is still living in the Jurassic Age and think women are dumb when it comes to cars, then Namita Chibb will set you right. Do any of you know what valve tappets, a wheel camber, or steering play and gear linkages are? Well she does and knows how to take it apart and put it back together again.

Picture is representational

Written for www.moneycontrol.com


Balls said...

liked your work. i see that you have posted articles originally written for "money control" or "newsgaze". i'd like to see you write something for "the written path".

well, found you 'cos you listed "bitter moon" as one of ur favourite movies. i loved it too especially the part which goes "How can you hurt someone you dont love"

Maxine said...

Hey...nice blog.So much stuff to read.