WHEN 42-year-old Yogita Satav, a housewife from Wagholi area of Pune, took charge of the steering wheel of a 20-seater mini-bus for the first time in her life, she had her job cut out for her.
She not only had to ensure the safety of the nervous passengers, but also had to take the bus driver, who had suddenly fallen unconscious, to the hospital quickly. Rising to the challenge, Yogita, a mother of two school-going children, drove the bus for nearly 25 km over potholed roads.
The passengers reached home while the driver got timely medical treatment, which saved his life.
The incident took place on January 7 when the 20 passengers from Wagholi had gone for a picnic to Morachi Chincholi. After spending the day at the picnic spot, the group started their return journey after 5 pm. After covering some distance, the bus driver suddenly complained of uneasiness.
“He said he was feeling dizzy and couldn’t see anything… he was speaking incoherently. He was driving the bus in an erratic manner… everyone in the bus started screaming… Some women were actually crying. I was seated just behind the driver. I went up to him and asked what was wrong. He barely managed to tell me that he was feeling unwell. I told him that I will steer the bus if he had a problem driving it,” said Yogita.
She said in the midst of their conversation, the driver collapsed. A few women came up and moved the driver to another seat. Yogita told the other passengers that she will take the steering wheel as she knew how to drive a car.
“We knew Yogita could drive a four-wheeler. When she told us that she was ready to drive the bus, we all agreed instantly,” recalled Varsha Awhale, one of the picknickers.
“… We had to get out of that area as the entire road was deserted and it was getting dark,” she added.
For Yogita, maneouvering the bus gears was not an easy task.
“I have a lot of experience in driving a car, but I had never steered a bus or heavy vehicle in my life. Car gears are smooth, bus gears are hard. As I started the vehicle, I struggled to put it in the first gear. The moment I put the vehicle in the first gear, it moved into the reverse direction. This happened thrice. Then, instead of pushing the gear to the left side as is done in cars, I pulled it to the right side. The vehicle moved ahead. Then I realised ‘bus ka system is ulta’ (bus gears work differently),” she said.
Once the bus was on the road, Yogita said she had no problem in navigating over the potholed stretches. “There was hardly any traffic on the road. I drove the bus like I steer my car, by remaining in control of the vehicle and not trying to overspeed or overtake,” she said.
Yogita said while she was driving the vehicle, the passengers neither interfered not tried to guide her. “Maybe because they knew I could drive a four-wheeler. But they didn’t know I had never a steered a bus… probably, looking at my confidence level, they remained quiet and the nervousness among them seemed to dissipate,” she said.
The bus was in a poor condition and was making a rattling sound. “The horns were not working, the bus was sort of shaking… it seemed to be in a bad condition. But I had a job to do. I had to take the driver to the hospital and ensure that everyone reaches their destination safely. I am happy I could do that job without a hitch,” she said.
“Other than Yogita, there was another passenger who knew how to drive a four-wheeler. But she said she was not confident enough to steer the bus. With Yogita, there was no such problem. She was pretty confident and she, in fact, drove it with ease. We told her to drive the way she wants. We didn’t give her unnecessary advice,” said Awhale.
Once they reached Shikrapur area, they admitted the driver to the hospital. The doctors told them that he had probably suffered a seizure. After that, a private travel company arranged for a driver for the bus.
Yogita’s husband, Dharmendra Satav, admitted that he was surprised when he heard the story. “I knew she was good at driving a car but was not confident that she could drive a bus,” he said.
“She has always been like this, always brave and upfront. In fact, we got marrried because she took the initiative,” he added.
Satav, who is differently-abled, said, “Which well educated woman would want to marry a differently-abled man ? Yogita married me…of her own will. We became life partners because of her initiative”.
Yogita, who holds a diploma in civil engineering, said she was impressed by the work Satav had done for disabled individuals. “I am from Ahmednagar but was working at Magarpatta in Pune…I used to read about his work for disabled people in the papers. I was quite impressed by his selfless service for humanity. I told my mother about my decision… my family did not oppose my decision,” she said.
Earlier this week, Yogita was felicitated by Wagholi’s former sarpanch Jayshree Satav and local residents for her “heroic act”.
“Yogita tai is the pride of Wagholi. She has shown exemplary presence of mind by steering the bus and saving the life of the driver and ensuring safety of the passengers,” said Jayshree Satav.
She added, “Some of the women passengers who met me told me that really got scared… they said they were crying…but Yogita tai showed terrific presence of mind by taking charge of the bus and ensuring everyone’s safety.”