Category Archives: Online media category

A few of my articles and blogs in the online media


Meet Prema Ramappa Nadabatti, Bangalore’s Only Woman Bus Driver

Meet the only woman bus driver in Bangalore – Prema Ramappa Nadabatti, who works for the BMTC, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation.


She is in a very unconventional profession as a woman, and she knows that very well. As I sit in an official’s cabin waiting at the corporate office to meet Prema Ramappa Nadabatti, she walks in after finishing her morning shift duty.

Prema is a driver for BMTC buses for the last six years in Bangalore. I had tried reaching her the previous day at 6a.m. in the winter chill, at the bus depot number 3 in Bangalore. All the male bus drivers and conductors were talking about the fact that again someone had come to talk to Prema. I wasn’t allowed to talk to her at the time, and was asked to meet her at the corporate office.

At the office as Prema walked in, her gait, body language, and her tough rugged look despite her huge earrings made quite a contrasting impression. She gazed at me as the official said that I had come for an interview. She gave a hint of a smile as though she is so used to the limelight. I mentioned to her that the story will be seen in online media on the Internet and she grinned and asked, “That means no paper to hold or no TV to see my interview?” I assured her that I will be back to show where her interview has appeared and she nodded her head with a warm smile.

“I am from Gokak in Belgaum district,” she starts in an accent that is typical to the people who speak in North Karnataka.

“As I was growing up due to financial problems, I had to start working. I had got a job as an assistant in a small private hospital. I was more of a nurse there assisting the team. However because of my interest and ability to drive, authorities at the hospital would ask me to travel and drive four wheelers like vans to ferry medicinal stocks.”

“I realized I truly enjoyed driving. But the opportunities were limited. I also happened to finish my B.A in Kannada, though I can read and understand English to some extent.”

“Soon I was married and I had a baby earlier than I expected. But things were not smooth in my life. Due to some health reasons my husband died. I was very young, in my twenties and was left alone with no income and a baby to take care of.”

“My mother supported me and asked me to quickly pick the pieces of my scattered life and begin life anew. I went to the RTO in Gokak and wanted to get selected for a six-wheeler license. The officials in the RTO perhaps thought I was joking. Everyday I would try to approach them and one day, one of them asked me to drive a truck that was parked in the premises. I did manage, and he was surprised and baffled. He was a good gentleman, and he ensured that I got the training and my license.” she expresses with a deep sense of gratitude.

“My mother told me to apply for government jobs, and around the same time I came across an advertisement in a Kannada daily on the announcement of hiring of bus drivers and conductors in Bangalore.”

“It was the first time that I had ever stepped out from my town. I had never seen such a huge city. I applied for a driver’s post in BMTC. Thankfully, I was selected, and the official at that time said with great pride, “She has to be trained well and she will be a shining example for others.”

When I ask Prema how people treat her at her workplace, on roads, and where she resides, she responds, “I meet a lot of people and many want to talk to me even though it is not just for interviews. Perhaps they are surprised I drive a bus. My neighbours, now of course, are used to me but people on the roads tell me that they have seen me on television or read about me somewhere. It feels good but life is much more than the adulation received. There are a lot of hardships. I am ready to face them for my son who is studying in class seven. I want him to be a pilot and he aspires too of being one.”

Prema says she has got interviewed in documentaries and videos by people, foreigners and many on the road take out a camera or a phone and keep asking her to ‘smile, smile please.’ She laughs, saying she often wonders whether she should concentrate on roads or smile for people or the camera. She is however happy she has had a no-accident record.

“Most of the people including my colleagues treat me very well. I am well looked after by my company, and I am happy no one has ever misbehaved at work or elsewhere. But yes, I have become tougher. Perhaps the Bangalore roads and traffic makes you tough enough to face a lot of things,” she grins with a ear to ear smile.

“There are kids who give me chocolates when they get inside the bus and see that it’s a woman driving. There are other instances, like at places of worship like at temples I am given ‘prasadam.’ These gestures do make me very happy about my work. Maybe unknowingly I have become an inspiration but for me, I am just doing my job. It is surprising to see such few women who want to drive buses. I strongly feel they can take it up as a profession.”

“I dream of big opportunities for my son. I want him to be a pilot. Now I don’t know whether it is just a dream or whether it will be fulfilled. I am doing my best.”

As I leave after wrapping up this wonderful interaction with Prema, I realize that the glass ceilings in the corporate world seem so frivolous; somehow they seem much more achievable for women, as compared to this woman who is in a completely male dominated work atmosphere. But she has soaked into that atmosphere and happy in the space she has created for herself.

Published originally on women’s web as part of women series: By Reshma Krishnamurthy



Soniya Choudhury Faces Life With Grit And Looks Forward With Hope Despite An Acid Attack That Disfigured Her

An acid attack in May 2004 left her life and body in shambles, but Soniya Choudhury has risen above it. This is her story.


In a telephonic interaction, Soniya Choudhary, an acid attack fighter who is now a make-up artist and a beautician shares how much life has changed for her since a gruesome attack that occurred over a decade ago. This is a story of pain, heart-wrenching emotions but it is equally the story of grit, hopes and willingness to adapt to new opportunities and changes.

Perhaps it is the mentors or the inspiring people she has around her that has changed her perspective. “It was in the year 2004 in Ghaziabad where I stay that I was looking to own a simple mobile phone. I come from a background where my family had minimum resources. My father was running a very small business and my mother was a homemaker.

After my 10th grade, even though I wanted, I could not pursue further studies. I had to start working and I had begun my work in a beauty salon. Soon I was working in a bigger salon and I really worked hard. I learnt all the skills required to be good at my job.

It began small

When I was about 19 years, I wanted to have a phone to communicate with my family when required and it was a small desire. I went to two to three mobile stores to get my own connection. It so happened that I was denied obtaining a SIM card as I didn’t have an identity card. It was not just me, but my entire family who didn’t own any identity proof at all. I was unhappy that a simple thing like a mobile connection cannot be obtained. My neighbour, who got to know about this, suggested that he could get me a SIM connection and the mobile at a price.

Unwittingly I agreed and soon I owned a mobile phone. I was using the mobile for one week and everything was normal until one evening that a call came from a police station. I hadn’t done anything wrong in my entire life and I was petrified when I was speaking to the official over phone. He told me that I was using a stolen phone and I will be held responsible. Completely nervous I told the official everything. As to who gave me the phone, his name and address and that I was not the culprit. Before I could reach home, apparently the police had picked him up from his house.

The threats

Unfortunately as things happen, the very next day he was on bail and he came to me and threatened me of dire consequences if I didn’t apologize in front of his family and the entire neighbourhood.

I am not sure whether it was the right decision to be taken but I didn’t want to apologize for an act which I never really committed. However the matter didn’t die down there. I started getting more threats from this person. Even my dad supported me saying it was not my fault, but I had to be careful. I think the ‘male ego’ made this individual lose his sanity and the threats became more often.

More than saying sorry, I started avoiding this individual at all times. I am the eldest daughter and I was supporting my family financially too and was involved in my work. My father would drop me to my work place and pick me up whenever he could.

The acid attack

But one evening my father couldn’t come and I decided to reach home on my own. I was just about 20 to 25 steps away from my home. Suddenly two men came on a motorcycle, the first one –the rider was wearing a helmet and I didn’t even see him. The second one, the pillion rider was this neighbour. He suddenly opened a huge can and poured acid from a can of 5 litres. At that moment I didn’t even realize what was that liquid. I was just screaming in pain. Those two managed to escape and I was on the road lying down in indescribable pain.

Even now when the date comes closer; this happened on 12th May 2004 and to this date I feel very uncomfortable. Those memories invariably come back. I don’t know whether it was the shock or apathy but no one came forward to do anything. My mother who apparently thought a child was crying loudly came out to see what happened and she just rushed to me crying and hugged me.

I was then taken to the hospital and I had 65% burns with my right eye completely damaged. I was feeling I was on fire and did not understand what was happening to me. I collapsed on the way to the hospital.”

The aftermath

Soniya goes into a moment of silence before speaking again, “When I gained consciousness I was in the hospital was just numb at what had occurred in my life. My parents were naïve and hadn’t even filed a case. It was after a couple of days that a friend who knew someone in the media went to the police to file a case on my behalf. I was perhaps too ignorant or innocent, I hadn’t even heard of anything called acid attacks. I kept questioning ‘why me’? Soon the hospital visits became more often and there were a lot of expenses. We were hardly able to manage with the treatments and the expenses.

My mother had hidden the mirrors from the house. The first time I had seen myself I had cried for the longest time I could remember. The accused got arrested but came out soon too with the help of lawyers. It made me feel very depressed and I have even once tried to commit suicide.

One thing however changed, the entire neighbourhood stopped interacting with this individual. He had even got married somehow but when his wife came to know of this incident, even she distanced herself from him. His colleagues were not interacting with him and he became a loner. He went into a major depression and at the age of 24, he died of a heart attack.

The attacker was gone but I had my life to be taken care of and that of my family. I had to pick up the shattered pieces.”

When I ask her what about the rider? Was he arrested? Soniya replies, “He was never found out and recognized. The accused too never identified him and yes the rider is scot-free even to this date.

After the wounds healed

“For eight years after the attack, I used to hide my face and be myself completely covered. Only my eyes were seen little bit. I even now nightmares but I have learnt to cope up with the circumstances. I have had five surgeries and undergone many treatments. I wanted to get back to work but no one would be ready to employ me because of my scarred face. Least of all in the beauty industry. As a young girl I had many dreams like to become a known beautician and even an airhostess. Everything changes for a person when acid scars your soul more than anything else.

Last year I did get featured as part of a calendar like a model and it was awesome. It was in fact a news paper clipping where I saw other acid attack fighters like Laxmi, Rupa who seemed so confident and were not hiding their faces. By this time I had started working as a beautician in my own house. I had opened a salon within my small home. Many customers who started coming to me couldn’t see me at all for a long time. For the first customer I told her that she can pay me if she was happy with the service.

Gradually more number of people started asking about why I was covering my face and they could see some scars, I would get defensive and answer, I had an accident of gas cylinder burst, boiling water on me, all excuses but never the truth.

Facing life

It took me a while to admitting to what life had thrown on me and asked me to face it. So I started talking to people about the incident and it felt better in healing to some extent. In fact people around me in the neighbourhood too started talking to me positively and were encouraging me to carry on with my life in a positive way.

It so happened that I got to know of Stop Acid Attacks organization and since the time I am with them my confidence and accepting myself has become better.

Soniya’s voice suddenly indicates a smile when I ask her what is she been up to these days. “We are setting up a café-salon and a lounge with a spa in Gurgaon. I also work at the Sheroes hangout café in Agra when time permits. ”

She tells me that through a reality show, she has had one of her wishes fulfilled of meeting beauty expert icon Shahnaz Hussain. The episode on Colors is yet to be aired.

Dreams for tomorrow

To make the conversation little lighter, I ask her if she wants to meet an icon or a celebrity for whom she would like to do make-up. She is silent for a few seconds and shyly utters ‘Salman Khan’.

As I tell her perhaps after reading this maybe Salman Khan might try to reach her, she laughs and says she adores his carefree attitude in life.

As a dream Soniya Choudhary now is hopeful of becoming an entrepreneur and setting up more salon-spas in the country. For now she is working on her project in Gurgaon.

As the conversation comes towards an end, I cannot help but admire Soniya’s attitude towards life and as she says the scars are on her body but she has been able to rise above and looks forward to meet life every single day with hope.

Images source: Reshma Krishnamurthy.

Originally published on women’s web


How Shamantha D.S. Went From Page 3 Reporter To Running A Rural Radio Station

A dream by a media professional Shamantha D.S., to begin a community radio station, has ensured it has impacted far many more lives than she ever imagined she could.


She is hopeful the dream continues to live on.

A print journalist, a film critic, a radio professional, a script writer, a travel journalist, documentary film maker, founder of a NGO, founder of a community radio station, author of 13 books; these are just a few descriptions of this individual spanning her dynamic 20 year professional career.

Broadcasting on 90.4 MHz

Shamantha D.S. is the driving force behind Sarathi Jhalak 90.4 MHz, a community radio station at Anugondanahalli, approximately 70kms away from Bangalore in rural district (Bangalore) in Hoskote taluk.

Sarathi Jhalak radio station is situated on the eastern periphery of Bangalore reaching over 200 villages. The programs relayed cover Malur and Anekal taluks, Sarjapura, ITPL, Whitefield, Marathahalli, and Kundalahalli gate to name a few, catering to a population of close to a million.

This has been a project that has seen growth, but has encountered various struggles to exist and is currently straddling on the thin line of existence due to lack of funds.

Yet an interaction with the president and founder of this special community radio station makes one feel she is optimistic, as the station has grown from being her baby project to something that has impacted many lives in rural Bangalore.

Recipient of several awards, Shamantha has also won the Karnataka Madhyam Academy Award for initiating the first women’s community radio in Karnataka. She has also won the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award in 1999 for being the first woman to write in Kannada literature, for her book on Nepal Himalaya’s expedition.

Sarathi Jhalak was started in August 2012 and has come a long way in reaching out to a huge community. The coverage area has a mixed population of educated, semi-urbanized, illiterates, and predominantly young people who are at the threshold of urbanization. The community radio station believes it can enable opportunities for development, education of young and old alike including counseling and can effectively integrate the residents with city life.

The tiny station premises are nestled between tomato and cabbage gardens and is housed in a small space in a building, with absolutely no frills, unlike most urban radio stations.

Yet the station is as vibrant as any other commercial radio station even with limited hours of ‘on radio time’ from Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm and from 6pm to 9.30pm. Sarathi Jhalak airs various programs related to farming, health, devotional programs, education, women, among a few light entertainment programs. This juggling exercise of balancing between a community radio station and touching upon a few aspects of being a commercial radio station, has been tough according to Shamantha.

The reach and impact is higher as the radio jockeys are mostly from the nearby villages and speak in local language, primarily in Kannada.

Who is Shamantha D.S.?

Shamantha, who has largely grown up in Bangalore, did her education in law like her father who was a practicing lawyer. But somehow she was inclined towards media and landed a job in a media organization as a Page 3 correspondent.

“Initially I used to love going to these glamorous parties, covering, reporting about them, celebrities, film personalities and well connected individuals. But soon the honeymoon period got over,” she laughs.

“Gradually I started feeling that I wanted to write on subjects that would make a difference in other’s lives. I always loved books. My mother was a voracious reader and my parents ensured that my siblings and I were exposed to world literature. I was also fascinated by the great works of Kannada literature.”

“My mother wanted me to be a doctor but I was very weak in Science and Math. But after class X, I chose to pursue Arts and it then onwards that I really enjoyed learning or in fact educating myself. Until then it was a torture for me to scale up from one class to the next one.”

“It is ironical that I actually never got officially trained in journalism or went to specific colleges but media became my lifeline and I have always expressed myself through this medium, in all its channels of being a print, radio and television journalist.”

Branching out

“Soon, on a trial and error basis, I started making documentaries, working with NGOs, and did a lot of programs related to various issues that truly mattered for the society, for Kannada channels, and the Government. I slowly established my identity as an independent media professional. Apart from this I also founded an organization relevant to my interests – an NGO Sarathi, a resource centre for communications primarily for developmental activities.”

“As a developmental and independent media professional, I had started working on projects involving Anganawadi workers. Everything I did was learning on the job and right from scratch. Once I was in a session where NGOs and educational institutions were informed and educated on community radio stations. I was overwhelmed by this, and decided that this is what I wanted to do.”

Starting Sarathi Jhalak

“The people at Anugondanahalli and surrounding villages had shown interest in participating in workshops, seminars, discussions and so in August 2012, we started Sarathi Jhalak on air. We have come a long way from just Anganawadi workers working as RJs, to now where colleges are sending their students for internships with us. We currently have radio jockeys who have been thoroughly trained and can compete with any other professionals in the same field.”

“But all of them are working on minimal salaries and for a long time we went without any funds or salaries at all. The initial seed funding went into setting up the studio, equipments and other things required for setting up a radio station. It was tough as me and my friends too had to pitch in with initial investments and in September 2015, the radio station went off air for a few days.”

Local support

“But the people who have become loyal listeners from nearby villages really wanted it back on air and came out in support. There is a sense of ownership from the listeners and that’s why we are not ready to give up.”

And yes now we have begun our operations and trying to reach out to more organizations to get this going in a sustainable form in the long run. We currently depend on the resources raised by the individual contributors and voluntary efforts from individuals.

We have resolved many issues like finding a boy lost from his parents, helping an accident victim get justice and compensation, and even finding lost cows for a farmer,” she says laughing, much to my amusement.

“The community radio station has been instrumental in getting the youth professionally trained. They come and work as radio jockeys and have moved on to other careers. But they become aware of many issues, do research, get the knowledge of how to talk to people, build customer base in airing relevant programs. Of course a few radio jockeys who were there initially are even now there with us and I am glad that they have been around in spite of pursuing other careers like those who are beauticians, teachers and others who are working on part-time basis with us.”

Looking ahead

Shamantha says she is in a more of a supervisory level asking radio jockeys at her community radio station to discuss important programs with her before it gets aired and she pays a lot of surprise visits and checks. There is the second level management and radio jockeys who manage the shows on air.

Sarathi Jhalak is a women owned community radio station and though it began as an all women employee station, now they have both young men and women working in different capacities.

Shamantha can talk for hours on her project and she does that with immense pride. Sarathi Jhalak as a community radio initiative has become a source of support of knowledge and trust for many who have become its listeners.

Shamantha wants her dream project to have a better form of sustainability and manage her initiative with appropriate funding and technology to impact many more lives.

Image source: Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma.


About the author Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma

I am an independent writer, storyteller, blogger and a mum residing in Bangalore, India. Having explored various careers like being a radio jockey, PR manager, communications manager in a hospital, I have fairly been loyal to the world of writing. Besides my love for writing stories for children, I am also involved in being a content curator and editor for a page on social media called Mums and stories.

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