What determines the career dream of a girl?
Rather than one’s own passion, it is mostly the archaic attitude of society that plays the main role here, restricting their career horizon and confining them to specific professions. Some girls are audacious enough to take a plunge, follow their heart and choose a career they are inclined towards. And Helna is one such person to break the mould.
This 20-year-old girl from Chalakudy, Kerala is one of the few lady mechanics in India. She says she developed a fondness for this career when she was a little kid. While growing up, it was commonplace for Helna to watch her brother, an automotive technician, repair car engines and other important components of automobiles. Now, she fixes engines, replaces tyres, does car maintenance work, undertakes diagnostic testing for vehicles, inspects vehicles, and more.
“My brother used to take me to the garage where he works. That was where my interest in repairing started. I used to assist my brother in repairing and maintenance work then; gradually this made me curious to learn the skill,” explains Helna.
It was Helna’s brother Beryl who taught her repairing lessons. Now, Helna handles the mechanical works in their family-owned workshop at Kattipokkam, Chalakkudy along with her correspondence degree course in BA English Literature.
Establishing herself in an industry traditionally seen as masculine itself is an enormous task for a girl. Moreover, societal expectations and beliefs about women’s skills and ability; social taboos like caring mother and fragile girl; and attitude of society towards women working in heavy industries; etc may pose a hindrance for girls entering the repair and maintenance industry. But Helna says she never got any discouragement from friends and society. On the contrary, everyone appreciated her for doing this job.
“Their response has been very appreciative. They say it is very nice to see a girl in this field and doing things which are considered male dominant,” tells Helna.
Asked about the reception she received from her male counterparts and customers, Helna said she never faced any discrimination or harassment. “Personally, I never encountered any foul behaviour from customers or co-workers. But two lady mechanics of my acquaintance, who work in a private workshop had to switch to another career due to harassment in the workplace,” Helna continues.
Sharing her future plans, Helna said she wants to pursue a career in the automotive industry. Belong to a lower middleclass family, she can’t afford mechanical course fees. She aspires to become a Motor Vehicle Inspector and is currently preparing for the Kerala PSC exam for various posts in the Motor Vehicle Department.
“I love what I do. I am still learning things. I know there will be struggles at times and hurdles along the way. But I’m strong and confident enough to overcome those challenges,” says 4 feet 3 inch tall Helna as she rolls up her dirt and grease-stained pants and steps on a tier, pops open the bonnet of a car and checks the oil and coolant and inspects for leaks.