Where is Coimbatore’s Viral Lady Bus Driver Sharmila in 2024?

Coimbatore's first lady bus driver Sharmila photo

In 2023, bus driver Sharmila achieved a significant milestone by becoming Coimbatore’s first lady bus driver, marking a groundbreaking moment in the transportation sector.

This accomplishment earned her acclaim from both the public and the media, quickly propelling her into the spotlight.

Sharmila’s newfound fame transcended conventional boundaries, capturing the attention of even notable political figures.

Member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, Vanathi Srinivasan notably shared a journey with Kovai’s bus driver Sharmila, emphasizing the broad impact of her narrative.

Further adding to the recognition, Lok Sabha member Kanimozhi from DMK felicitated Sharmila and joined her for a brief journey on her bus on June 23, 2023.

However, despite the initial viral success, lady bus driver Sharmila’s story was short-lived.

Following the Kanimozhi episode, Sharmila found herself amidst a widely publicized controversy that compelled her to step down from her position as a female bus driver.

Exploring alternative career avenues, her narrative takes an intriguing turn, inviting a deeper exploration into Sharmila’s journey beyond the steering wheel.

In this article, we explore the riveting journey of Coimbatore’s first lady bus driver Sharmila, from breaking gender norms to navigating controversies.

We also explore her resilient evolution beyond the controversies and uncover her current pursuits.

Bus Driver Sharmila’s Life Story

Coimbatore's first lady bus driver Sharmila

Born on November 26, 1999, Sharmila embodies a narrative of dreams actualized and barriers shattered. Her affinity for driving ignited during seventh grade, a passion that has endured and evolved ever since.

Introduced to the world of driving by her father, Mahesh, an autorickshaw driver, Sharmila formally entered the realm of autorickshaw driving in 2019.

Having honed her skills behind the wheel of an autorickshaw, Sharmila expanded her horizons. Undertaking training and securing certification for heavy vehicles, she marked a pivotal moment in 2023 at the age of 24.

In following the footsteps of Asia’s first female bus driver, M Vasanthakumari, Sharmila achieved a remarkable feat — becoming the first women bus driver in Coimbatore.

The opportunity arose through Vee Vee, a private bus operator and the fearless lady bus driver soon started driving on the Gandhipuram to Somanur route in Coimbatore.

Sharmila’s exceptional driving prowess swiftly garnered attention. Her presence behind the wheel, a rare spectacle in India, catapulted her to fame.

Passers-by pause to offer congratulations, and crowds converge at the Gandhipuram bus station, eager to capture selfies with this trailblazing driver.

Reflecting on her journey, Sharmila expressed, “Many people in society look at a driver with a frown, but I got interested in the work that everyone saw less of. I got interested in driving when I was in seventh grade. Even at home, if you say do whatever you want, then the dream gets a green signal,” encapsulating the spirit of her remarkable story.

Bus Driver Sharmila Issue: Unraveling the Controversy and Resignation

 MP Kanimozhi travels on the bus driven by Coimbatore's first lady bus driver Sharmila

By the summer of 2023, the story of bus driver Sharmila had become a viral sensation on social media, elevating her into the spotlight throughout the country.

Her newfound fame, however, took an unexpected turn after a notable encounter with Lok Sabha member Kanimozhi from DMK on June 23, 2023.

While the felicitation and shared bus journey marked a high point, it also triggered a chain of events that led to Sharmila’s departure from her job and a venture into alternative career avenues.

So what happened that led to Sharmila’s dismissal?

During the journey, disagreement started with a dispute over ticket issuance for Ms. Kanimozhi and her staff on the Somanur-bound bus from Gandhipuram.

This disagreement involved the bus conductor, who was also a woman.

Sharmila reportedly criticized the conductor for acting rudely and subsequently complained to the manager of Vee Vee Bus Service.

But the private bus company sided with the bus conductor, stating that the lady bus driver was inviting high-profile personalities in pursuit of media limelight.

Eventually, Coimbatore’s first lady bus driver Sharmila had to resign from her job.

Coimbatore's first lady bus driver Sharmila with her father in front of Vee Vee bus service

1. Accusations Against Lady Bus Driver Sharmila

Despite Sharmila’s popularity, the management holds a different perspective. They assert that Sharmila deliberately sought the company of high-profile personalities to bask in media attention.

Manager Raghu put forth the claim that Sharmila expressed dissatisfaction with the recent appointment of a woman conductor, as she allegedly believed it diluted her popularity.

He went on to state that Sharmila, purportedly unhappy, had not reported for duty on Wednesday and Thursday with the intention of resigning, only agreeing to work on Friday.

Raghu further contended that Sharmila strategically seized the opportunity to resign when Ms. Kanimozhi visited. According to him, Sharmila had been searching for the right moment to quit and found it during Ms. Kanimozhi’s visit.

2. Sharmila’s Side of the Story

According to bus driver Sharmila, the disagreement was a direct consequence of the conductor’s behavior.

She insisted that the confrontation was not about seeking media attention but rather about addressing a legitimate concern.

Sharmila expressed her frustration at the management’s accusation that she invited Ms. Kanimozhi solely for the sake of enhancing her popularity, a claim she found unbearable given her dedication to her job.

In response to these challenges, Sharmila decided to resign, stating, “The accusation by the management that I invited Ms. Kanimozhi to increase my popularity was unbearable. I slog for several hours a day since early in the morning.”

Sharmila further insisted that she proactively informed her management about the scheduled visit of the MP although the transportation company refuted her claim.

Support Amidst Adversity: Consolation and New Opportunities for Sharmila

Kamal Hassan gifted a car to Coimbatore's first lady bus driver Sharmila

Despite the challenging circumstances, Sharmila, Coimbatore’s first lady bus driver, found herself inundated with messages of support and job offers.

Following her dismissal, Ms. Kanimozhi reached out to Sharmila, extending words of consolation and assurance for her future endeavors.

BJP MLA, Vanathi Srinivasan echoed this sentiment, urging Sharmila not to lose heart and emphasizing the abundance of opportunities awaiting her.

Many private bus operators and school bus fleet operators expressed immediate interest in recruiting her. However, Sharmila’s father, Mahesh, stated that they would make a decision shortly.

A few weeks later, Kamal Haasan gifted her a Mahindra Marazzo on behalf of the “Kamal Panbattu Maiam” (Kamal Cultural Center).

Haasan, president of the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), explained that the gift was intended to support Sharmila in pursuing her aspirations as a driver-entrepreneur.

In a statement, he expressed his commitment to standing alongside women, aiding them in overcoming historical obstacles and advancing their progress.

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Where is Bus Driver Sharmila Now in 2024?

Coimbatore's first lady bus driver Sharmila receiving awards

Following her dismissal, Sharmila’s popularity soared to new heights. She became a prominent figure at social functions and award ceremonies in Coimbatore and nearby regions.

Recognized for challenging traditional notions of gender equality, she was felicitated at numerous events for her pioneering role as Coimbatore’s first lady driver.

In a notable achievement, Sharmila was honored at the Tamil Drivers Sangam in Dharavi, Mumbai, in October 2023.

The ceremony, attended by Dharavi MLA Varsha Tai Gaikwad and South Africa Consulate General Ms. Andrea Kuhn, acknowledged Sharmila’s groundbreaking contribution.

Varsha Tai Gaikwad, sharing her thoughts, remarked, “One of the awardees was 24 years old Sharmila Mahesh, the first woman bus driver in Coimbatore. Women have been breaking glass ceilings in all fields with their sheer tenacity. Family support, of course, is key. I was glad to note that Sharmila was accompanied by her father who encouraged her to pursue driving. It reminded me of how my own father encouraged me in my career.”

Expanding her horizons, Sharmila also ventured into the digital realm. Capitalizing on her popularity, she launched a YouTube channel, Rider Sharmila Official, where she shares insights into her personal life, conducts food reviews, and reviews vehicles.

The channel has amassed an impressive 80.9K subscribers, showcasing Sharmila’s resonance with her audience.

Beyond her online presence, Sharmila is actively pursuing her dream of becoming a driver-entrepreneur. She manages a taxi business with the car generously gifted to her by Kamal Hassan, a testament to her resilience and determination in the face of challenges.

Conclusion: Sharmila’s Resilient Journey

The highly publicized controversy marked a chapter in Coimbatore’s first lady bus driver’s unconventional journey. From accolades to unexpected challenges, Sharmila’s inspiring story unfolded dynamically.

The discord around MP Kanimozhi’s visit led to Sharmila’s voluntary resignation, exposing the complexities of gender dynamics in unconventional roles.

Yet, from this adversity emerged a transformed Sharmila. Recognitions, including the Tamil Drivers Sangam honor, affirmed her impact beyond controversy.

Post-resignation, Sharmila embraced digital platforms, launching a successful YouTube channel and managing a taxi business. Her entrepreneurial spirit embodies resilience and evolution.

In essence, Sharmila’s narrative extends beyond controversy, reflecting the transformative power of determination. As she forges ahead, her journey resonates as a testament to defying expectations and embracing the spirit of resilience.

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