04 August, 2021

The Reserved Space

Revisiting the first Muslim woman in India to drive an autorickshaw for a living. Now she wants to be in the Guinness Book.

The Reserved Space
Four years ago, Sayeda Alavaya Jiffriya made history in the ancient trade city of Kozhikode when she became the first Muslim woman in India to drive an autorickshaw for a living. Today, she wants a place in the Guinness Book. "Why not," she asks, "I must be the world’s first Muslim woman to make a living by driving an autorickshaw for so many years without a break."

On the job, Jiffriya dresses conservatively. There’s been no opposition except from some relatives and a few clerics. Surprisingly, groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami have been supportive, even providing her parking space at the end of the day. They are also protective about her when she travels in tough areas. Jiffriya thinks that is how it should be. "The Quran doesn’t say a woman cannot earn her livelihood by driving an autorickshaw," she asserts. "Islam is the greatest religion in the world." Her daughter, Fathima Marphiya, a 21-year-old college student, declares, "My mother is a true hero. I’m so proud of her."

But life isn’t easy for Jiffriya. A divorcee, she earns barely enough to support...

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