My Day: Indonesian bus driver Dahlia

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Media captionDahlia, who started driving at 16, was initially scared of being behind the wheel of a bus

Dahlia, 40, drives the TransJakarta busway, Jakarta's bus system that runs in a dedicated lane and is designed to beat the city's notorious traffic jams. Women are very rarely employed to drive public transport in Indonesia, but Dahlia - who like many Indonesians goes by one name - was drawn to it because of her love of driving.

When I work the morning shift, I wake up at 03:00. I take a shower and I am out of the house by 03:30. After briefings in the office, our buses leave the shelter between 05:00 and 06:00.

When I first drove the bus seven years ago, I was scared because it was very big. But I thought if other people could do it, I had to be able to do it too. These days I even drive the longer articulated buses.

Traffic in Jakarta can get really bad and driving at an average speed of 5-10 km/hour (3-6 mp/h) is very depressing. But luckily the buses have automatic transmissions and we do not have a target of how much money we have to make from the passengers every day, unlike other bus operators. So that helps my stress level.

If the traffic is at a standstill, I just wait. This job requires a lot of patience. If I wasn't patient, I would go crazy!

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Commuters often sit in gridlocked traffic in the Indonesian capital

Bumpy ride

It really bothers me when personal vehicles, especially motorcycles, get in the busway lane. I worry that if I hit them they will fall and get stuck underneath the bus. That has happened a few times to other drivers. The motorcyclist who broke the law died and the busway driver got blamed.

In fact, when anything happens to the bus, we get in trouble. If a motorcycle gets in the busway lane, grazes the bus and runs away, we can get fined for the damage.

That is why it makes me angry when I see cars and motorcycles in our lane. But often the police do not stop them, or the police themselves use our lane. A few years ago, when Sutiyoso, the former Jakarta governor who launched the busway system, was in power, he would not even let the vice-president's motorcade in the busway lane.

Recently there have been a few incidents of buses that caught on fire. All of our buses are either fuelled by compressed natural gas or a combination of diesel and biodiesel. For some reason, there are problems with short circuits. It has never happened to my buses, but I always worry when I hear these stories.

Another problem that I have encountered is aggressive passengers. They can get emotional when the bus is late or slow because of traffic, or it is too crowded, or the ride is bumpy because there are too many potholes on the road.

I usually just apologise to the passengers. There is also a crew who stands by the door to support me. As a safety precaution, the crew who works with me is usually a man.

'Love driving'

Before TransJakarta, I worked as a store associate. Then I had children and quit working for a few years, but I'm the kind of person who cannot stay home.

Image caption Dahlia is raising her daughter, 15 years old, and son, 11, on her own

So when my children were old enough, I decided to go back to work. But by that time I had gained a lot of weight so I did not think I could get a job in a store anymore.

I saw that TransJakarta was hiring female drivers. I have always loved driving. I have been driving since I was 16 years old, starting with my father's car. I also like that busway drivers wear neat uniforms, and have regular hours.

In the department store I was only paid the minimum wage. From TransJakarta, I get the minimum wage of 2.4 million rupiah ($210, £127) plus meal and transport allowances, so I take home about four million rupiah per month.

Since I mostly work morning shifts, I am usually home around 13:00 and I can see my children when they get back from school. I ask them what they did at school and make them their favourite food or snacks.

I have two children. My daughter is 15 years old and my son is 11. I raise my children on my own, with the help of my mother who lives next door.

They sometimes worry about my safety. It is very rare for women to drive a public bus in this country. But they know my character is strong like a man, so they just tell me to be careful.

I do hope that my children can get better and more comfortable jobs like in an office. This is a physically demanding work and I am not sure that they would enjoy it.

Dahlia was talking to the BBC's Alice Budisatrijo in Jakarta.

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