The cabbie with a difference: Bold and brazen

The cabbie with a difference: Bold and brazen

It is important to have safe and reliable transport for women who frequently travel to other cities on work and reach home or airport at all odd hours

It is important to have safe and reliable transport for women who frequently travel to other cities on work and reach home or airport at all odd hours. With more and more women work force in all fields, travelling alone at strange hours in new places of work is really very difficult because of vulnerability and other issues connected to safety of women. It is not only the traveller who fears the personal safety but the family back home too would be worried about the safety and the where abouts of the lady when she is on move. If you need to stay, put, overnight in a strange city on duty, it is a bigger safety hazard.

In one of my late- night journeys from airport to home I hired a cab at the prepaid taxi service window at Shamshabad airport. To my utter surprise and relief, the driver at the wheel was a woman. She appeared to be in her early fifties, was quite courteous and quick in her steps. Her demeanor looked tough, her poise at the wheel and the confidence she exuberated was a clear indication that she was experienced and was ready to face any challenge in any situation.

In the course of my long journey back home as usual I struck a conversation with her and was curious to know why she chose this male dominated profession. She has been at the wheel for the last 30 years and she chose this job for a living. She was widowed in her mid- twenties with three girls to be fended. As she was not well qualified and had no other skill to make her living, she chose to drive people to safety. She acquired the driving skill and learned the maintenance of the four -wheeler from her father out of curiosity though she was discouraged many a times. What she learnt adamantly, to prove herself, became the breadwinner and paved the way for an independent living. There has never been any choice for her. Days go on and on, they don’t end. For her work is worship. All her three girls were well educated and well settled in life. Now she earns for herself and tries to help and encourage other women to be self-sufficient. The She cab revolution she felt had not taken off as envisioned by the government. Initially there were around 20 women drivers, but Covid had taken its toll in this sector too. With work from home culture being continued for a long time, the fear of the virus strongly rooted, most of the public depended on their own transport. They are yet to recover from the fear. The out- break she said severely affected all walks of life throughout the globe especially, women and more so with the She cab drivers, where their primary job is providers of the family. Now hardly two or three women drivers ferry from air-port to destination. Though a few hundred cabs are added every month to this lucrative profession, it remained a male-dominated area. The proportion of female drivers is a very small percentage—because driving is never considered as a ‘suitable profession’ for women.

She added with a depressing tone that when the passenger realizes that it’s a woman at the wheel, you are bound to be subjected to sarcastic ‘jokes’ at some point of time in your drive. The passenger some-how manages to tell her that either he has old parents at home or a family with small children waiting for him. Of course, you are not immune to frequent stares and honking if your vehicle slows down. You have to become strong physically and mentally to the Indian roads and mind set of other drivers and sometimes the family members too. Women cab drivers are subjected to multiple forms of discrimination from gender to economic to social. Women she said are considered as worse drivers and the general feeling is that driving isn’t an innate skill for them. Till date, neither she was involved in any accident, any road side skirmish nor put any passenger to any inconvenience. She cares for the safety of her passengers as well as for people on the road. Sometimes while returning ‘empty’ to the airport if she finds women with small children or elderly waiting at the bus-stop she offers them a free ride on her way back. All her customers so far had been courteous to her, they encourage and motivate her. The industry has always been male-dominated. Recent statistics show that only 3% of drivers are women, the number has dropped significantly. She felt that the initiative should be from the government for the safety of female passengers. It is also incredibly difficult to encourage women into the industry as drivers. This is mainly due to the perception of the job being unsafe for women. They often face unnecessary harassment, assault or other safety risks while on the job. The last sentence she said while we parted our ways left an indelible mark on me. ‘Madam I am a woman who would not take any nonsense’.

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