UNUSUAL OCCUPATIONS - The Taxi Driver
Leena : Hey Welcome to Mumbai, Where have you reached ?
Listen, I have boarded the Taxi and we are on the western Express highway. Tell me which turn should I take to get to this place in BKC.
Leena: mmm... Give the phone to the Taxi Driver and I will tell him.
Thanks. And By the way it is not a HIM but a HER.
Leena : Oh so you boarded a Priyadarshini cab, did you ?
This is a country, where popular perception of a Taxi driver is usually a grumpy middle aged man who generously uses foul language with a dash of rash driving. A Taxi driver is someone who cannot be trusted since he could easily take you for a ride ( pun intended ) if you are not familiar with the city especially so if you are a woman travelling alone in a city. Bollywood movies are rife with instances of the young belle escaping from the clutches of the village villain only to the ensnared by the Taxi driver in the city who takes her for a ride until the hero comes along to rescue the damsel in distress.
It is this perception and reputation of the average Taxi driver that Susieben Shah decided to exploit as a business opportunity and founded Priyadarshini cabs.
A Taxi service by the women for not just the women, but everyone.
|Radha @ work|
Radha is one among the 25 drivers employed by Priyadarshini cabs in Mumbai. Lean, short and dressed in a pink shirt and black trousers with her hair tied up with a pink plastic hair clip, she looks less like a Taxi driver and more like a stewardess of a low cost airline sans the heavy makeup.
Radha, like most other employees of Priyadarshini cabs was trained for three months by the organization that Susieben Shah founded.
When the family came into financially difficult times it was expected that young Radha and her siblings contribute to keep the family afloat financially. Not that the city of Mumbai had any dearth of opportunities to make a living. To the contrary it was a problem of plenty. Radha could have chosen any job and made a living.
When Susieben Shah, a social worker approached her with the offer to get trained as a taxi driver, she was not sure.
No one else that Radha had ever known had ventured into it before, not in Mumbai and probably nowhere else in the country. It was not a 'woman thing'.
|At Mumbai airport|
Getting the Licence for driving a taxi was the easier part of the job.
In the early days when fellow cab drivers would see a woman on the wheel, they would dangerously skirt past her vehicle in an attempt to scare and tease the driver, probably for lack of balls.
Undetered the first batch of woman Taxi Drivers took to the road in 2007 in Mumbai to show them that they indeed had the balls. Others followed slowly and steadily.
Radha joined the team in 2007 and since then there has been no looking back for her. She enjoys driving and the attention her Unusual occupation gets her not only from the men and women passengers, but also from the media.
Among the many newspapers and magazines that have covered an article or two on this all women Taxi service, it was the BBC that catapulted them to international fame, when its crew came over to Mumbai to make a documentary on women entrepreneurship and featured the women from Priyadarshini cabs.
Radha works about 10 hours a day and sometimes she does the nights.
It is in the nights, that the demand for women drivers is acutely felt. Especially over the weekends at the hotels, pubs, airports and at railway stations.
Fitted with GPS tracking devices and manned ... oops womanned by a 24/7 control room, Priyadarshini cabs assure safety for the passenger as well as the driver alike.
What with a politically connected Boss like Susieben no one would dare mess with the girls on the wheels !!!
|Crew of Priyadarshini Cabs|
Photo courtesy : http://www.priyadarshinitaxi.com
Radha feels like one among the family of the 25 odd drivers that are a part of Priyadarshini cabs. They help each other in times of family distress and everyone out there understands the need for flexi work hours and support systems at work.
There is a growing demand to recruit more of their tribe. However women drivers are difficult to find even in a city like Mumbai.
Radha says that for a high school drop like her, working in supermarkets or a low end BPO outfit would have been the obvious choice. But she is glad she chose the road less travelled. Quite literally the Road, to travel and make a living.
Click here if you would like to read more about Radha and her Tribe.
P.S : Radha's real name has been masked upon her request to remain anonymous.