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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

If A Woman Wants She Can Do Anything And Be Whatever She Aims To Be, Says Cab Driver Nisha

  • IWB Post
  •  November 6, 2018

Who has plans of staying out late this Diwali? Well, I do, but before my parents or dear society raises its eyebrows in displeasure at my plans, my own heart does a somersault at the thought of staying out (years of being fed that “Ladkiyan aise nahi karti’ was ought to have an effect na!) But there are women who break these gender-based limitations every day and lead a life that tells our sanskari-society to shelve their narrow and archaic mentality away.

Diwali is almost here and so are the society’s boundaries that they have set for women only. So, this festive season, as we go by the tradition of driving away the darkness by lighting up diyas, let’s do away with these gender stereotypes that restrict a woman.

The culture magazine, The Swaddle has recently released an exciting documentary podcast series called The Night Shift. Created by journalist Kunal Purohit, it is a series which follows four amazing women, a series which follows four amazing women — a bar dancer, taxi driver, Home Guard constable, and nightclub bouncer. These revolutionary women are defying societal constraints and patriarchal mindsets each night when they go to work.

Inspired by their stories, Indian Women Blog had a candid chat with Nisha, who drives a radio cab from 10 in the night to 6 in the morning in Mumbai and sleeps in the cab alone. Sounds heroic, right? But for Nisha, it is nothing unusual, as according to her she is not vulnerable in the night, rather tougher and more independent.

Excerpts:

Why did you decide to become a cab driver?

I love two things – driving and independence. And being a cab driver gives me both. It’s my own cab, I just work as a part of cab company here in Mumbai, which is especially for women cab drivers.

But what about your family, were they supportive of your decision?

I live with my mother, brother, and my grandmother and I kid you not, they weren’t happy with my decision, not at all. They tried very hard to dissuade me and I tried equally hard to convince them. Then I took my friends, fellow women cab drivers, to my home, to show my family that other women do it too and it’s nothing new, that they have been doing it for years.

Now the situation has more or less resolved, and my family agrees with what I am doing.

So, when you are out at night, have you ever felt unsafe driving in such late hours?

Initially, I used to feel very scared, sitting in my cab, parked on an empty road which sometimes would be poorly lit. The smallest sound freaked me out and so did the silence. After all, I also grew up surrounded by this mentality na, that girls can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to stay out late at night and here I had made it my profession. The fear was the gift the society had given me, but now… nope, I am the least afraid. Darr naam ki cheez, Mumbai sheher mein nahi hai Madam and I have embraced this quality of the city.

But even then, ditching gender restrictions that society likes to put on women, do you take any precautions when you are out so late because when it comes to trouble, it sees no gender.

Sahi baat hai! That’s what people should understand. So, for my protection, I keep a chili-powder spray with me and also I have learned Martial arts. But in the nine years I have been doing this job I have never faced a situation where I would need to defend myself.

That’s really fortunate. So, tell me, Nisha, how do the passengers you take in react on seeing a woman driver?

Some are shocked, they ask questions like how I started, is my family okay with it. Some look at me in doubt! *she laughs* Arre! They think that because I am a woman I am going to crash the car, go like a lunatic into the oncoming traffic. For the first 10 minutes, they sit holding the gate of the car, fearing for their life. Then they slowly calm down and realize that I am so not going to ram the car. They then proceed to ask the usual questions others ask, although with a surprised tone in their voice.

Exactly! And also they have this mentality that when it comes to repairing, changing the tire, checking the engine, a woman is lost without a man.

There is always this shocked expression and inquiries whenever I get down to tinker with the engine or change the tire. Who can make these people understand that if a woman wants she can do anything, be whatever she wants and achieve anything?

Damn right! So, what would you like to tell all those women who stifle their wishes and succumb to the limitations of the society?

All I want to say is that become so strong that you don’t need anyone to protect you. Adhering to society’s wishes? Well, rest assured you will have plenty of occasions to adapt to its principles and rules. Meanwhile, when the topic of discussion is your freedom, how about embracing it fully?

You can watch the promo of the podcast here:

The Night Shift

For Indian women, going out alone in the dark has always been off-limits. The night is a Lakshman Rekha, the line that they must not cross if they want to be safe. So, what happens when women cross this boundary?

 

 

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