By Priya Singh:
Scenario 1: Its 4 in the morning and Meera is out in her lawn, preparing for the morning Yoga. She tries to ignore the office no. blinking on her phone screen again and again, although restlessly. Finally, the young responsible manager in her wins and she succumbs to the worries. It’s an emergency and she will have to catch a flight at 6. She gives directions to her PA about the airline and time for the flight and asks her to book a cab too, for pick to the airport. The PA unknowingly asks, “Ma’am, any preferences for the cab?” She nonchalantly disagrees but then pauses to give a thought to the question. She observes that it’s still dark outside and not much lighting on the streets. Considering Delhi and its severe safety concerns, she asks for a female cab service. I mean, who would want to take chances with such tags as “the Rape Capital of India”. She realizes that asking for a female cab driver makes her a little more confident and secure for the travel at this time of the day.
Scenario 2: Eli is busy choosing her accessories to match her desi ethnic avatar, while her Mom is shouting for her from the other room. Of course, it’s a little late to go out for a party, but which Dandia night starts to ring-in before 10? She looks at herself in the mirror to admire her makeover and heads to pacify her mother. Yes, she has girlfriends also coming to pick her up and accompany her at the party. Yes, she would keep her phone on and nearby at all times. Yes, she will ring her at once when the party is over or whenever she is leaving. Yes, she has booked the usual female cab to drop her and her friends when the function is over. She scribbles the name and address of the resort for her Mom, just in case. The cab below is honking for some time now. She rushes towards the door and her Mom shouts her last instruction, almost panicking. She asks Eli to book a normal/famous cab service and cancel the female cab driver. Noticing the awkward questioning glances of her daughter, she explains that at such late hour, girls returning from a party in a cab being driven by a female driver may attract uninvited attention. It’s better to blend in this time and hire a male cab service.
These two fictional scenarios came to my mind when I was analyzing this business proposal of a female cab service. Although much popularity is gained by such headlines and those that have plunged into this venture have been lauded for their initiative, I am still doubtful whether it is such a welcome idea. Of course it has its own perks, but it comes with many risks too. Analyzing whether the cons overpower the pros is going to be a tedious task.
Firstly, researches have shown that a large no. of women have agreed to feel safer with female drivers. That’s a plus. Secondly, it would mean ensuring job to a large no. of unemployed and financially challenged women and making them self-dependent. Thirdly, it would make the society think and accept the presence of female drivers on the male-driven-cum-dominated roads.
But all this comes with a huge load of trials and tribulations. Firstly, patriarchal beliefs have made the society believe that females are poor drivers. A fight to challenge this dogma is a herculean task. Secondly, our roads are dominated by rash cab-drivers whose adrenaline rush is always on a high. Tackling them and keeping them at bay is also a challenge of its kind. Thirdly, in a country where a lunatic dares to threaten females in a group in broad daylight, we can expect little safety in wee hours and past midnight.
Apart from all this, there is a big question looming in my mind. Are we doing it right? I mean, aren’t such measures as banks and cabs for and by women emphasizing the gender gap? Aren’t we giving the message that yes, females are more comfortable around their own kind? After all, in the end we have to walk on the same common roads and work in the same offices. I am worried and concerned that instead of shaming the society, these initiatives will strengthen their beliefs that women are weak. Secluding women might only make us even more vulnerable and dependent. Because, it’s not the women who need to change and compromise, it is the men who have to become more sensitive to the way they treat the opposite gender.
These and many more issues need be pondered over in much detail before deciding the success rate of such initiatives. Nevertheless, a beginning will, sooner or later, see a successful end. My best luck and respect to those who have dared to think beyond the norm.