Seek the truth and open your heart. It will set you free.
Women in India are increasingly turning to women-only taxi services like Mumbai-based Viira Cabs whose female drivers are all trained in martial arts and carry pepper spray and batons. The company is the brainchild of 35-year-old entrepreneur and social activist Preeti Sharma Menon, who wanted to create a service to help women feel comfortable traveling any time of day in a country with a poor record on women’s safety. The trend toward women-only taxi companies in India has grown even more prominent in recent weeks after a reported rape by an Uber cab driver led to the service being banned in New Delhi earlier this month. In discussing the idea behind her business, Menon explains, “I was looking for something new to do and I wanted to do something that would make a difference.” She adds that, in addition to training in self-defense, the drivers also undergo extensive training in driving skills and customer relations since finding qualified drivers was initially a challenge: “[t]he biggest ongoing challenge is that there are no ready women drivers. We have to source, mobilize, train and employ drivers… Our motor school focuses on training women exclusively from low income groups. Viira means brave women, who have been limited to temporary unskilled jobs due to lack of skills and opportunities but have decided to change their lives.” Many of Viira’s drivers are the sole bread-winners in their families and the steady income has helped many rise out of poverty. Raju Chergat, one of Viira’s drivers, says, “Before, my salary was very low, but now my income has gone up – so it makes a difference. I am independent. I am not under anyone’s dominance. I am master of my own will and I can take care of my household.” Mumbai’s women are thrilled with the availability of safe transportation. Sajna Sivan, a regular customer of Viira, says her work as a photographer is easier when she knows she can call for a Viira Cab: “I have lot of late nights. So when that happens I don’t want to randomly take a car with all my equipment. I’d rather get someone with whom I feel comfortable.”