If you thought that the new apps offered by cab aggregators have made life easier for women commuters in Delhi, I hope you think again. I travel to work everyday using app-based cab services in Delhi NCR region. After the infamous Uber incident involving violence against a woman travelers, these cab aggregator companies like Ola and Uber have tweaked their apps, so that now I can send details of my ride to a trusted person, who can track my ride and know if I reached my destination on time. I wish I felt safer with all that tweaking.
But the reality is very different. Every morning I brace myself for a rough ride on one of these cabs. And it’s got nothing to do with the app and everything to do with the cab drivers.
The cab drivers are rude, and crude, rash and abusive. When one cab scratches another, a road rage erupts with one thrashing another, all in the middle of busy NCR traffic. The other day I met an extra friendly cabbie who scared the life out of me with constant adjusting of his rear view mirror, as he ogled at me, combing his hair, and maintaining an almost nonstop chatter on anything and everything.
Almost two out of five days a week I have to insist that I travel in a route I am familiar with, almost with a vengeance, to cabbies who are hellbent on showing me an alternate, longer route, guaranteed to have less traffic, apparently. One cabbie took me and my friend, another woman commuter, through deserted fields in order to ‘help us reach our destination faster.’ It was only when we reached the main road, did we release the breath we had held back.
What’s with cab drivers and women passengers, I have often wondered. Is it the fact that he, being the alpha Indian male, has to take directions from a ‘vulnerable’ woman? Is this a power struggle or a gender thing? Why do I have to feel like entering a war zone when I board a cab in the morning? Would he behave in the same way had I been a man? Is this part of the deep seated gender bias that exists in the male psyche of Indians? My commute is my ponder time, as I struggle to instruct the cab driver that, believe me, I know what I am doing. And the journey continues.