Gracy Dourado, healing one of the first women taxi drivers in Goa
The Life of a Lady Cabbie
A mother of 3 children and the owner of a salon in Zuarinagar, case 40-year-old Gracy Dourado has crushed through myths and stereotypes and established herself firmly in what had been a strictly male domain: the driving of taxis. Streets’ Dr. Charlane Pereira e Rebello catches up with Gracy to find out about her life as a lady cabbie.
As I wait for Gracy in the late hours of a November evening, I spot a white car being driven by a young lady outside Miramar Residency. Five minutes later, I find myself in the presence of a smart, well-groomed woman in a white uniform. With an outstretched hand, she mutters my name, “Charlane?” I respond, “Yes. Are you Gracy?”
With that exchange and a warm smile, I was immediately at ease with this empowered lady who exudes a winning combination of warmth, intelligence and humility.
Gracy has lent a new face to cab driving in Goa along with 9 other female cabbies, also known as travel hostesses. Her tale is one of perseverance, battling societal stigma, breaking down gender stereotypes, and raising 3 beautiful children along with her husband Joe.
Being a part of the cab-driving project, Gracy is extremely happy about her new profession. The project, a government initiative of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation, boasts 10 female cab drivers in swanky white cars and smart uniforms. They are posted outside tourist hotels in what might very well be a first for India (or, for that matter, much of the rest of the world as well).
Initially, Joe was hesitant about Gracy taking up cab driving as it’s not exactly looked upon approvingly by society. However, Gracy recalls, “I explained to Joe that each job has its own identity and dignity.” Joe was persuaded and now, she says, is highly supportive.
Gracy’s parents Nazareth and Emerciana Fernandes are proud of her achievement. Her friends too have encouraged her to be a travel hostess.
Her children are absolutely fascinated with their mom’s new profession. Her eldest daughter, 18-year-old Mary, is pursuing a professional L’Oréal Course in hairstyles. Her son Mark, 15 years old, is in his Xth standard and Micah, her 13-year-old daughter, is currently in the VIIIth standard.
Gracy says, “I don’t care about what others have to say. I have been through tough times when Joe suffered a stroke. There was no one to help us at that time. Today, he is back to normal. My husband is fine with my profession, and so also my family and friends.”
Gracy continues, “I got married at a young age of 21 years. Though I worked for about a year at that time, I had to give up my career when I conceived. I couldn’t work as I had priorities of seeing to my family and kids. I am trained as an air hostess.”
“Now that my children have grown up, I can devote my time to my needs. It is about my happiness now. I have always loved driving. I have been driving for about 15 years now. I have even driven to Mahabaleshwar with my husband,” adds Gracy.
Gracy is not new to driving. Joe ran his own transport business in Sancoale from 2006 to 2013. The Dourados had a pick and drop service for school children. Gracy says, “I would drive the bus when the driver was not around at times. I would help my husband to manage the business.”
Today, Joe runs a home appliances business in Zuarinagar and they have their own complex of 21 flats there.
As part of this cab-driving project, Gracy has been trained in handling road accidents, signal training, self-defense and so-called soft skills (personality development and how to handle guests). The latter part must have come easily for her, as she already possesses a pleasing personality.
She works on an 8-hour shift from 9 am to 6 pm. She proudly mentions her trip to one of Goa’s most beautiful spots the previous day, “I am tired. I made a trip to Dudhsagar Falls yesterday.”
Gracy says, “It is not that women are bad drivers. Some might be. But they need practice and more confidence. Initially, everyone is nervous.”
Gracy recalls her first experience as a travel hostess, “My first guest was a Goan girl working in Bangalore. I picked her up from Mapusa and dropped her at a hotel in Panjim. She was ecstatic that such a cab service had started in Goa.”
Clientele interested in availing the services of this cab driving need to contact (+91 832) 2437437. This service provides pickup and drop facilities for female customers and families. However, at least one of the family members should be a female above 18 years of age.
Interested clientele are provided with the required information and asked to confirm their travel hostess. Prior or on-the-spot bookings are accepted.
Gracy, a B.Com graduate, is also pursuing an advanced course in hair dressing. Having done a Diploma in Spa Therapy, her salon ‘Tender Touch’ (in Zuarinagar) is being managed by her daughter Mary in her absence, though Gracy checks on the business quite a bit.
Gracy cites the great American psychologist Abraham Maslow in stating that, through this mid-life career choice, “I have reached the stage of self-actualization.”
“Women need to be independent,” she says. “Confidence is a must. Hard work always pays off. Success is inevitable. I am very happy.”
And I am happy for her.