4 episodes

'The Night Shift' follows four women — a cab driver, a bouncer at a popular club, a bar dancer, and a home guard constable — as they work through the night, breaking boundaries that society has traditionally set on Indian women’s mobility, morality, and sexuality.
This podcast is brought to you by TS Studios, a production company that brings The Swaddle’s storytelling and creative point of view to original podcasts and films.

The Night Shift The Swaddle

    • Society & Culture

'The Night Shift' follows four women — a cab driver, a bouncer at a popular club, a bar dancer, and a home guard constable — as they work through the night, breaking boundaries that society has traditionally set on Indian women’s mobility, morality, and sexuality.
This podcast is brought to you by TS Studios, a production company that brings The Swaddle’s storytelling and creative point of view to original podcasts and films.

    The Taxi Driver

    The Taxi Driver

    For women, leaving home after dusk implies an automatic invitation to danger and societal censure. Some people have even justified sexual assault and rape on the premise that women out late at night should expect aggression.

    Amidst this, four women — a cab driver, a bouncer at a popular club, a bar dancer, and a home guard constable guarding the women’s compartment in the local trains — have been defying societal constraints and patriarchal mindsets each night when they go to work. These four Mumbai women work through the night, breaking boundaries that society has traditionally set on women’s mobility, morality, and sexuality.

    Here are their stories.

    This episode follows Nisha, a cab driver who gives as good as she gets from the male drivers who outnumber her.

    NISHA, THE TAXI DRIVER
    Voice Over
    Audio Montage 1
    English News Anchor speaks
    Male politician: I believe that if my sister or daughter goes out in the night on New
    Year’s Eve with men other than her father or husband, then I can’t expect her to be
    treated with respect by people.
    Male politician: Every one has a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ drawn around them. If anyone
    crosses that Rekha, then they are bound to land in danger.
    Voice Over
    Nisha: You know people have that fear sometimes. Hence, they keep saying that I
    should not drive in the night. But, the problem is, I love driving in the night! It is a
    breeze to drive in the night, no cops to worry about, no traffic lights; you can zip
    across the city.
    Voice Over
    Nisha: I used to work in a security firm earlier. Once, I met a lady cab driver who was
    dropping a passenger off at my workplace. Till that day, I had no idea that there
    were women cab drivers. I always felt driving was not for women. I took down the
    details about the cab agency and went to my supervisor and convinced him to give
    me only night shifts for two months because I wanted to learn something new. He
    agreed so I started learning how to drive, without even mentioning this to my
    mother.
    Voice Over
    Nisha: When I finally got my license, I told my mother. But she would not agree to
    let me drive. She would just not budge. I even got a few lady drivers and friends to
    come and convince her. We had to work really hard at convincing her. Finally she
    agreed and allowed me to take up the driver’s job.
    But then, my mother’s brother started creating problems. He would incessantly
    criticise my mother for allowing me to drive. He said our family does not allow
    women to drive. My mother tried reasoning with him, but I felt like I had to step in. I
    told him that this is my life, this is my problem. I told him I won’t do anything to give
    my mother a bad name. So there will be no problem.
    Kunal: But was that just this uncle or did other members of your family oppose your
    decision as well?
    Nisha: All the male members of the family. (Laughs) Because I was the only woman
    in the family to drive. Their daughters and sisters were all wearing the veil, so they
    wanted me to do the same.
    Voice Over
    Nisha: My father used to be driver. He died in a car accident, while driving. From
    that day, my mother has been so scared of vehicles that she still does not allow my
    brother to buy a bike.
    Kunal: So your mother’s objection stemmed from this fear, primarily?
    Nisha: It was this fear, yes. But now she is not scared. In fact, she rides in my car
    with me a lot. She has conquered her fear. But she still worries about the night, so
    she keeps telling me to not drive in the night. But I love driving in the night!
    Voice Over
    Ambient conversation with Nisha and her colleagues.
    Voice Over
    Nisha and her colleagues: At the counter for prepaid taxis, they ask passengers if
    they are okay with a woman driver. This has to stop. This must end. They should not
    be asking such questions. Do they ask people if they are okay with a male driver?
    Because of such questions when customers come to us, especially men, they look at
    us in a cheap way and ask what are the extra ‘facilities’ we are

    • 19 min
    The Bar Dancer

    The Bar Dancer

    For women, leaving home after dusk implies an automatic invitation to danger and societal censure. Some people have even justified sexual assault and rape on the premise that women out late at night should expect aggression.

    Amidst this, four women — a cab driver, a bouncer at a popular club, a bar dancer, and a home guard constable guarding the women’s compartment in the local trains — have been defying societal constraints and patriarchal mindsets each night when they go to work. These four Mumbai women work through the night, breaking boundaries that society has traditionally set on women’s mobility, morality, and sexuality.

    Here are their stories.

    This episode follows Rozy, a dancer who knows she’ll earn more in a dance bar than in an office.

    ROZY, THE BAR DANCER
    Voice Over
    (Proceedings from the Maharashtra State Legislature in the background)
    Rozy: Society should not decide that. Women should know how to carry themselves.
    And they know it. Just because a girl is wearing a short dress doesn’t mean she’s
    doing something wrong. Society will not decide what women have to do.
    Voice Over
    Rozy: I could not pay my fees. Moreover, I had family issues. My mother was the
    earning family member and would work as domestic help. But we couldn’t get the
    amount of money we wanted. That’s why I had to come to this field. I wanted to do
    Hotel Management, in fact.
    Voice Over
    Rozy: I was crying, I did not want to work there. It was a very new experience for me.
    Guys were there, sitting and smoking. It was normal. They came for their enjoyment.
    But it was quite weird for me. Initially, it was quite weird, but days passed, years
    passed, I got used to it.
    Kunal: What part of this was weird to you?
    Rozy: Just guys smoking and drinking. Only that. Nothing bad was going on over
    there. Nothing bad. Later on, I got used to this too.
    Voice Over
    Kunal: Did it feel like a very normal thing to do?
    Rozy: It wasn’t so normal, but the bottom line was, we had to perform and earn
    money. It was like a stage show, kind of. Many actresses, performers, do stage
    shows and they get paid for it. I told myself that this wasn’t a bad thing. You are just
    getting paid for your performance, that’s it.
    Kunal: But how long did it take for you to digest this part?
    Rozy: Say, almost 6-7 months to digest the fact that I had to do it.
    Kunal: So, you kept feeling weird till then?
    Rozy: Yes. Because, suddenly, like people do it, they perform… You know what our
    job is? We don’t get the chance to learn the trade. We just have to dance on
    whatever songs they tell us. This was a bit weird, initially. But now, we can do it. As
    we girls get used to it, it gets easier. But I must add that this isn’t a bad thing at all;
    the bar line is not a bad line to be in. It is not at all bad.
    Voice Over
    Kunal: Have you had such an experience, ever?
    Rozy: I have had. There was a guy who was throwing money at me. I didn’t like this.
    I told the manager that I did not like it, you please ask him to go. Maybe, later on,
    he would do something wrong. I have had many such experiences.
    Kunal: But he was just throwing money at you?
    Rozy: That was just part of it.
    Kunal: So, there was more to it?
    Rozy: Ya, I mean, things happen. Many things happen. But, safety is always available
    for us.
    Voice Over
    Ramesh, the customer: I was 35 and she was 18. Back then, I still felt good that I
    could win a pretty girl’s affection, you know.
    Voice Over
    Solanki: I completely stopped going to work. Instead, I invested all my savings in a
    small flat, so that I could stay with her.
    Voice Over
    Solanki: She was doing what was best for her. I should have done what was best for
    me, you know.
    Rozy: We are performing. If a guy is coming to the bar, we didn’t call him. They
    came on their own. They came alone or with their friends. We didn’t tell them to
    give us money. They can come here and just sit. It’s not a problem. We didn’t ask
    them to spend money. It’s their wish and they will,

    • 17 min
    The Bouncer

    The Bouncer

    For women, leaving home after dusk implies an automatic invitation to danger and societal censure. Some people have even justified sexual assault and rape on the premise that women out late at night should expect aggression.

    Amidst this, four women — a cab driver, a bouncer at a popular club, a bar dancer, and a home guard constable guarding the women’s compartment in the local trains — have been defying societal constraints and patriarchal mindsets each night when they go to work. These four Mumbai women work through the night, breaking boundaries that society has traditionally set on women’s mobility, morality, and sexuality.

    Here are their stories.

    This episode follows Ranjana, a bouncer who earns more than her husband by throwing people out of pubs.

    RANJANA, THE BOUNCER
    Voice Over
    Ranjana: If I beat someone up and call [my husband] from a police station, asking
    him to come, he will surely know that I have assaulted that person and not the other
    way round! My husband knows I am not the one to take a beating. If someone slaps
    me once, I will slap them back at least twice.
    Kunal: Has this happened?
    Ranjana: “Yes!” (Laughs)
    Voice Over
    Ranjana: I have been in the security and bouncer industry for 18 years. It is only after
    2010 that I became a bouncer. Before that, I was in the Home Guard and worked at
    private security firms.
    Voice Over
    Ranjana: As soon as the customer walks in from the gate, Govind and I immediately
    have an understanding on whether to allow that person in or not. We ask them if
    they are ready to pay a cover charge or not. If not, then we don’t allow them in. If
    their ‘profile’ is not good, then we decline entry, even if they pay us a cover charge.
    Often, some men just don’t understand and they insist on entering the club. We
    waste so much time every weekend just arguing with such customers, but they
    refuse to understand.
    Voice Over
    Ranjana: Everyone sees me as being ‘Khadoos’ (rude/snobbish). No one dares to
    speak to me in the wrong way. When I refuse entry, they call the manager. Even if
    the manager agrees and tells me to let them in, I let them go but I warn them
    anyway, that if I don’t like them, I’ll throw them out. I just need permission from my
    manager to throw them out, and that’s it.
    Voice Over
    Ranjana: When I started doing night shifts, I, of course, liked the work, colleagues,
    the working conditions… Everything. But when I’d finish work and left for home at
    3:30 am, I felt a bit scared. What if someone tried to do something? What will I do
    in that case? That same night, I went home and woke my husband up. He’s like a
    friend to me, so I had a discussion with my husband right away. I asked him, should I
    do this job? My husband asked me, what do you feel like? I said, I feel I will be able
    to do it.
    Voice Over
    Ranjana: I now go home, on my own, at 3:30 am. I don’t wait for anyone anymore.
    Earlier, I used to ask my male colleagues to accompany me. But, now, I go on my
    own. In fact, there is a slum next to this pub. My male colleagues don’t dare to go
    there. But I don’t care. I go on my own, crossing that slum area every night. My
    manager also tells me to not go there but I keep going. He asks me if I go alone
    and I lie and say ‘no’ (laughs), but I go nonetheless.
    Voice Over
    Ranjana: This walk is easy; I feel like there are always some eyes on the streets. But
    the walk in Diva is very dangerous for me, even though it’s just a 10-minute walk.
    Anyone could easily kill me and dump my body in the woods and no one would
    ever know because I have to walk through the woods alone. But now, even that walk
    doesn’t feel very difficult. It feels very familiar. It almost feels like the woods
    recognise me and are waiting for me to wake them up, each morning.
    Voice Over
    Ranjana: I was sitting there, waiting for my train. One man walked up to me and sat
    down in the seat beside mine. Bandra station is, in any case, a very dangerous
    station. I didn’t really pay atte

    • 18 min
    The Home Guard

    The Home Guard

    For women, leaving home after dusk implies an automatic invitation to danger and societal censure. Some people have even justified sexual assault and rape on the premise that women out late at night should expect aggression.

    Amidst this, four women — a cab driver, a bouncer at a popular club, a bar dancer, and a home guard constable guarding the women’s compartment in the local trains — have been defying societal constraints and patriarchal mindsets each night when they go to work. These four Mumbai women work through the night, breaking boundaries that society has traditionally set on women’s mobility, morality, and sexuality.

    Here are their stories.

    This episode follows Suvarna, a home guard constable who rides the rails to make sure other women get home safely.

    SUVARNA, THE HOME GUARD
    News Clips
    Hindi News Anchor 1: There was an attempt to rape a 22-year-old woman in a
    moving local train in Mumbai.
    Hindi News Anchor 2: An American woman was not just mugged but her throat was
    slashed by an unknown man in a local train in Mumbai.
    Voice Over
    Suvarna: My name is Suvarna Dilip Kharat. I am 38 and I have been working for the
    Home Guard for 10 years now.
    Voice Over
    Suvarna: My work starts at 8pm in the evening and ends at 8am the next morning.
    The biggest priority for us, posted in those ladies’ compartments, is that no man
    should enter, especially those who are high on drugs. So, let’s say my train starts
    from CST to Badlapur, I stand at the train’s door for the duration of the journey till
    we reach Badlapur. Till the time there are women in the compartment, I don’t sit at
    all. I am always fearful that men could come into the compartment at any time and
    something untoward might happen. If that happens, I will be in trouble. After
    reaching Badlapur, our role doesn’t end — we have to get the train back to CST.
    Basically, we have to be in the same compartment through both these journeys till
    the time the train retires for the night at around 2 or 2:30am to ensure that all the
    women who travel in these trains are safe.
    Voice Over
    Suvarna: Once, my friend and me, we were in the train going from Badlapur to CST.
    There were four druggies who forcibly entered my compartment at Ghatkopar. I had
    nothing but a baton and a mobile. I was perplexed about how to handle the four of
    them by myself. As soon as they entered the compartment, I told them if they came
    even one step ahead, I would push them out of the train without caring for the
    consequences. While I was doing this, I told my friend to call the control room. By
    this time, we had reached Matunga station when the cops came in and took them
    away. Imagine if there were women in the compartment and these druggies would
    have attacked them. If we were around, we would have surely protected them, but
    what if we weren’t around?
    Kunal: Were you not afraid of the possibility that they could be armed?
    Suvarna: Before I could process the fear, I started thinking of my colleague. She was
    in uniform, but she was a young girl, who was young and yet to be married. What if
    they would have tried to do something to her?
    Voice Over
    Suvarna: We basically just stay at that last station at the end of a journey. So, let’s
    say if we get the train back to CST from Kasara, then we simply stay at the station
    platform in CST because there are no facilities for us — neither to sleep, nor to sit.
    We work with the police, but the police don’t provide any of the infrastructure or
    facilities that women need. You must have been to the CST station and noticed the
    space at the ticket booking office? That’s where both, men and women, sleep in the
    night.
    But, the CST station is better because at least there is space near the ticket booking
    windows. Vashi station is terrible because there is no place to sleep or sit, except on
    the platforms. So, in the night, platforms are filled with us home guards sleeping all
    the way till the tracks! The place is full of mosquitoes and we all have to s

    • 21 min

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