It was close to midnight. Sarita Mehra, a senior executive at a multinational company, was driving back home from the office. Suddenly, two men on motorbikes zipped by her, making obscene gestures as they sped by. “It had been going on for days. These men always harassed women drivers,” Mehra told DNA.
The next night, however, Sharma was prepared. As soon as she spotted the culprits, she pulled up by the side of the road. The bikers stopped and menacingly approached the car. What the goons weren’t expecting, however, was the woman seated in the passenger seat getting out and fighting back. She kicked one in the groin, while punching the other’s face.
“We had called the police earlier, and within minutes the men were nabbed,” said Jyoti Singh, the woman who rained down the pain on the eve teasers. Singh belongs to a growing breed of women bodyguards who are trying to make the city safer for other women.
With incidents of sexual crimes on the rise, security agencies are cashing in on the idea of providing personalised security services for women, by women. “Our clients feel comfortable around female bodyguards,” said Deepak Monga, head of marketing and communication, Topsgrup security agency.
However, the service does not come cheap. Priced between Rs 35,000 to Rs 50,000 per month for an eight to 12 hour shift, it is affordable only to high profile clients.
Despite steep rates, the demand in Mumbai and other urban areas is growing. According to industry estimates, there are nearly half a dozen security agencies in the city, employing 30 to 50 women bodyguards each. “We started out a year ago with only a small number. Now we have 60 women bodyguards working actively across India, 45 of which operate in Mumbai alone,” Monga added.
Women bodyguards are also ideal for ‘covert security cover’, when clients don’t want to bring unnecessary attention to themselves.
“A man with bulging muscles will not only scare away potential molesters, but also colleagues and acquaintances,” laughs businesswoman Leena Shah, who has a woman bodyguard posing as her personal assistant. Others like Swati More and Deepa Patnaik guard children of the rich and the famous at schools and playgrounds while pretending to be nannies or maidservants.
Meanwhile, security agencies are busy touting the idea of female bodyguards as a solution to crime against women. “Once the trend catches on there will be a drop in incidents of harassment, and rape,” feels Monga. That remains to be seen, but efforts to make Mumbai a safer place for women seem to have begun.