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JustHere | December 11, 2016

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[BLOG] How my Doha safety-bubble was shattered by a cabbie

[BLOG] How my Doha safety-bubble was shattered by a cabbie
Cassey Oliveira

Karwa cabs and me have shared a great camaraderie for many years now. As a working woman in Qatar, who doesn’t drive, my need for taxis top the list of needs as a resident here.

My rides have always been pleasant. Most of the time, I would hire a ‘private’ cab because it’s easy to get one, rather than a Karwa that you need to book in advance. You seldom find a vacant one on the street.

The few turquoise rides were pleasant. I would generally throw my head back and sit at the back seat, listening to music. Or if the driver was chatty, he would talk about his home, family and life, and enquire about mine. I would often get asked if I worked for Qatar Airways, which I think they assume about any young female customer getting into a cab, and I would say no, or go ahead and explain my job if I were in a mood.

While many of my colleagues would grumble about cab drivers, complain about their crazy driving or being over-charged, I would dismiss it all, and say, “I have never had a problem”.

Until this night, some days ago.

My sister and I were at City Centre mall watching a movie. By the time we left the mall, it was past 11pm. We needed a cab ride home, and went down to the basement, to the taxi stand. As we waited our turn, several private cab guys approached us, but we refused thinking it was safer to use an official cab at this time of the night.

We finally got a karwa cab by 11.45pm.

The South-Asian driver didn’t seem to be in a good mood right from the start. My apartment is very close to the mall, and we reached in no time. Just as he drew to a halt at the gate, he asked us to hurry, adding in anger, “I don’t have time. Other customers are waiting.”

It was then, in a flash, as I was fumbling with my purse that I saw his raised hand, ready to strike me.

Taken aback, we asked him not to be rude, and proceeded to settle the fare. Then started a furious rant, that turned personal.

I erred, and tried to reason with him, asking him to speak properly. It was then, in a flash, as I was fumbling with my purse that I saw his raised hand, ready to strike me.

He stopped, mid-action, but I was feeling threatened and insecure all the same.

I’ve lived here all my life, and neither my sister nor I have had such a rude exchange, let alone a man trying to get physically abusive with us.

“Touch me, and I will smack your face,” I told him and got off the cab. We noted down the vehicle number as well.

Complain to whom?
Read Lindsay Peak’s suggestions on staying safe while living alone in Qatar.
“Once Doha residents get past the naive stage of believing in Doha’s seemingly immunity to danger, we realise that Doha is in many ways, like any other city. There will always be pockets of safety, and areas to avoid. Mostly, there is an unwritten code of common sense here in Doha.”

My heart was pounding and I was trembling. What was I supposed to do? Go to the cops, at this time of the night? Instead, I called up the Al Million taxi company to register a complaint. I asked the officer on the line if there have been similar complaints in the past. He wasn’t specific, but told me that several female customers have complained about harassment.

He gave me a complaint number and said within 48 hours an action would be taken.

I related this incident to some of my friends the next day, and some of them advised me to go to the police. But should I have? He technically didn’t touch me, so what “proof” did I have of his violent behaviour. I felt humiliated enough without having to answer all kinds of intrusive questions.

I felt humiliated enough without having to answer all kinds of intrusive questions.

Two days later, I followed up with Al Million. The officer on the line told me that the driver in question was suspended for two days. He was reprimanded for his behaviour, and would be sent for counselling.

“That’s all?!” was my only reaction.

As per Al Million’s company policy, drivers are charged points with every complaint. If they cross the maximum point, they are terminated, and sent back home, the official explained.
If I wanted a stricter action, I would have to contact the management personally, he advised.
I hung up, wondering what was I really seeking here. An apology?

As a journalist, I am aware of the working conditions of karwa cab guys. Many of them work for over 18 hours per day, suffer from fatigue. In fact, like other blue-collared workers in the country, these drivers too come to Qatar with false promises only to have their contracts changed here. Their accommodation is deplorable, and savings, even more. But, did that in anyway excuse his behaviour? No.

I lost sleep that night. But I’ve lost something more precious. This feeling of safety in Qatar, that’s been my home since birth.

Copyright © 2013 JustHere Qatar. Reproduction of material from any JustHere Qatar pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.

Comments

  1. komal

    Karwa guys r horrible.they purposely take longer routes, talk rudely and sometimes they make u get down in d middle of d road.

    Karwa guys these days don’t use their meter and.drive like private cabs.

    Karwa needs to have better people and. Drivers too

  2. ketaki bardalai

    I too use cabs regularly and have had also good and bad experiences and I sympathise totally with you as I read with horror of your experience.
    Something needs to be done to ensure more stringent implementation of rules and regulations relating to conduct of cab drivers who have a tendency to overcharge hugely and regularly refuse to take passengers if they insist on going by the meter.

  3. Ms. Hala

    Because of my really bad experiences with cabs, private drivers, etc., as soon as I could, I rented then later purchased a car. It was just not worth my sanity to deal with rude and inappropriate people on a daily basis just to go about my day.

    Sadly, this option is not feasible to many and I truly sympathize with them. Always offer rides even if it’s out of my way because I know how shitty some of these drivers can be, especially to us ladies.

  4. Mr Ken

    I had a an encounter with a Nepal Karwa driver I know he was Nepal since when I tried to say where I was from he said something about and Nepal. After lengthy minutes under the summer sun where no cab was stopping to attend to me this one finally stopped.
    I asked him in Arabic how much it will cost since I could see the taxi don’t have a meter he didn’t respond. I asked in English and to my astonishment he spoke neither English or Arabic.
    I eventually had to keep repeating the place am going and was dropped half after paying more than I usually pay.
    Was lucky to get a Ghanaian taxi driver. I told him my story and he giggled. He explained that rarely to get Asians stopping to serve Africans, They claim Africans don’t pay well. And the Dude who carried me does speak at-least English or some Arabic. They simply use it to reap one off more money. Karwa drivers, If you cant speak some simple Arabic at-least learn some basic English.

  5. Abid

    I had worst of encounters of my life back on 27/06/2015 with Karwa. I boarded a cab from City Centre to Old Salat.

    1)First driver did not put on the meter when we started journey from City Centre even when I requested him to do so

    2) then he picked up one more passenger near Sheraton hotel bus stop

    3) then he asked me to give 25riyals when we reached my destination Old Salata when fare is usually just around 17Riyal maximum sometimes when we wait at signals.

    4) then when I told him is it seldom more than 15Riyals and to give receipt and without receipt I will not give more than 15 riyals, he abused me telling me that you have kept beard and are Muslim and are doing drama; wow now that was really a shocker in the month of Ramadan.

    5) I started to call police on 999 and he started the car and took away my grocery with him and inturn was saying he will go to police and make sure I pay 82 riyals (meter reading as he had not reset it when we started from city centre where it was 70riyals)

    6) then he returned after some time and one by-stander on road persuaded this driver to take 15riyals. He took the money but then threw all my grocery on road with such a force that a big Frito Lays packet cracked open and a pastry (had bought it for my family for the first time since 21 months in Doha) got spoiled.

    I complained to Karwa and after a week all they say is that they have counseled the driver and send a warning letter.

    I have now asked for apology in person or written one, and also compensation. This is a mental trauma for me as all this happened close to my flat on main road in broad daylight.

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