Meet Deepa Parab’s 540-Strong Women Squad Of Bodyguards
Till now we assumed that most women love to be damsels in distress! And they wait for a man to turn into a knight in shining armour to save them. Well, the myth is demolished. The breaker of the chain is Deepa Parab, an actor-turned-activist and philanthropist, who has set up the Rangragini Bouncers Group in Pune. We were astonished when we heard that more than 500 women bouncers pack a punch in the city. These daring women bouncers are making sure that Pune roads are safe for its people by taking up jobs of bodyguards and as bouncers at events, fairs, functions and political rallies.
Deepa’s idea was to showcase the strength of women, even if they belonged to the unprivileged background of the society. She wanted to show that they can be physically as strong as men. She is creating role models and embracing heroes across ages who don’t need to wear capes to rescue someone in need.
SheThePeople.TV catches up with 40-year-old Deepa Parab. An excerpt from the interview.
What inspired you to kick-start Rangragini Bouncers Group?
A desperate need to wrap up the tale of the weak female, to proving everyone wrong who never believed in my passion led me to start Rangragini Bouncers Group. See, I always wanted to be a cop. I fought with my family and started the procedure to joining the police force however, my parents disagreed. I was married off about five years back, after which I started working as a makeup artist. Interestingly, at my job I got offers to play extras in films, I even played the role of a constable. I saw celebrities donning the cop role and I instantly decided to do something other than just living my life as an extra.
The purpose of launching a bouncers group, especially run by women, was to survive male attitude and gender-based discrimination. Two years back I brought 12 women together, mostly to fend off harassers on city roads. Today, I am a proud defender of the city backed by more than 500 strong women team. The window of the application process for recruitment is monitored by me and other senior women in the team. We hire all ages but cannot really overlook the lesser fortunate ones who have lost hope to live. These women come from lower-middle class families and their status can be anywhere between married, unmarried, divorced, widowed, HIV+ patients, housewives and working women.
I saw a window of opportunity to appoint women bouncers who are not limited to only pubs. I worked on the idea and started training women for free. They get jobs as bodyguards for celebrities and other bigwigs. We get calls to be security personnel or as managers at private events, political rallies and public functions too. This takes care of our financial crunch.
For example, few years back on Mahashivratri, I had sent 45 women bouncers to help in managing a five lakh-strong crowd that had turned up for darshan at Wagholi temple. Public noticed the effort we put in and started appreciating our job.
This implies that women are no longer waiting for a man to come and save her. It includes ceremonial and policing duties besides running camps in conflict situations.
What was the idea behind it?
The concept was very clear. Hire a team of Women in Black and guard the surrounding. I started off in Bombay first then decided to move back to my city Pune because being born and brought up here I know every nook and corner of this place. Initially, it was hard to convince people that this is a genuine passion and that I wanted to do something meaningful for the neighbourhood.
Finding the right kind of people for the job was another challenge. There’s a notion that women should not pursue a man’s job due to her limited physical strength. It was a blasphemy of me to get involved in an industry that is largely dominated by men. I had started recruiting women who also shared similar stories and were in search for jobs. The women I choose should have minimum experience of being a bouncer; also they should be physically fit.
I describe this institution as a gift to these brave women who thrived back to life after every loss, every disrespect. I invest in creative endurance.
I’ll give you the example of Madhuri Patekar, 35, a widow living in the city. I trained her to be independent and now no one from her slum picks on her, fearing a solid punch. Another bouncer Poonam Shinde convinced her family that this job is a respectable one by being the kickass person she is today.
How was the initial reaction from society, or family?
I challenged a league of men bouncers, when I started my endeavour, these men were on top of their job. We patrolled any ceremony that required people to maintain safety measures or if there was a requirement of bouncers to take care of a crowd that could turn violent we chipped in. People were very impressed by our work, we were hired for events organised by the government too. We started getting recognition and were even awarded at various occasions. The number of women grew and so did my business. Today more than 540 women patrol the city.
Tell us about the struggles
These women come from different backgrounds, but most of them failed to get selected to join the police force. I also receive calls from women who are domestically abused or dominated by their families because of their genders. Training women from police background is easier. I coach them in various sports too. I want to give them a privileged life, to make them financially independent.
Late night calls, patrolling day and night, convincing family members or even the dress code — we face struggles like these in every step. As a leader I ensure that the women in my team reach home safely. Their families trust me and send their women so I fight to maintain that status quo.
When the organisers pat on my shoulder, saying our work satisfied them – that feeling is out of the world.
Personally, I don’t get to spend much time with my family. That’s a huge sacrifice I make. Also, now the demand has grown so much so that hiring women blindly is a big risk. I need to supervise them, make them worthy of the fame we have earned after years of hard work.
Again the more we recruit the lesser each one of them is paid. If we choose carefully and build a team of dependable women, the feedback is great and they get a respectable pay. As I said earlier, the demand is growing but I also have to think about the happy faces that come to work for me day and night. I can’t let them be underpaid.
I think as a bouncer you should build such an aura that the moment you stand at your post no one dares to break any rule or tries to misbehave. Public should respect your presence.
What motivates you to keep living a bouncer’s life?
I believe in orchestrating a team that has an irresistible appeal and to build an impressive public image that we are hired again and again.
Explain why the venture you founded is so efficient?
I give power to women in need. I value physical strength but I also encourage divorced or ailing women to be at battle fronts, and also see to it that they are trained in self-defence too.
I campaign in schools, seeking out girls from unprivileged backgrounds. Some college-goers and school dropouts have been selected in the team too. But mostly I avoid recruiting unmarried girls in my team since bouncers’ lives are unpredictable. If anything goes wrong the blame will be on me. As far as married women are concerned the risk they are taking is out of their own will. Of course, I promise safe a environment but a bouncer’s life can never be totally hassle-free.
Also the reason I choose married women is mostly because they are unemployed after marriage and now want to earn extra money. There are widows and divorcees who need money more than school girls. I give work to HIV+ patients too. They need me more than anyone else. For young girls, a lot of other opportunities await them. They need to fly first before settling down on one job.
I believe if we can stand to protect others, we must learn how to protect ourselves first. Take charge, ladies!
Picture Credit: Deepa Parab