She does not have a Driver Licence. Yet this Woman of Indian Origin heads NY Taxi Drivers Alliance

12 Things you should know about Bhairavi Desai, the Indian Origin woman who not only founded the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), but also heads it.

1. Bhairavi Desai was born in Gujarat, and came to the US with her parents and her two brothers, at the age of 6. Her father was a lawyer and her mother a homemaker.

BHAIRAVI DESAI CO FOUNDER THE NEW YORK TAXI WORKERS ALLIANCE 1998 (PHOTO CREDIT MARTHA CAMARILLO -GAARTISTS (1)

Photo: (PHOTO CREDIT MARTHA CAMARILLO -GAARTISTS) www.newyorker.com

2. She grew up in New Jersey and went on to obtain a degree in Women’s Studies from Rutgers University in 1994.

bhairavi1

Photo: http://i.ytimg.com/

After college, she worked with Manavi, the South Asian Women’s organization in New Jersey. She also worked at a nonprofit, in 1996, called the Committee against Anti-Asian Violence where she was assigned to run a project with a group of South Asian Taxi-drivers.

3. Growing up, Desai wasn’t allowed to date or go to dances, but she didn’t care. “I was too busy dreaming of strikes and demonstrations,” she told Lizzie Widdicombe of the New Yorker.

Bhairavi Desai Executive Director of the National Taxi Workers Alliance taken on October 20, 2011

4. In February1998, Desai who was just 23 was working in a beeper store, and, in her free time, trying to open a union office with the help of friends, including two Pakistani drivers, Javaid Tariq and Saeed Ahmed, and Biju Mathew, a Marxist associate professor at Rider University.

LEADING A PROTEST - BHAIRAVI DESAI - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - NEW YORK TAXI DRIVERS ALLIANCE

 Photo: www.theepochtimes.com

They eventually founded the Taxi Workers Alliance, whose initial membership was 700. It eventually metamorphosed into the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA).

5. Bhairavi, is not a taxi driver herself nor does she have a driver’s license.

6. In May 1998, she organized the largest one-day taxi strike in the history of New York history, to protest against new rules by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the strike kept most of the city’s 12,000 yellow cabs off the street for a day.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, pickets with the group near a taxi stand at Pennsylvania Station in New York on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007. As the city's two-day taxi job action draws to a finish, Desai once again confirmed her role in the city's labor movement and her willingness to make bold moves on behalf of her membership. (AP Photos/Peter Morgan

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, pickets with the group near a taxi stand at Pennsylvania Station in New York on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007. As the city’s two-day taxi job action draws to a finish, Desai once again confirmed her role in the city’s labor movement and her willingness to make bold moves on behalf of her membership. (AP Photos/Peter Morgan

Photo: janosnyc

7. She is founder and Executive Director of the New York Taxi Workers Association which today has a membership of over 18,000 that manages over 50,000 New York Taxi drivers.

8. In 2003, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund presented her with a ”Justice in Action” award.

NYTWA LOGO

Photo: http://www.nyu-apastudies.org/

9. In 2004 she was named the ”Top 5 Under 35” South Asians in the metropolitan area of New York.

10. Ford Foundation made her one of 17 people recognized in its 2005 Leadership for a Changing World awards, where she was among those cited for bringing ”not only concrete gains to their communities but a determination to stand for justice.”

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 01:  A gas-electric hybrid taxi cab drives on a street March 1, 2011 in New York City.  The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal in a case that ends New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's four-year fight to force the yellow-taxi industry in New York to fully replace its 13,000 vehicles with gas-electric hybrids.  (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 01: A gas-electric hybrid taxi cab drives on a street March 1, 2011 in New York City. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal in a case that ends New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s four-year fight to force the yellow-taxi industry in New York to fully replace its 13,000 vehicles with gas-electric hybrids. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Photo: nyoobserver

11. She has been invited to the White House twice. President Obama once greeted her in the receiving line at a state dinner by exclaiming, “I was an organizer, too!” as reported in the New Yorker.

Taxi-Driver-Wisdom

Photo: http://www.icla.com

12. She currently resides in Bronx, New York with her husband Victor Salazar, also a union activist.

About New York’s Taxi Cabs:

More than ninety per cent of New York cabbies are immigrants, and the most common place of origin is South Asia—Bangladesh, Pakistan, India—followed by Haiti, Egypt, and the former Soviet Union. The typical driver is a thirty-four-year-old man (less than one per cent of drivers are women), who works ten-to-twelve-hour shifts, six days a week, and earn between twenty-five and twenty-eight thousand dollars a year.

New Yorkers take more than four hundred and eighty-five thousand taxi trips per day.
A bestseller book, ‘Taxi Driver Wisdom’, a collection of New York taxi driver quotes authored and compiled by Risa Mickenger is available.

“Through taxi drivers, I have learned the true meanings of honesty and humor, forgiveness and fairness, the maturity to handle difficulties with grace, and, at all times, the importance of dignity”, she told Anu Sharma of NRI Today.

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: [email protected], or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).

About the author: Sharath Ahuja works at the Indian Institute of Science, plays badminton, billiards and snooker and is also an amateur photographer.

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