“Once an uncle called me to his house to thank me for the disabled-friendly cab services that he had taken for his daughter who turned out to be my former classmate. She broke down while describing how our cabs had made her feel important. We cried together that evening,” says Sartaj Lamba, founder of Buddy Cabs and Besure Care.
Based in Chandigarh, Sartaj provides caregiving and assisted travel, a service widely popular in the West.
Sartaj had everything from money, contacts to best healthcare facilities and yet she faced problems in terms of assisted travel and caregiving for her father-in-law who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015.
Between 2016 and 2018, he was completely bedridden but required frequent visits to the hospital as he had amnesia too. He passed away in 2018, leaving a huge void in the family.
But this loss inspired Sartaj to make mobility and caregiving more inclusive for the elderly and disabled.
Thus was born Buddy Cabs and Besure Care.
“Being an army wife, we had support staff and yet we faced difficulties in providing efficient care for my father-in-law. The experience opened my eyes. Visiting the hospital is only one part of caregiving, we needed an end-to-end service. We have 13 crore senior citizens and many of them can be categorised into the disabled section due to locomotive limitations. They have to depend on their family for travelling in lieu of insufficient infrastructure options. I have built a model that not only provides transport but also services that an individual may need before and after travelling,” says Sartaj, who has played an active role in the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA).
The rental car system has a presence in several cities, including Delhi, Mohali, Ambala, Chandigarh, Faridabad, Gurugram and Noida.
How it Works
There are close to 70 vehicles in the organisation of which 20 of them are modified and tailored according to the needs of the elderly and disabled. The wheelchair-enabled vehicles have rotating seats, oxygen cylinders, first aid and more.
Sartaj hired ex-servicemen as both drivers and caretakers. They were provided training in caregiving.Users can also avail both the services in one of their options.
“Most of our users are patients who need to visit the hospital almost daily for chemotherapy or dialysis sessions. They can book the cab and if they want, the driver can stay around to help them with household errands or daily chores. The elderly don’t have to be at the mercy of others,” says Sartaj.
Users can also book cabs for long inter-city or inter-state services. This service is especially designed for the disabled who find it hard to travel in trains, buses or flights.
One of the most fruitful collaborations that came out of Buddy Cabs was with hospitals like Fortis. The cabs are now parked in the hospital premises for the elderly and disabled. They can also book doctor appointments and schedule services of caretakers through the cabs. This eliminates the need of waiting endlessly to meet the doctor.
Surinder Matharoo from Chandigarh, who underwent a knee operation, availed Buddy Cabs two months ago. She says, “I took their service post the operation. They sent a caretaker home for all my needs — right from waking me up on time, taking my meds to giving massages. It is not easy to find a caretaker who is attentive, gentle and good at what they do but Sartaj’s organisation was commendable.”
In another instance, a doctor from Patiala booked the cab for his son who was paralysed from below the neck. He had searched a lot of places and found us through someone,”
Meanwhile, Kawaljit is grateful for Sartaj’s contribution during the pandemic. She had converted her cabs into an emergency service for ferrying patients and had also started a small 25-bed COVID-19 centre along with the municipal administration.
“Our domestic help had contracted the coronavirus so we contacted Mrs Lamba. She immediately sent her vehicle and took our help to the centre and looked after all her needs. She is a wonderful and selfless being,” says Kawaljit.
Such heartwarming feedback motivates Sartaj to initiate new initiatives and make her services more effective.
Given the demand and responses, Sartaj hopes to scale up this operation pan India. She wants to hire women cab drivers and open this service for pregnant women and new mothers, too.
In the last two years, Sartaj’s organisation has catered to around 2,000 customers, most of whom have taken the service more than once.
An initiative that was born from a personal loss is now making a difference for the senior citizens and disabled communities, which are otherwise overlooked.
All images are sourced from Sartaj Lamba
You can reach Buddy Cabs here
Edited by Yoshita Rao