“No selfies while driving,” says one of the members of the crew, while briefing us on driving a Porsche on Mumbai’s pockmarked roads. All of us titter — the joke isn’t funny, stereotypical in fact — but we’re too excited and nervous about driving a sports car to care. “While it’s a beast in terms of what it can do, it’s still a very easy-to-drive, everyday car,” says Rayomand Banajee, our guide for the morning and a race-car driver himself.  Anil Reddi, director of Porsche India, is present too. “It’s a privilege to be a part of International Women’s Day”, he says. “Porsche India is headquartered here in Mumbai, and what we wanted to do was bring together some lovely individuals — we like to call them Women With Drive — for a special event. Each Porsche is a sports car and behind each one, I’d like to believe, is a spokesperson and more importantly, a wonderful lady driving that purchase.”

The Porsche showroom, in Prabhadevi, Mumbai, is an open, white-bathed space. It’s as spotless as a museum, with its residents treated with as much reverence as a precious Matisse. For a true luxury car brand, the showroom really does set a benchmark, with every last detail carefully thought through. There’s a great merchandise section, a comprehensive customisation area where you can digitally kit out your Porsche with every imaginable optional extra — and even a kid’s playpen, to keep your little tyke busy while you decide on your next Porsche. Each car in the showroom is buffed and burnished till it gleams, all lithe and svelte — it’s hard to make a choice from among such an enticing group.

Basking in the comfort of the showroom are 11 lucky women, invited to celebrate International Women’s Day by driving a variety of Porsches. That’s not all. For every kilometre driven by each of these ladies, Porsche will donate Rs 1,000 to Unique Home, a charity in Jalandhar working for the upliftment of the girl child. As one of the attendees, entrepreneur Rupa Pandit says, “This is how Women’s Day should be. Give us some power — none of this treating us delicately. We should be doing something that would be a thrilling and fantastic experience for everyone — and it’s for a good cause as well.” A Porsche is thrilling, all right — and lots more.

Our route has been meticulously planned, and our map takes into account every pothole, speed breaker and area that’s a traffic magnet. We will leave from Prabhadevi towards the famous Bandra-Worli Sea Link, then head to the Eastern Freeway, down to the Fort area, to Haji Ali and then drive back to the fabulous showroom. Some of the women, more confident than others, are already talking about overtaking and driving fast. “This entire exercise will last 20 minutes at the speeds that you’re talking,” says Banajee. As we get ready to head out, Anil Reddi says “Get all these lovely girls back safely.” “I hope you’re talking about the cars,” quips Banajee.

Lined up for us are a Cayman S, 911 Carrera S, 911 Carrera 4S, 911 Targa 4S, Boxster S and Cayman GTS; we will switch drivers halfway. Each car is also given a walkie-talkie and a number. Banajee insists several times that we don’t overtake and drive serially. He is in the lead car, making way for us like an ice-breaking ship. As soon as we get in our car, Pandit says, “What a great way to spend a Sunday.” A few minutes later, as the cars at the back start overtaking, car no 6 becomes car no 3, and that’s how it goes for the rest of the journey — you can’t take a rulebook along in a Porsche, can you?

The driving experience is flawless, with each of the women revelling in the capabilities of the cars. Some rave about how good they look, others are excited by their sheer speed and sporty nature, yet more sink into the plush interiors and don’t want to leave, but they all agree on one thing — a Porsche is about effortless performance and top-notch luxury, all in a package that can be used every day (Banajee was right, after all).

_MMB6327Throughout the drive, people do double takes and phones flash at every point. “I love that other people are staring, and they’re all like, ‘Wait, these are all women,” says Pandit. Over the nearly two-hour drive, our walkie-talkies never quite shut up. From stopping for bathroom breaks to wondering if we can have lunch at the well-known Mahesh Lunch Home or take in a movie at Regal Cinema, all of us use our walkie-talkies like a group chat on WhatsApp. Finally, Banajee has to say, “Can the ladies please stop using the walkie-talkies?”

Banajee expertly takes the Porsche sports cars along the route, taking in some of the best sights in Mumbai. In the end, he says, “I never expected that managing 11 ladies would be so easy.” As our drive winds down, we’re told that champagne is waiting for us back at the Porsche showroom. Pandit says to Banajee, “I think you deserve it more than anyone else.” It’s been a wonderful experience, made all the more worthwhile by the knowledge that we managed to drive enough to enable a Rs 3.5 lakh donation to a noble cause. We’re blocking our calendars for next year’s drive already!


Sunaina Rekhi
Yoga instructor at Mumbai’s Yoga House

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Rekhi’s tryst with yoga started in 2005, in London, with a quest to touch her toes, moving on to balancing on one foot and finally the infamous Chaturanga (four-limbed staff) pose. “What started as a healthy addiction to yoga and pilates culminated in a teacher’s training course in Rishikesh. The latter gave me a much deeper understanding of who I was and why I practised yoga.” She currently trains at Yoga House and Yoga 101 (Versova) and at the Otters Club (Bandra), in addition to having various corporate clients such as Google. Rekhi finds driving peaceful and thoroughly enjoys it. “There is something quite zen about it, once you are able to block out the cacophony of sounds that surround us on our roads
these days.”


Radhika Mukherji
Radical Conceptz

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Mukherji had a passion for flying, so she earned a private pilot license three years ago. “It’s a different kind of high. Hearing the roar of the engines makes my heart skip a beat all the time,” she says. Married to singer Shaan, Mukherji currently runs Radical Conceptz, which conceptualises and produces concerts, the latest one being Live Love Laugh Shaan Se, which was sold out in three days. In between, she and her partner ZeenatJaffer started The Big Red Bus, a kid’s furniture store. “Long drives at night once a week are mine and Shaan’s way of spending quality time together.”


Komal Solomon
Partner at the law firm Solomon& co.

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Solomon believes in making a deal, not breaking it. “That’s what a good lawyer is all about. When two parties finally seal a deal post heavy negotiations, that gives me a high,” she says. Currently, she heads the secretarial compliance and the entertainment law practices of Solomon & Co, which she joined in 2009. She has over 18 years of experience in corporate and regulatory compliance, regulatory communications and India entry strategies. “My schedule revolves around my kids. I try to spend as much time as possible with them and drive them to our farm most weekends.”


Akhila Das Blah
Educational Consultant

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Interacting with children is the best part about Blah’s job. “The creativity involved in designing a curriculum, or training a teacher in meeting the unique needs of individual children gives me huge satisfaction.” Apart from working with NGOs such as Angel Express and the preschool Kangaroo Kids, she has completed a project for L&T, where she undertook a training program for its employees as part of their CSR initiative. She enjoys driving and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway is her favourite road. “In the city, the mornings are my favourite time, when I drop my kids to school and there’s no traffic.”


Zeenat Jaffer
Architect

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Jaffer realised early in life that a woman needs to be in complete command professionally. “Only a no-nonsense attitude can earn you the respect that comes so easily to men,” she says. An alumnus of Mumbai’s Sir JJ College of Architecture, she now runs an eponymous architectural firm. Before this, there was Big Red Bus, which she founded and ran with Radhika Mukherjee for four years. Driving cleans out her mind’s clutter, and road trips with family are her idea of bonding.


Tehzeeb Doctor
Creative consultant with Ripple Media

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Quiz the young mother on her most challenging assignment and Doctor’s reply will lighten up your face. “So many hours of my working day are spent with a baby koala hanging on to one of my arms. Learning how to type with a sleeping baby on my lap was possibly one of the harder challenges I faced while getting a job done,” she says. Her job requires her to work with clients on their print media campaigns and to conceptualise and execute social media strategies. Doctor’s previous roles include being managing editor at Seventeen magazine and consulting editor at L’Officielmagazine. For Doctor, getting behind the steering wheel is her definition of me-time.


Mahua Roy Chowdhury
Lawyer at Solomon & Roy Intellectual Property Services

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Chowdhury’s sabbatical after the birth of her daughter presented an opportunity to start her own firm, eight years ago. “It helped me to be on my own,” she says. In a short frame of time, Solomon & Roy Intellectual Property Services, the specialised IP boutique firm of Solomon & Co, has 60 lawyers and 100 staff across four offices in Mumbai under its wing. Not only that, Chowdhury’s calendar is blocked for the next two years. With an LLM in intellectual property law from Pierce Law, USA, she has headed the IP practice group of a well-known Mumbai-based corporate firm. Neither one can overlook her extensive experience in criminal and civil litigation which includes coordinating 400 criminal IP enforcement actions for HP throughout India. “I saved a company of 5,000 employees from shutting down,” she talks about her latest accomplishment. Road trips are her stress busters and she squeezes one in almost all her tours. Her last trip was completely impromptu, covering Ahmedabad, Mt Abu, Udaipur and Surat, during Christmas. She recalls, “It lasted five days and we were back in Mumbai just in time for 31st.”


Suchna Hegde
Entrepreneur, Owner of the Villa Escape

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The Villa Escape is known for curating experiential holidays, such as single-malt trails in Scotland and sailing in Croatia. Hegde’s most challenging assignment was planning a trip for 165 high-profile entrepreneurs to Lapland, in Finland, to see the Northern Lights. “Here, apart from the Northern Lights chase, we swam in sub-zero waters and went snowmobiling over frozen rivers in the middle of the night.” She loves to take road trips. “For me, driving is a liberating experience.”


Rupa Pandit
Co-founder and Managing director of Nereus Capital

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Pandit believes that building access to renewable energy is necessary for India’s growth story, and her company is striving to achieve that. Nereus Capital is a private equity fund, focussed on Indian renewable energy, including wind power, hydropower and solar power. “We started around five years ago, after seeing how many people in India survive with little or no power, and how many renewable resources India can offer,” she says. With over ten years of experience in alternative asset management, she has been investing in Indian companies since 2005. For someone who has been driving since 16, she enjoys both solo and family road trips. “Driving on your own allows you to be introspective, while driving with family or friends can be fun.”


Archana Dabhoiwala
Interior Designer, now a full-time Homemaker

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“I am proud to be a full-time mother,” says Dabhoiwala. An interior designer by profession, she used to run a pottery studio called Earth to Fire in Mumbai with a friend from 2006 to 2008, a place where one can paint their own pottery. Things took a turn when her younger son was diagnosed with autism. But, she took it in her stride and helped him with his therapy, academics, diet-planning and social interaction with the outside world. Today he is ten, and his condition has improved a lot. “Thanks to him I have almost become a therapist,” she says. Driving is indeed an immense joy to her as her son is the happiest when he is in the car. “Though he prefers a taxi more than a car,” she laughs. “But, I enjoy taking my Scooty with my son. It’s fun when I get to overtake cars from the side and beat the traffic.”


Sapna Malhotra
Fashion and Costume designer, Owner of Pink Butterfly

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A costume designer at Cinevista production house, Malhotra designs outfits for all their shows, besides running her own store, Pink Butterfly, in Khar, since 2004. “That was the same year I launched my eponymous label, which specialises in pret Indo-western wear,” she says. Malhotra also does private shows in Dubai, Hyderabad and Chennai.