How 1st woman porter at Jaipur railway station stormed the male bastion to feed her kids
Jaipur, May 29: While public and private sectors are still debating over "breaking the glass ceiling" by honouring efficient women with top jobs, a woman porter (coolie) in the busy Jaipur railway station in Rajasthan challenged patriarchy and social barriers to feed and educate her three teenage children.
Manju Devi is no ordinary woman. She is the first woman porter of the North-West Railways. Her story of grit, determination and hard work to join a profession which is largely male-dominated is something every woman can take inspiration from.
Tragedy struck Manju almost 10 years ago when her husband, a coolie in the same railway station where she is working now, died. Along with losing her beloved husband, Manju was left with the responsibility of raising her three children.
Initially, it was very difficult as Manju faced staunch opposition from her immediate family members. It is her mother Mohini Devi who encouraged her to take up her husband's profession and join the male force to ferry heavy luggage from one point to another at the railway station.
Dressed in a red kurta and white salwar, every day Manju carries bags and boxes of passengers at the station and earn her livelihood. It is the badge no. 15, which belonged to her husband, is the most priced-possession her husband has left behind for her. Every porter authorised by the railways wears a steel, golden badge in their arms.
When she first approached the authorities asking for her husband's badge, they told her she won't be able to do the job as it needs a lot of stamina. Moreover, there was no woman porter at the station. However, in front of her determination and an immediate need for a job made them reconsider their perceived notion and allowed her to work in the railway station.
Today, she is managing to take care of her family despite all the odds. Her story came to the limelight when recently the ministry of women and child development decided to felicitate her along with 112 women achievers. Others who were honoured by the ministry included former beauty queens--Aishwarya Rai and Nicole Faria-- mountaineer Bachendri Pal, Anshu Jamsenpa, missile woman Tessy Thomas and private detective Rajani Pandit.
When asked how she manages to carry heavy luggage, she was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times, "I weighed 30 kg and the passengers' luggage was also 30 kg but it was nowhere to the burden of feeding three children."