Meet Manju Devi, the first woman porter of the North Western Zone of Indian Railway
She is 34 and a widow and has three kids to look after. Every day she waits for customers near the entrance of Jaipur Railway Station and sprints towards the loaded cars when she sees those stopping near the railway station gate. Most of the times travellers find her frail for the job, since porting luggage has always been considered as work of man. But the undaunted Manju Devi visits each traveller to get a job, with her porter badge no 15, that sits on her right arms.
Change is always uncomfortable. So, for this lady too it was very difficult and stressful. Life played its cruel game when she was just 33 years old. She lost her husband to chronic liver failure. Married off early in her childhood, Manju was a rural house maker.
After her husband’s demise, illiterate Manju needed a job to meet their daily requirements. Her deceased husband Mahadev worked as a coolie at Jaipur Railway Station. So, she approached the porter union to get a job for herself in the Railways. Then the porter union applied on her behalf to the railway authorities and sought for a transfer of her husband’s porter license.
On March 15, 2013, Manju Devi got her porter badge and became the first women porter of the entire North Western Railway Region. She donned the woman’s porter uniform which she needed to design by herself, since there was no uniform made for woman, considering she is the first ever woman porter in the state. The uniform comprises a maroon shirt and a loose salwar and a stole to cover her head.
Manju reveals in many interviews that initially she hesitated to work with male colleagues though they all are very supportive. She even said that she cried more and worked less. She spent sleepless nights questioning her decision and abilities. Once her mother came to spend some time with her and then counselled Manju a lot and asked her to get over her inhibitions. From then on situation started to change, as Manju said that she tried to accept the reality of the job and decided to give the profession a serious go. And now under the guidance of the president of the porter union she gained enough confidence to work by her own.
Manju works in three shifts during winters- from morning 5 to 8, then from noon to 3 in the afternoon and again from 5 to 8 in the evening. And in the summer she works in morning and evening shifts. Manju resides near the station with her three school going kids.
Manju thinks other women too should come forward for this porter job because she believes stamina resides only in determination.
Image Credit: Railpage