Sunday, 10 January 2016

Manju Devi - Coolie No. 15

Strong women don't play victim, don't make themselves look pitiful and don't point fingers. 
They stand and they deal.

While this quote from blogger turned New York Times best-selling author and speaker Mandy Hale inspires and motivates thousands of women across the world, Manju Devi from Jaipur has gone ahead and given her flesh and blood to Hale's words. In our society where patriarchy is deep-rooted and a woman venturing to work in male dominated sectors is considered a blot on the family's name, Manju Devi is defying the odds working as a porter. Yes, you read that right. Manju Devi is a porter at the Jaipur railway station, she's the only female porter at this station, and the first female porter of the entire North Western Railway Region.

Porter Manju Devi | Photo: Point Blank 7

A rural home-maker, Manju was left to fend for herself and her three little children when her husband Mahadev, a porter at Jaipur railway station died of liver failure. Illiterate and a widow at just 33 years of age, she had no one to fall back on, to help her cope with the seemingly hard and harsh life that lay ahead of her. Her in-laws were poor and going back to her parents too was out question, for there too her many siblings were trying to make ends meet though odd jobs.

It was under these circumstances that she decided to approach the porter union to help her claim her husband's job. With the help of the union and the railway authorities, Manju finally got her porter's license in March 2013. Armed with her porter badge no. 15, she joined the porter service at the Jaipur railways station, setting a huge example of courage and determination in the face of adversity.

We've all travelled by train and we know that life of a travel porter is not easy. Besides physical strength, one needs a lot of stamina to run around the platforms all day long. Quite naturally settling now in her new job was not easy for Manju. She would often break down and spend more hours crying instead of working. She had left all her kids back home with her mother, so their absence too added to her sorrows. But she knew that crying would not help her in any way and so gradually started immersing herself more in her work. With the help of some supportive porters at the station, she learnt the basics of her job, understanding the techniques of carrying heavy luggage on her head and shoulders. Today, she proudly says that she is happy with the work she does and is able to take care of her family with her earnings.

While many women in Manju's place would have given up and cursed their fate in the face of such misfortune, Manju's will of steel led her towards a braver path. She did not just break into the male bastion, but is also going stronger and steadier by the day.

People like Manju Devi deserve admiration and accolades. It's heartening to see organisations like Youth Ki Awaaz taking the initiative to recognize people like her - ordinary people, who possess extraordinary will power to tackle the toughest challenges that life throws at them. May the force always be with her.This post is a part of Youth ki Awaaz's #SpreadTheVibe campaign in association with Indiblogger.