Woman storms another male bastion, becomes porter

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Bellevision Media Network

Lucknow, 09 August 2010: When megastar Amitabh Bachchan sang ‘saari duniya ka bojh hum uthaten hain’ (we carry the load of the entire world), the much popular song in his mega-hit Bollywood blockbluster ‘Coolie’, he must not have imagined that a woman could also carry the load of the world on her head.


One cannot help remembering the song, when one sees 35-year old Mudra Devi, clad in red salwar-kurta, with loads of baggage on her head and shoulders at the Agra Cantonment railway station in Uttar Pradesh. Sporting ‘Badge number 21’ on her right forearm, Mudra Devi, a mother of three, cheerfully carries the load and could be seen competing with her male counterparts both in speed and agility.


Mudra, who joined the ‘predominantly male-dominated profession’ in June last, has become a familiar figure for the passengers frequenting Agra Cantonment station, which is an important junction on the Delhi-Mumbai route and is  always teeming with people. Mudra’s day starts early. “I have to be here (at the station) quite early as many long distance trains arrive in the early hours”, she said.


She works in two shifts-both day and night like her other male colleagues. “It allows me an opportunity to earn more”, she added. On whether she ever faced any problem while working at nights, Mudra replies in the negative. “My male colleagues are always ready to extend all possible help”, she said. Of course, Mudra did not choose the profession of coolie, which is considered to be a male domain, out of choice. It was ‘more out of compulsion’, she points out. “I came into this profession for the sake of my family”, she adds.


Mudra’s husband Khedram works in a shoe factory in Agra. The family was finding it very difficult to make two ends meet with his meagre income, she said. “We faced a lot of problems in properly feeding our two sons and a daughter”, she said. To lend helping hand to her husband and supplement the family income, Mudra worked with the district forest department as a contract employee. “The salary was too less”, she remarked.


Just when she was thinking of switching  jobs, she came across an advertisement for recruitment of the coolies and Mudra applied  without hesitation. Mudra, an eighth class pass, was able to secure the job of the coolie quite easily. “No one expressed any doubt about my ability to perform to the job of a coolie”, she said.


“My husband even encouraged me to take up the job”, she added. Initially Mudra was a little bit apprehensive. “I wondered if I would be able to do the work.... carry the baggage to the satisfaction of the passengers and how will the male coolies react”, she said. She, however, overcame her early hesitation with sheer determination and hard work. “The work of a coolie demands hard labour and honesty”, Mudra went on to add.


Fortunately, the male collies are protective towards Mudra. “They treat me as their sister and daughter”, she said. On whether the passengers prefer  male coolies simply because they could carry more luggage, especially the heavy loads, she said she never encountered any such problems.


“In fact I feel that the difference between the load carried by men and the women is not much”, she said adding that she approached a passenger only after making sure that she could carry the load. Although Mudra Devi has also to look after her home and cook food for the children, she gets full cooperation from her husband and the children. “Every member lends helping hand to me”, she said.


She is now happy because she is able to earn sufficient to take care of the needs of her family. “It’s a job where one can earn sufficient provided you are ready to work hard..... I have been working in the night shift only to augment my income”, she points out. Mudra has no immediate plans to switch the job. “I am quite satisfied with my work and want to continue as a coolie in the near future”, a smiling Mudra said.



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