- Punjab’s first railway porter forced to work after losing her husband
- Maya, 40, says she must work to give her son an education
Carrying heavy luggage through rush-hour crowds for eight hours a day was never Maya Devi’s idea of a career. However, after the sudden and tragic death of her husband, she had no choice.
Maya, 40, lost her husband Ram Kumar, a licensed railway porter at Ludhiana railway station, in April this year. Her world has never been the same since then.
“Perhaps this is my destiny: having to start again from where my husband Ram Kumar left off,” she said stoically.
Maya, 40, is the only goalkeeper in her city.
Hard physical work like this is not what Maya had imagined for herself.
Porters must pass grueling physical tests before obtaining a license
Maya was married to Ram Kumar in Redau village in Sonepat district of Haryana 13 years ago, and since then they lived in a house that Ram Kumar owned near Jagraon bridge. The couple has a son, Guarav, 12 years old.
‘In March 2012, misfortune struck our family. My husband became ill and died in April.
‘The initial shock of my husband’s death shattered my world.
“But then I recovered and decided to continue with life, not for myself but for the sake of my son, for whom my husband had nurtured many dreams,” she said.
Maya wants her son to study hard and achieve great things. If doing hard physical work and long hours on the bustling platforms of Ludhiana means her son can build a future for himself, then all the suffering of the last six months will not have been in vain.
Maya appears here with one of her hundreds of clients at the station.
Some women apply for jobs on the station platform, but Maya is the only one who accepted a job in Ludhiana.
Maya is determined to continue working to give her son an education
“I have no idea what fate has in store for me, but if I can educate my son and make him stand firm, I will have the satisfaction of being a good mother and also of having fulfilled my husband’s wishes.” she said.
Although Maya only started working as a porter in November, any initial fear she may have had when approaching passengers getting off trains has now turned into a visible sense of confidence.
There is no doubt, however, that the sight of a woman carrying heavy luggage remains strange to regular passengers.
Being a baggage porter is not an easy job to get. A vigorous physical test is required to obtain an official license.
Divisional business manager MM Singh said there was no gender bias in hiring women as porters.
However, for some reason, women usually do not come forward to look for jobs.
‘During the aptitude tests held a couple of months ago at several major railway stations to recruit licensed porters, quite a few women appeared and some of them passed the aptitude test. But none of them showed up at the time of final recruitment,” she said.
Singh said there was no practice of giving jobs to family members out of compassion after the death of a porter.
Maya would have had to go through the same tests and recruiting procedures as everyone else.
“The railway officials should have done the same by hiring Maya instead of her husband,” Mr. Singh added.