Bhopal: At the Bhopal Junction Railway Station here, a 30-year-old woman stands out as she makes her way amidst the hustle of commuters. Donning the uniform of a railway porter, the woman Lakshmi carries the badge of Coolie number 13, which belonged to her husband who passed away earlier in July this year.
Lakshmi hurries through the platform approaching passengers alighting from the train offering them assistance in carrying their luggage The mother of an eight-year-old, Lakshmi says she decided to take over her husband's job as she wanted to fight her difficult circumstances and provide a good life to her son.
"I do not have any other source of livelihood and I need to work for my son. With his job, I manage to earn Rs 50 to Rs 100 in a day," she says. Lakshmi, along with her son, is currently living with her parents as even her in-laws have passed away. The job of a coolie is a physically demanding but Lakshmi says she has no other option as she could not get an education.
"Yes, it is difficult but I have no other choice. I must do something for my son so that he completes his education and make something out of his life," says the first woman coolie of Bhopal Junction.
"I want a permanent job as this job doesn't pay well and there are also days when you do not earn anything," she adds. Lakshmi also credits her fellow coolies who help her get work and lift the heavy luggage of passengers.
Mahesh Prajapati, a fellow coolie says, "Sometimes, passengers tell her that the luggage is too heavy for her. Then we explain her circumstances to the passengers and then they allow her to help. Sometimes, if the luggage is too heavy for us, we often ask her to assist and then we pay her share accordingly." "We are asking the government to give her a Group-D job. We have also written a letter to our representatives," says Prajapati.
Many passengers at the station are also pleasantly surprised by seeing a woman coolie at the station who is breaking stereotypes. "Society will think what they want but she wants to become independent and work for her son. So, we should support her. She is an example for those who want to make it on their own," says a fellow porter.
Meanwhile, Lakshmi continues her daily job bustling through the station looking for people who need her assistance.