Life was perfect for 33-year-old Manju Devi even a year ago — a husband, school-going children and a house of her own.
But destiny had something else in store. Following the sudden death of her husband Mahadev Yadav, Manju was left with no choice but to go out to work.
Today, she is the first woman porter in Rajasthan.
It is not easy. Every step she takes at the Jaipur railway station attracts eyeballs. The weight of disapproval is the heavier load to tote.
But why did she become a porter?
“I would do anything to feed and educate my children,” Manju said simply. Anita, 13, Aarti, 12, and Rahul, 10,study at a private school. “I want them to be educated, not illiterate like me,” she said.
“Back in my village, the land was barren,” Manju explained. “I did not even get work under MNREGS. I had no option but to continue my husband’s profession.”
Getting a license was not easy either. But her brother-in-law helped her and so did her husband’s friends. “She was adamant. ‘How can I let my children starve,’ she asked us,” said Shiv Dayal, a porter at station.
“We hope the government does something for her.” Manju has a more modest wish: “I hope another woman joins as a porter, so I have someone to talk to here.”