Meet Manju Devi, porter number 15, who overcame all odds to stand tall and become one of the 112 women achievers of the nation.
Manju Devi stands tall in her fraternity, being the first woman porter of the North-West Railways, in a profession that is considered a male bastion.
She has been the sole breadwinner for her three teenage children. She lost her husband 10 years ago.
After overcoming family disputes and psychological hurdles and encouraged by her mother Mohini, Devi acquired her deceased husband Mahadev’s porter licence no. 15 and took to the demanding task of hauling luggage of passengers at the Jaipur Railway Station.
Authorities initially told her there were no women porters and hence it would be difficult for her. But she persisted and eventually given the badge number, she said.
It took her a while to get a grasp of the realities of her job and the challenge included designing her own uniform. Now, clad in a red kurta and black salwar, she sets out every day to work in multiple shifts, to make ends meet for her family.
Devi was among 112 women who were felicitated by the ministry of women and child development, besides former beauty queens -- Aishwarya Rai and Nicole Faria -- mountaineer Bachendri Pal, Anshu Jamsenpa, missile woman Tessy Thomas and private detective Rajani Pandit.
She was among a gathering of 90 women achievers from different backgrounds at Rashtrapati Bhavan on January 20, this year and President Ram Nath Kovind had said that he got “emotional” on hearing her story.
“I weighed 30 kg and the passengers’ luggage was also 30 kg, but it was nowhere to the burden of feeding three children,” Devi narrates in jest.