Western Railway gets its first motorwoman

MUMBAI: Priti Kumari is excited these days. The 33-year-old from Bihar is slated to become the first motorwoman on Western Railway in a few months;
she will also be the first woman in the history of Indian Railways to be given direct entry to the post, making her slightly different from Asia’s first motorwoman-Surekha Yadav of Central Railway-who had to work her way up from the post of assistant loco pilot.

Kumari is, nevertheless, awed by what Yadav has done. The mother of six-year-old Aditi Arya says she would “definitely” like to meet Yadav. “I had read about Yadav but didn’t know I would be the first at WR,” she said, her eyes lighting up. “I want to meet Yadav, it is my wish. But I am happy that the name of a post in WR is going to change because of me,” Kumari added.

Kumari married when she was in the final year of college and had no work experience. She had a diploma in electronics engineering but, as she waited for results, she became pregnant and family took priority. But what helped was her family background; her mother was a social worker in an educational mission and her father worked at a private college. They drilled into her the importance of education and working.

Sitting at the Mahalaxmi EMU car shed in a bright pink and blue salwar kameez-sindoor in the parting of her hair, bindi in place and armed with shiny bangles-Kumari looked like any other Indian housewife. But that was till she started speaking about her future.

Kumari is now undergoing a year’s training with 46 male colleagues and will be ready for her first suburban train by next August. The training is divided between theory and practical sessions.

“I have always wanted to work but was looking for a hatke (different) job. There is no praise when the jobs are not different. I saw the advertisement in Employment News and gave it a shot. I applied for two posts in the railways (for a junior engineer’s post in Allahabad and the one here). My in-laws, too, pushed me to work as I had studied so much,” she said.

Her husband, Devkant Darbey, is a sergeant in the Indian Air Force and is now posted in Nashik. Her daughter is back home in her mother’s care.

Kumari is living with her relatives in Dahisar. “I miss my daughter but I know right now I won’t be able to look after her well as I don’t know much about the city and am still settling down. Besides, her studies will suffer,” she said.

For the last one month, Mumbai has been all about work-learning all about signalling, trouble-shooting, traction motors and electricals-and not much sight-seeing. Weekends see her in Nashik or her husband comes down here. But in the coming days, she intends to make some trips to Mahalaxmi and Siddhivinayak temples and the Elephanta Caves.

But WR’s first motorwoman still does not have a cellphone. “That can wait. I can make do with the PCO for now,” she said.

Two other women have been selected by WR for the same post. They are expected to join training soon.


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