Lone woman coolie mans Goa station

Dressed in a bright blue sari with a rag tied around her waist, 40-year-old Shashi Bomkar is busy with disinfectants and mops at the mens’ waiting room of Goa’s Karmali railway station at 11am. She can pass off for any other cleaning lady, if one is not around halfan-hour later to witness the transformation.

At 11.30am, a voice through the station speaker announces the arrival of the Konkan Kanya Express and Shashi switches roles. She unties the rag , wipes off the beads of sweat over her brows and puts on the red shirt of a porter’s uniform over her sari. She then pulls out a green trolley to carry her customers’ luggage and stands fiveft-tall to receive passengers.

The other porter at the station — where only a select trains stop everyday — is a male, Ankush Parvatkar. When the train arrives, Ankush is immediately approached by a passenger to carry his luggage to the exit. Passengers walk past Shashi’s calls to carry their luggage, most pulling their wheeled baggage smoothly through the sunny weather.

But nature will not allow Shashi to turn away disheartened on this particular day. A sudden bout of rain hits the station and a couple of passengers quickly throw their luggage into Shashi’s trolley. She runs to the safety of the station’s tinroof shelter with the bags.

“My husband was working at this station as a porter. He passed away eight years ago. It was sudden and I had two young children — a daughter and a son — to raise,” says Shashi. “I took it up as I did not want my children to give up school,” she says. She earns a fixed sum of Rs 4,000 for cleaning, but earning from the porter’s job remains fickle — about Rs 100 on a good day.


Published in: on September 29, 2012 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,