Wearing a hijab, 22-year-old Mirza Salma Beg, a graduate in humanities is the only woman manning a level crossing in India and the ‘gateman’ that India has.
The Chief Public Information Officer of Northern Railways told HuffPost India that they have no record any other woman except salma is working as a ‘gateman’ in India as of now.
Gateman’s job is a challenging job involving shutting down of vehicular traffic on road which intersects tracks of Indians rails. Because of vigorous work and some time as it requires unusual working hours it is generally considered as a job for males only. But, Mirza Salma Beg took this challenge in January, 2013 to meet both ends of her family.
Salma hails from Luckhnow capital city of UP. Currently she is posted at Malhaur station level crossing of Indian railway.
Though she took the job because of odd family situations yet now she feels pride in becoming the first and only woman gateman of India.
When opportunity knocked at her doors, her mother was paralysed and her father was unable to take up the work of a gateman anymore as he was partially deaf. She decided to take the responsibility on her shoulders and courageously took up the job to feed her family.
When Salma was about to take up the job, she remembers most of her acquaintances shrieking with shock, and saying “Yeh koi ladkiyon ka kaam hai (Is this a woman’s job)?”.
“In fact, everyone I met, except my parents were convinced that we were making a mistake. “Yeh ladki kaise kar payegi ye kaam (How will a girl do this job)?” they would gasp in surprise.
The first few days weren’t easy. On the first day, I went, my father came along to calm my nerves. “Yeh ladki kya kar legi (What can this girl do anyway)? That’s what a lot of the men discussed.
Everyone from the instructor to the students found the idea ridiculous. “They had never pictured a woman in a hijab manning any gate even in their imagination,” Salma adds with a laugh.
But then that was two years back. “Faltu mein bhej diya hai is ladki ko (This girl will be of no use at work)… some of my colleagues and acquaintances used to say, both to me and my behind. I hope they have realised their mistake now.
Anyway, people who have to crib will crib anyway isn’t it?” she laughs, adding 12 hours at work doesn’t leave her with much time to consider pursuing any other interest.
“Officials at the Indian Railways told Huffington Post that Beg has never demanded special facilities for being a woman and has worked at par with his male counterparts across India.