Strong women don’t play victim, don’t make themselves look pitiful and don’t point fingers. They stand and they deal.
While this quote from blogger turned New York Times best-selling author and speaker Mandy Hale inspires and motivates thousands of women across the world, Manju Devi from Jaipur has gone ahead and given her flesh and blood to Hale’s words. In our society where patriarchy is deep-rooted and a woman venturing to work in male dominated sectors is considered a blot on the family’s name, Manju Devi is defying the odds working as a porter. Yes, you read that right. Manju Devi is a porter at the Jaipur railway station, she’s the only female porter at this station, and the first female porter of the entire North Western Railway Region.
A rural home-maker, Manju was left to fend for herself and her three little children when her husband Mahadev, a porter at Jaipur railway station died of liver failure. Illiterate and a widow at just 33 years of age, she had no one to fall back on, to help her cope with the seemingly hard and harsh life that lay ahead of her. Her in-laws were poor and going back to her parents too was out question, for there too her many siblings were trying to make ends meet though odd jobs.
It was under these circumstances that she decided to approach the porter union to help her claim her husband’s job. With the help of the union and the railway authorities, Manju finally got her porter’s license in March 2013. Armed with her porter badge no. 15, she joined the porter service at the Jaipur railways station, setting a huge example of courage and determination in the face of adversity.
We’ve all travelled by train and we know that life of a travel porter is not easy. Besides physical strength, one needs a lot of stamina to run around the platforms all day long. Quite naturally settling now in her new job was not easy for Manju. She would often break down and spend more hours crying instead of working. She had left all her kids back home with her mother, so their absence too added to her sorrows. But she knew that crying would not help her in any way and so gradually started immersing herself more in her work. With the help of some supportive porters at the station, she learnt the basics of her job, understanding the techniques of carrying heavy luggage on her head and shoulders. Today, she proudly says that she is happy with the work she does and is able to take care of her family with her earnings.
While many women in Manju’s place would have given up and cursed their fate in the face of such misfortune, Manju’s will of steel led her towards a braver path. She did not just break into the male bastion, but is also going stronger and steadier by the day.
People like Manju Devi deserve admiration and accolades and JSW Steel has taken the initiative of recognizing people like her – ordinary people, who possess extraordinary will of steel. To achieve this JSW has compiled together a list of strong individuals whose willpower has changed the world and going by the public votes will felicitate the individuals who have showed immense resilience in the face of adversity. Manju Devi is one of the nominees there and for showing immense courage and will of steel during traumatic times, my vote goes to her. May the forces always be with her.
You too can log on to the Will of Steel website and vote for the nominees who inspire you the most. There are stories of grit and determination, of undying passion towards different causes, stories of bravery, of triumph of human spirit – read the stories, get inspired and express your respect and admiration through your votes.
#WillofSteel is an endeavor by JSW to honor the unsung Indian heroes, people who have truly proven their mettle and have unbreakable determination. Be in sports, healthcare, social service or even saving the environment. These are individuals whose willpower has changed the world.