Muslim breaks barrier, becomes gang woman

Muslim breaks barrier, becomes gang woman

For those, who pass by this level crossing near the Malhaur railway station on the Lucknow-Varanasi section of the Northern Railway, about 30 km from Lucknow, the sight of a woman in “hijab” (veil) opening and closing the gate at the crossing may present an unusual sight.

But for 22-year-old Salma Beg it is her job and she finds nothing unusual about it. This Muslim woman, whom the passers by refer to as “gate woman”, is a graduate and has been performing her 12-hour daily duty with efficiency for the about three years. “I had never imagined that I would one day be working as a gate woman but I am quite satisfied,” says Salma, who wanted to continue her studies and excel in the academic field after graduation.

“I wanted to be a teacher as I love to teach,” she added. Circumstances, however, forced her to abandon studies and start working. Her father, who  was a gate man in the railways, had not been keeping good health and as a result was unable to perform his duty.

 “My father had become very weak and had a partial hearing loss. He was the only bread earner and without the job we would have been in great difficulty,” she added. Salma was appointed in his place.

“My mother also was not well and our financial condition was not good. I had no choice but to accept the job to look after my family,” Salma told Deccan Herald. It was not an easy choice though. “I had apprehensions on whether I will be able to do the job as it requires physical as well as mental strength. Besides, I had never seen any other woman doing such a work,” she said.

She was also not sure how her neighbours and relatives would react to it. After initial hesitation, Salma decided to join. “I could have applied for a different job but that would have taken more time and we were not in a position to wait for a long period,” she said.
“It is a challenging job. Working from 8 am to 8 pm one has to be always alert and attentive,” she said.

Salma also underwent a training in the railways before being deployed at the level crossing, which is on the busy Lucknow-Varanasi section and has considerable traffic. However, vehicular traffic was less as the crossing is away from the main highway connecting Lucknow with Faizabad and Gorakhpur. “Initially, I felt that I might not be able to do the job. But with the passage of time things became easy. The local people, who pass through the level crossing, too no longer give a surprise look on seeing me opening and closing the gate,” she remarked smilingly.

Salma’s parents are proud of their only daughter. They never felt the absence of a boy in the family. “For us Salma is more than a son. We do not know if a son would have taken care of us better than her,” Salma’s ailing father said.

However, the father would have preferred his daughter to have achieved what she had desired in life. The thought of her marriage also crosses his mind often. But he has left everything to the Almighty.

Salma, however, does not think much about them. She is tech-savvy and uses WhatsApp extensively to connect with her friends and acquaintances. Her carefree look clearly proves that she believes in living the life irrespective of the difficulties and problems. She does not think about marriage. “Let us see what is in store for me,” she remarks.

She wants to continue her studies but does not get time. “I do not get time for studies. I want to pursue higher studies,” she said. She will certainly resume her studies if she gets a chance in the future. Salma works during the day time only and the place  is close to the city as well.

On her future plan, Salma says that right now her priority is looking after her parents. “I want to take good care of them. I am quite satisfied as they are now happy,” she said. Railway officials say that Salma has been doing her job quite well and that there have not been any complaints. On whether she is the first woman “gate man” in the railways, they are not certain.  They, however, are  all praise for the courage she had shown in accepting the job, which was hitherto considered to be the domain of the men only.

Witness to the scores of trains carrying thousands of passengers to their destinations daily, Salma wonders if she too will reach her destination one day. But then destination is what she does not know about.


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