(This story was first published on 7 March, 2019. It has been republished from The Quint's archives to mark International Women's Day.)
Priti Kumari is Mumbai’s Western Railways only motorwoman and the only woman in Asia to make it in the first attempt. Though Priti wanted to do something different in life, she didn’t always plan to be a motorwoman. Since childhood her mother used to encourage her and her siblings to study and take up a job.
Priti was the first woman to leave her village to study. She says her parents never differentiated between their daughters and sons.
Priti Kumari got married in 2000. Her husband was in the Indian Air Force and soon after her marriage, she had a daughter. They were posted in Jodhpur and the entire responsibility of household chores came on Priti. Her dream of making a career got sidelined for a few years.
2006 - The Year That Changed Everything
Priti’s husband suffered from a tumour in his right leg, that’s when things went downhill for her family. He was mostly admitted in the hospital and had to eventually give up his job with the Indian Air Force. From 2006 to 2010, their entire life changed.
Priti soon realised that she would have to step in to give her family the much needed financial support. In 2007, she passed the Western Railways exam, finished her training and was all set to join and start a new life in Mumbai.
But joining a job in an unknown city wasn’t easy. With an ailing husband and a six-year-old girl to take care of, Priti was in a fix.
This is when Priti’s mother stepped in to help her. Her mother took her six-year-old, Aditi, with her to the village. Priti was assured that she would take better care of her daughter than she ever could.
2010 - The Year of a Massive Surgery
In 2010, after none of the treatments worked on her husband, he had a massive surgery. The operation went on for over 16 hours, Priti recalls. She says those hours seemed longer than a lifetime. Post the surgery, her husband started living with her in Mumbai. In 2011, she got her daughter to the city as well.
But till date, her husband is not in the best of health. He went through another surgery in 2013.
Family’s Support and People’s Affection Motivates Priti
When I see the affection and love in people’s eyes, I feel like I am doing something respectful and different. And then, even if it’s the last trip of the day, I feel instantly refreshed when people come up to me and congratulate me.Priti Kumar, Motorwoman (Western Railway)
It’s been about ten years for Priti in this profession and there are days when people see her and congratulate her for taking up a profession which is otherwise male-dominated. But for Priti, it’s different.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a woman or a man. A job is a job. As soon as I leave home, I am completely focused towards what I do and the moment I take the keys to the train in my hand... all that I care about is my passenger and that I have to take them safe and sound to their destination.Priti Kumar, Motorwoman (Western Railway)
Cameraperson: Sanjoy Deb
Camera Assistant: Gautam Sharma
Video Editor: Veeru Krishan Mohan