Seven days in a week without a day off, Mukta Begum, traffic gatekeeper of Tejgaon rail crossing, remains alert of the trains that she gives green light to. Between passing of trains, her time as the lone woman gatekeeper is spent amid a pile of filth, a drain, passers-by busily walking by and vehicles on the road.
Hearing train whistles, she comes out quickly in a shuffling gait and drops the crossing bar to stop vehicles.
At the age of eight, she had typhoid and it left her with a disability – her right leg still gives her trouble. Since the age of eight her struggle had begun.
Her work at the gate is not just piece of cake. She does not have any holiday as the train route has 24/7 shift. If she needs a leave, she has to manage a substitute of her own accord.
She has been working as the traffic gatekeeper since May this year. "Everyone at my workplace respects me and helps me as much as they can," says Mukta, who has expressed her satisfaction saying she is really blessed to have this job.
She lives at a rented place in Shajahanpur and working in Tejgaon. It takes a lot of time to reach her workplace because of traffic jam. Though she has applied for a quarter, getting one is always uncertain.
If Mukta has duty from eight in the morning, she comes at seven. "Getting a bus is very tough for me as I have a defected leg. So, I always have to start very early in the morning to reach on time."
In the beginning, she faced several problems such as impure drinking water and unhygienic washroom at her workplace.
Now she is using a rundown washroom, close to her workplace. She has repaired it with others help. She buys drinking water with her own money as there is no arrangement for safe water there.
However, she is going through a lot of hardship even now. "Life of a woman is never smooth. We always have to juggle between family and work. No one is going to help," said Mukta Begum with a heavy heart.
A hint of unease becomes clear on her face when The Business Standard asks about her family life. She shares that every now and then journalists keep coming at her working place that creates disturbance.
Consequently, once in an interview, out of rage, she said that she is not living with her husband anymore. Then, this news went viral and created troubles in her family life.
She has a daughter and a son. Her daughter's study has been stopped because of some financial problems. Now Mukta Begum is not much interested to educate her son anymore, though he is on seventh grade only.
She wants him to complete vocational training, as she feels it is of no practical use. She argues, "Education costs a lot and it does not even help. People are unemployed even after finishing highest education. So, how would that help poor people like us."
She feels that she has accepted the "bizarre side" of life. Still, she dreams for a better life. Therefore, she is working heart and soul and facing all odds with a smile on her face.
She believes in equity. She says, "If a handicapped person like me can work in such a tough situation, anyone can chase their dream. No women should feel herself as someone lagged behind. We just need to believe in us and act accordingly."
When such great words come out of the mouth of a traffic gatekeeper, we do hope that her dream comes true.