Recently I got into a bus, and took a safe seat on the ladies side. Suddenly, I couldn't help but notice one lady conductor sweeping her way through the bus filled with men.
Well, we are all aware of the situation inside a bus in Bengaluru. When you don’t have a place to stand properly, you stand on someone! The main problem however arises, when the conductor has to pass through the crowd. What a disturbing time. I personally hate it when a male conductor (or female, basically anybody) comes through and touches me inappropriately (sometimes accidentally, but sometimes on purpose), when there’s no room left to walk by.
What about that lady conductor then, who has to do this every day? I have to say, I feel proud when I see that the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation has many women conductors on their buses — the number is now close to 1000 women. But why would a lady choose this career? What are the daily challenges she faces? Do she and her colleagues handle the improper commuters carefully? What is it that they enjoy about their job?
As these questions started dancing in my head, I felt the urge to ask them about their daily lives. After spending a good time with the women who take charge on a bus, I felt a certain differentiation between female and male conductors. Unlike some men conductors, female conductors are more polite and patient with you. Some men are just cruel, they seem to behave more brutally, speak rudely. For example, recently in January this year, a 23-year-old soft skills trainer, Andrea Anthony was beaten up and pushed off the Volvo bus by a BMTC conductor after she threatened to complain about his rude behaviour to the police and the BMTC authorities. Bus conductors sometimes humiliate, sometimes assault commuters for asking if the ticket was right. Well, these kind of incidents are happening a lot in Bangalore now-a-days.
But women conductors are different. Even if the commuters they interact with don't speak Kannada, they cooperate and try to communicate nicely.
I caught them to speak to them just as they had the day off from duty. All the women take early morning 1st shift regulated by the BMTC so that they don't face any problems after a particular hour. I was pretty sure before talking to these women that their workplace is similar to any other workplace. They must have faced and are still facing many difficulties as women in this field. I was wrong!
Latha V, is a 35 years old Kannadiga who became a bus conductor to provide for her family. She also drives buses but that’s not a permanent job. She told us, “I am doing this for the last 10 years. I have never felt any differentiation between genders here. All of our colleagues are like brothers and sisters here"
She also described and spoke about no trouble from men during journeys, because of support from drivers. “However, during journeys most of the stops do not have proper toilet facilities and it is difficult during menstruation”, Latha added. “All women here face the same problem, that is when our kids go to school, and there is a function for parents to attend, we sometimes miss that. Very limited leaves we get.”
On the other hand, Rathi H.N. has done her JOC (Job Oriented Course) and not being able to study further, she joined the community. She has seen poverty and thinks that taking up this opportunity is the best step she has taken ever. “I am in this job since 13 years now. This job has flexible hours and I feel it’s the most comfortable job for women like us, who couldn’t finish their studies and had to think about money for their family. Till now I haven’t had any guy misbehaving with me, because our male colleagues are always helpful. Even is some passenger does behave badly, we know how to handle it. Even if sometimes we see someone fighting for some silly reason in the bus, we talk it out and solve it quickly.”
35-year-old Ishrat Unnise is a bold, bindass character. “I took this job up after my father died, to keep my family afloat”, she says. She comes from a family where she witnessed partiality between men and women. “I am from a family where seniors think that women should sit at home, taking care of kids and family only.”
She is well aware of her surroundings and is ready to handle any kind of situation at any time. “One day, on duty, I have beaten up three men because they were speaking wrong”, she adds.
She is a courageous women who thinks,”Kaam chhota ho ya bada, dilse karna hota hai”. When we asked her of the problems she faces during work, she replies, “Since most of us do not do night shifts, we usually do not have to deal with drunken men.” Elaborating further about her colleagues, she adds, “Most of our colleagues are helpful, but there always will be bad ones mixed with the good ones. Sometimes I have seen jealous men speaking ill about us. They think we women are taking their place. They even told us that if women would do every single work in the world, so what would be left for the men to do?”
I was stunned to see their spirit. They left me with a thought that if you’re willing to stand up and work, no matter what the job it is, no matter what society says, you will succeed.
It’s your life, your choice. Here’s some inspiration!