A locomotive pulling more than fifty freight coaches rattles through the countryside, its headlight piercing the moonless darkness, the horn occasionally blaring to alert wildlife and humans alike. It’s a chilly night; almost ghostly with the ululating owls and bats doing their back-and-forth, up-and-down loops. The train fords jungles, fields, hamlets, rivers and streams noisily—the clackety-clack brutal on bridges. And behind the wheels, or rather the levers on the loco’s console, the driver sits tight, looks straight and immediate pressing matters runs through her mind.
Her? Yes, she is a she—one of the over 500 woman train drivers with the Indian Railways. Yes, she is among a handful to challenge stereotypes and social prejudices that a woman’s place is at home, and trigger a change among people who harbour a general disapproval of working women. But first, she had to overcome her own doubts and fears of running a train. She had to get comfortable working night shifts and working in positions traditionally held by men, carrying out tasks many in this conservative society have only seen men do before.