Sunday, Aug 14, 2022
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Her Story, Unfiltered: A Photo Essay

These are the stories of Manjus and Kuntis. In stark images that speak a thousand words.

Manju Devi Yadav
Manju Devi Yadav Photos: Tribhuvan Tiwari

Certificate se ghar nahin chalta, Manju Devi says brusquely. She is not given to idle talk. Not with the burden she is carrying on her shoulders. A single mother with three children, Devi, 43, works as a ‘coolie’ at the Jaipur railway station, and was once celebrated by the state government as a symbol of resilience and empowerment. All she got was a trophy and a certificate when she needed financial aid—the reason for the curt response, “Can’t run my house with a certificate”.

V. Sarita
V. Sarita Hailing from Hyderabad and based in Delhi, V. Sarita draws surprised, and sometimes admiring, looks from people who board her bus—she is the only woman driver of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), operating on the Dhaula Kuan-Noida Sector 62 route. The youngest of five sisters, she is thankful to her parents for supporting her all through. She is happy in doing what she does but expects more respect from people. A motorcycle aficionado, she also owns a Bullet bike.
Mehrunissa
Mehrunissa
Mehrunissa Mehrunissa, the first woman bouncer of India, has faced biases in all forms—gender, religious and societal. But she has persevered against all odds, picking up the profession after failing to get into the army or police, her first choices. Hailing from Saharanpur, she faced stiff resistance from her conservative Muslim family, especially her father, when she decided to become a bouncer. But his attitude changed when four men attempted to sexually assault her on the road in front of their house. Her father watched from the balcony as she beat up the four assailants, forcing them to flee. She says her father had tears in his eyes when he witnessed the scene. After working for seven-eight years as a bouncer in different places, she launched her own company, Mardani Female Bouncer and Dolphin Security Company. Photo: Tribhuvan Tiwari
Joyvenisha (Anee)
Joyvenisha (Anee) Joyvenisha aka Anee (right) is from a small district of Manipur and works as a bartender at a Delhi club. With a large family—parents, two brothers and three sisters—to support, she had initially planned to become an air hostess. After clearing her intermediate exams, she even took admission in an air hostess academy, but dropped out after a year to become a bartender. Anee says she likes the job despite the long hours. It also helps that she now has a family member working by her side.
Kunti Devi
Kunti Devi
Kunti Devi Kunti Devi says she will do anything to support her family of five, including three daughters. Hailing from Kaudiya village in Gorakhpur, her world turned upside down when her husband, Hanuman, was brought down by arthritis. Out of three daughters, she has married off two and the youngest is pursuing her education. She says, initially she was able to save about Rs 700 per day but with the launch of a government bus service, people are not availing her services as much as they did earlier. She says she can barely save Rs 200 per day.

But “breaking the stereotype” in a mainly male profession is not what she had in mind when she was forced to take up the gruelling, back-breaking work after the death of her husband. Nor have the other women who are engaged in professions not considered suitable for women. Like Kunti Devi, 51, who had to become an autorickshaw driver in Gorakhpur after her husband, a daily wager and part-time auto driver, was afflicted with arthritis.

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