World | India

Laxmi seeks a life on the fast track

Records can be created in the most obscure places. Hailing from Salgi in Jharkhand, 27-year-old Laxmi Lakra has put her village on the road to fame.

  • By Nilima Pathak, Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 September 2, 2006
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Arpit Gupta
  • “I had often travelled alone on trains and wondered how drivers handled and manoeuvred them. But it never crossed my mind that women were eligible for the Railway Recruitment Board Test,” says Laxmi Lakra.
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New Delhi: Records can be created in the most obscure places. Hailing from Salgi in Jharkhand, 27-year-old Laxmi Lakra has put her village on the road to fame.

She is the first woman loco-pilot (train driver) with the Northern Railways.

The confidence she exudes is bound to put any city career woman to shame. She says, "Although I do miss my parents, I am happy with the choice I made and the manner in which my career is shaping."

Born on March 14, 1979, Laxmi had no idea what education meant till she was 5. Her father Fagu Lakra's income as construction labourer was meagre but he would save every penny for his children's education.

Somewhere, the spark in his children (two sons and two daughters) forced him to take a decision to leave the village with his family and move to Ranchi in 1984.

Laxmi was sent to the Assembly of God Church High School from where she passed out in 1996.

Always itching to do something different and challenging, Laxmi was game when her friends drew her attention to an advertisement for the post of assistant driver with the Railways.

Remarkable journey

Laxmi cleared the Railway Recruitment Board Test. And though the entire family supported her in her pursuit, she says, "My mother [Dasmi] was shocked and very concerned. 'You mean, you will drive a train?', she asked. It took me some time to convince her. It is due to my parents that today I am on a remarkable journey." Laxmi was the only woman in her batch of 372 trainees. People were in awe and Laxmi found it both embarrassing and elating.

At times, when even boys would give up, Laxmi would be there, making the best of a hopeless situation.

Six weeks 'Learning Road' (LR) training, that gave them hands-on experience of trains, tracks and signals, followed the 33-week training.

And Laxmi was always the frontrunner. "On the very first day I was among the first few trainees sent on LR from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh to Ambala, Punjab."

The group reached Ambala in the night and as part of the drill was instructed to catch the next morning's goods train to Ghaziabad.

Since till then no woman had visited as a trainee, special arrangements had to be made for Laxmi and she was provided with separate accommodation.

Contrary to the brief, the next morning the group decided to take a super fast train to Ghaziabad. "It was so exciting to be in the ABB locomotive, considered the most modified," Laxmi gushes.

Adventurous

Unassumingly, she lets out a secret. "Seeing my enthusiasm, the driver handed over charge of the train to me and I drove at a speed of 100-110km/h for about 20 minutes. It was so adventurous."

Laxmi has come a long way. She drives light engines and goods trains in the Delhi circle and Ambala. But her dream is to drive the super fast train Shatabdi, for which she will have to wait for another 8 to 10 years. As of now, she is on the right track.

Looking ahead

"I had often travelled alone on trains and wondered how drivers handled and manoeuvred them. But it never crossed my mind that women were eligible for the Railway Recruitment Board Test," says Laxmi Lakra.

In full control

Laxmi says her dream is to drive the super fast train Shatabdi, for which she will have to wait for 8 to 10 years.

Initially, my batch mates would make fun of me. But I not only survived the remarks but also succeeded in scoring better. Grudgingly, however, later they accepted me."

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