Guddi Maurya, a woman of few words and sombre eyes, says she is the first woman of her lot to make her own living.
On November 26, 2008, when terror struck Mumbai, Guddi’s husband Mishrilal Maurya, an autorickshaw driver, had gone to drop his sister Vijayi and her husband Ramkomal Khushwaha at the railway station. Mishrilal took a fatal bullet to his chest.
Guddi (32), seated in her 10 foot by 12 foot home in the railway colony off the Varanasi Cantonment railway station, says she never thought she would go out to work some day. “No woman in our family works. I am the first woman to go out to work. My sister-in-law who was injured in the attack was also offered a job in the railways like I was, but her husband did not allow her to take it,” says Guddi, whose youngest child Arpita was only three months old then.
At the time, Guddi and her three children were living in a village in the East Uttar Pradesh district of Deoria, while her husband worked in Mumbai.
Had the events of 26/11 not transpired, Guddi says, she would have remained in the village and her children would have been attending a village school now. But Guddi’s decision to work changed everything for the family.
The three children are now enrolled a private English-medium school in Varanasi with a trust covering their tuition fees. Guddi says she not only took a big leap in choosing to work, but she also joined school to complete her matriculation, the minimum qualifaction required for the job of an “aayah” in the medical department of the Northeastern Railways.
“I had three children when I decided to pass my matriculation. I did not want to be under-qualified just because I landed the job as compensation,” Guddi says, while preparing tea.
Guddi’s parents-in-law helped her tremendously, caring for the children and helping her cope in the initial years. They lived with her in Varanasi and would take turns bringing Arpita to the Railway Cancer Hospital just so that the child, wailing for her mother, got some time with Guddi.
A strong pillar of support for Guddi was her eldest daughter Ranjeeta, who learnt to cook so that her little sister and brother did not go hungry when their mother went out to work, away till as late as 11 pm on night shifts at the Railway Cancer Hospital.
“My mother had studied up to class eight. But after she got a job with the railways in 2009, she decided to complete her matriculation. I helped her learn to read and write English,” Ranjeeta, a confident and smiling girl of 15 years, says.
She not only stood by her mother, she has come to mother her little siblings, both of who take her scoldings more seriously than they do Guddi’s, according to the family.
Guddi, however, says she is now a little worried over the fate of her job which has seen her through the ordeal her family was pushed into. She and many like her have been forced to wait for a new posting at the Divisional Railway Hospital when it was filled with staffers from the Indian Railways Cancer Institute and Research Centre, which is now to be operated privately.
“I hope I am not sent out on the tracks where I have heard women workers are also deployed. I would like to work in an office. I really do not know where they will place me. No one is communicating anything to us, how long will I sit idle at home without work?” Guddi says.
Ranjeeta says her mother is a hero for them, a father and a mother, a working woman and a homemaker, all in one. At parent teacher meetings in school when others wonder why her father does not accompany them, Ranjeeta says she is proud to have a mother who has built herself into a woman of the world.
And when one asks Ritik (12) his father’s name, he promptly responds, “Late Mishrilal Maurya”. He says Didi, Ranjeeta, taught him to use “Late” as a prefix.
“Didi diary mein Father’s name ke aage ‘Late’ Mishrilal Maurya likhti thhi. I asked her why and she said, ‘Jiska death ho jata hai, unke naam ke aage Late lagaya jaata hai,” a very conscientious little Ritik says, in all earnestness.