A Docu-segment shot with NDTV, celebrating women's day with Mumtaz Kathawala Kazi, India's first diesel loco pilot and currently the only woman on Mumbai's central railway suburban system.
In 1990, Mumtaz Kathawala became India's first diesel loco-pilot.
She's known as Mumtaz Qazi now,and she has been in the job for 22 years.
But this loco-pilot begins her day in the kitchen like other homemakers.
Mumtaz sets off for her duty even before the sun and her kids rise, and we too join her today.
"It's 6:30 AM, what time did you start off?"
"Six, is it? Shall we?"
Mumtaz was taking us into a system, that is like Mumbai's beating heart.
"I'll sign-on now..."
"... like, reporting for duty?"
Behind this glass door, that dawn, dozens of motormen were starting off for driving duties. Our presence lit their faces.
While showing us around, Mumtaz reached a computer system. The screen was displaying Mumtaz's name and her train, A Panvel-bound service.
"This is the running room where motormen report for duty. Each has to sign-in at least 30 minutes before departure. Central Railways has close to 650 motormen, and Mumtaz stands solid as the only woman here. She will return with a 'ladies-special' train."
"The indicator mentions '07:13 Panvel', how soon do you have to arrive?"
"We keep a window of ten minutes."
"It must be important for a motorman to know a route- and its gradients, to run and stop such a massive train!"
"The gradients, indeed, and also the location of caution signals- permanent or temporary."
"How long is a halt on the harbour line?"
"22 seconds, it's quite a challenge to maintain punctuality!"
"Absolutely, so many people count on you to reach work in time!"
"Checking the lights?"
"We have to check three lights- tail light for the night, flasher lights for oncoming traffic or unscheduled halts..."
Reporter- "Imperative checks before departure..."
"This is the warning system"
(Guard on intercom- testing okay, Madam?)
"Yes! Testing Okay!"
"We note train names and number in this log"
Bystander- "Which channel would air this?"
Reporter- "So, when did you decide to pursue this career?"
"My dad was a train superintedent. Our quarters were right next to the railtracks.The fast trains passing with their whistles would fascinate me as a child."
Reporter- "How did you celebrate your appointment?"
"I... on any happy occasions, we prostrate twice in prayer and thanksgiving- namaaz, thanking Allah. As my results came, everyone was positive and supportive, and I joined."
"Later, when Mr. Kazi met you as a suitor, did he have any doubts or apprehensions with you multitasking with your job and household?"
"Yes, he was curious, and so was his family. But, he was convinced with my abilities and we married." (blushes)
But we were chugging on a paradox. From the control panel, we heard a woman of the 21st century, but many men on the train, still had a regressive mindset.
"Are you married?"
"Would you want a working woman or a housewife?"
"What if she desires to work- if she has the qualifications, would you allow her?"
"And the reason?"
"Not really, but if I am working, why should she?"
"You said you sister studied till the tenth grade till marriage, did she want to study further?"
"Yes, she had the will, but the parents forbade her and wedded her off..."
We reached Panvel, but the layover was too short to rest.
Intercom- "Yes, Mr. Guard!"
Intercom- "Care to have some tea?"
Intercom- "No, Sir, I'd rather not, I'm off to the lobby"
The bottle was refilled before rushing to the other end of the train.
"So you rush like this, daily?"
"It reads 'Ladies-special'"
Mumtaz was at the helm of the 'ladies-special', around which, thousands of women plan their schedules.
Each has a tale to tell.
"Does your husband help at home? Basic cooking at all?"
"Not really, he can't even make tea!"
"This has been rubbed into our psyches, our conditioning. The gender bias is here to stay, no matter what..."
In these contrasts, we went on to meet Mumtaz's husband who has taken Mumtaz's dreams as his own.
We met an ideal husband, who is devoted to his office, helping raising the kids while being ever-concerned with Mumtaz's well-being.
"Whenever there are breakdowns, strikes and rains, I worry if Mumtaz is stranded somewhere, I get worried and try to reach out."
The train is but a beast of steel, least bothered if the driver is a man or a woman. This world and its chores are man-made and gender dichotomy does not hold here. Should one still differ, have a look at Mumtaz, who keep the city going. In Mumbai, with Cameraperson Suhas Chaudhari, and Rajendra Dhayalkar, Yogesh Damle, NDTV India.