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Passion finds tracks to roll on

-On International Women’s Day, The Telegraph pays tribute to Swagatika Priyadarshini, an assistant loco pilot. Pratyush Patra finds out how she has given shape to her dream of a life of adventure

Bhubaneswar, March 7: About 30 female assistant loco pilots working in the Khurda division of the East Coast Railway have successfully smashed the stereotypical notion that some professions are strictly a male arena.

Swagatika Priyadarshini, 25, along with her female colleagues, has proved their mettle in the arduous profession and become the lesser-known role models of our society.

Since her childhood, Swagatika had been well acquainted with the sound of trains as her home in Jajpur was a little away from the railway station. Consequently, she developed a fascination of this popular mode of communication. Speaking in fluent English, Swagatika said she was the first from her family to be working for the Indian Railways.

In 2010, after Swagatika graduated in mechanical engineering, she decided to take the exam for the railway post. Her passion became tangible as she passed the exams with flying colours clearing several stages. “I always had this burning desire of not doing what every girl loves to do. I wanted my career to be full of adventures,” she said.

The loco pilots are given three months training, so that they get accustomed with the rules and duties. They have to be attentive of the signals on the routes and also control the speed of the train.

For Swagatika, who is also married, her day starts early in the morning. Besides, she also has to look after her household.

“My family has a few members, but there are so many families on a train. Alertness is of utmost importance in our profession,” she said.

“In pursuit of such a career, your family has to support you. Luckily, my in-laws, too, have been hugely supportive. The outlook of the society would change with time and education,” she said.

“I am sure that earlier things were not much easy for women. But today, one can find co-operative colleagues and a conducive ambience to work almost in every field. Moreover, there are men, who do encourage women to take up a job,” she said about a sea change in today’s work culture.

“I have never felt any gender discrimination. At the end of the day, if there is a job that has been assigned to you, you do it properly irrespective of which gender you belong to. Our objective is to give a comfortable ride to the passengers,” she said.

Swagatika is a dedicated professional and does not get flustered by the news of head-on collisions and derailment.

“Train accidents are very rare. As a human being, you feel very sad, but that is the occupational hazard we have to deal with. For that matter, all professions have their own risks,” she quipped.