That unfateful day ( March 14, 7.30 pm), Jhansi, a gatekeeper with Indian Railways, as usual, was closing the railway gate between Aralvaymoli and North Panakudi stations in Kanyakumari district, Tamilnadu. The Nagercoil – Bengaluru Express was about to pass.
Out of the blue, five miscreants appeared in their bikes and started yelling at her to open the gate. She was all alone and there was not a single person around. The railway station was in a deserted area and she knew that the train would not pass safely if something goes wrong.
Jhansi kept her calm and pleaded with them that she would open it once the train passes. But they were not ready to heed to any of her pleas. They started beating her black and blue. She took all the blows because she wanted the train to pass safely. It was then a small boy came that way and seeing all the commotion, he took the keys of the bikes and threw them away. This infuriated them and they left Jhansi to chase that boy.
Meanwhile, she rushed to her room to contact the Police Control room and locked herself. But they broke in and continued beating her. She was hit on her head, chest, abdomen... Balu Chandran, a Kanyakumari native was passing by and when he saw her fighting for her life, he rushed to help her. In no way, Balu was a competitor to the miscreants. In no time, he was lying in a pool of blood. They even rolled the bike on him.Amidst all these chaos, the Nagercoil – Bengaluru Express passed the station safely. After attacking Balu, the miscreants had gone and hid them in the dark. To Balu and Jhansi's relief, the police arrived by then and took them to the hospital.
I met them when I went to cover the programme organised by railways to honour their bravery. I am not aware whether they received any monetary assistance. Since the function was going on, I couldn't talk to them. But I took their phone numbers. Though I could get Jhansi over the phone easily, it was a task getting Balu. Because every day and night, he was searching for a job. When I called his house the second time, his wife asked: “ Can you help him to get a job?”. I just kept silent because I did not know what to say. They were several such occasions happened in my professional life where I had to stand helpless. It took three days to get him over the phone.
His life had turned topsy- turvy after the incident. He said “ I get acute head and back aches, frequently. Because of it, I could not go to work for months.”
Earlier, he used to work in a company that makes the fishing nets. “ I used to draw a salary of Rs 12,000. Because of my illness, I was asked to leave. I am struggling hard to earn my bread and butter. I have a wife and two kids to look after. My wife could not go to work as our first born could not walk and the second child is too small to leave her alone.”
Jhansi is now a gatekeeper at Kaavalkinar. The shift is from 6 am to 2 pm and 2 pm to 10 am. “If I get a second shift, my husband would accompany me”. Asked, if she is still afraid to go to work, she said: “Yes, But I have to work.”
I do not have their photographs hence, I have cropped the pictures from the article which I have written in the newspaper. I could not go to their place and meet them. They were living in the neighbouring state. Some of the places in Tamilnadu comes under Southern Railway which also consists of some of the districts in Kerala.
If I had gone there, my article would have been different which might have benefitted them. Sometimes, journalism especially, when you are under working under any organisation, the deadlines tie your hands and you become mechanical. That's why I decided to unfetter myself from those chains.