There is no dearth of jokes questioning a woman’s ability to drive, and till date, driving is considered a profession only for men. However, 51-year-old Surekha Shankar Yadav broke this stereotype almost three decades back and became the first female train driver of India in 1988.
Hailing from Satara in Maharashtra, Surekha was born on September 2, 1965. She took admission in a vocational training course after completing her schooling from St. Paul Convent High School. She then decided to pursue a diploma in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Government College in Satara.
Surekha wished to pursue further education in Mathematics and earn a BEd degree to become a teacher. However, when she came across an opportunity to work for the Indian Railways, she decided to go for it.
With a technical background and passion for trains since childhood, Surekha decided to fill the form and attempt the written examination in the year 1986. With luck in her favour, she passed the examination and was called for an interview with the Railway Board.
Surekha cracked the interview and was appointed as trainee assistant driver at the Kalyan training school. She got trained at this school for the next six months and became a regular assistant driver in 1989.
In 1966, Surekha was appointed as the driver for the goods’ train and was promoted to the position of motor-woman in 2000. In 2010, she was appointed as the driver on the railway line at Western Ghats, and was promoted to the post of ‘express mail driver’ in 2011.
Surekha works for ten hours a day, and has been honoured on several occasions for becoming the first female train driver across the entire Asia. With no experience of driving a two-wheeler or a four-wheeler, she turned into an inspiration for many by taking up the reins of a vehicle as heavy as a train.