Society

First women conductors recall long journey

S. Saraswathi and S. Shanthi were into athletics before becoming a part of the first batch of women conductors recruited by the transport corporation Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam   | Photo Credit: B_JOTHI RAMALINGAM

Three decades ago, when city commuters stepped inside Pallavan Transport Corporation (PTC) buses on routes 4B and 14, they were taken by surprise.

They were issued tickets by sisters S. Saraswathi and S. Shanthi, who were among the first batch of women conductors recruited by the transport corporation.

They joined PTC in 1980 and were promoted as ticket inspectors two years ago. “The fight over loose change was common even then, as it is now, but the commuter–crew relationship was good,” says Ms. Saraswathi, elder among the sisters.

“My first duty was on bus route 14 (between Arumbakkam and Mint) and my sister’s was on 4B (between Royapuram and Mount Road). Commuters were pleasantly surprised and wanted to know more about us,” recalls Ms. Shanthi, who was 18 when she joined PTC.

The sisters were pursuing athletics and decided to give the conductor’s job a chance when they learnt of openings for women at PTC.

“The first few days, it was difficult to maintain our balance in the bus and issue tickets, but we got used to it,” says Ms. Shanthi.

However, the journey over 30 years of service has not always been rosy. “We have had arguments with passengers over issuing of change. Some have even tried to hit us,” says Ms. Shanthi. Another challenge has been handling commuters, especially college students, travelling on the footboard of the bus.

One of their cherished moments, however, has been saving passengers from pickpockets. “We knew the culprits and whenever they boarded our bus, we would ask the passengers to move away from the footboard. We would also warn the pickpockets and ask them to get down,” says Ms. Saraswathi.

The sisters are set to retire from service soon. “A conductor should always approach the passenger and give the tickets. They should maintain a cordial relationship with commuters,” the sisters say, adding it is the most important lesson they have learnt.


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 10:57:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-society/first-women-conductors-recall-long-journey/article6357599.ece

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