BENGALURU: It was an extremely proud and nervous two minutes for Bengaluru Division’s Loco Pilot (LP) Sireesha Gajini when she received the much-anticipated call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi that would be later featured in his 'Maan Ki Baat’ programme.
The first woman to steer an Oxygen Express inside Karnataka was seated inside the local All India Radio office on Saturday night for the recording. She was alerted a day earlier that the Prime Minister’s Office was keen on featuring her.
The 2-minute and 8-second conversation in Hindi with the PM was up on Sunday morning on radio and TV channels, fetching her nation-wide recognition. Proud mother, G Rajeshwari, was among those hooked to the radio back home in Vishakapatnam this morning along with other family members.
An all-women crew comprising 31-year-old Gajini and two others were seated in the driver’s cabin of the train.
The New Indian Express was the only paper to carry an interview with the first woman on board an Oxygen Express, Assistant Loco Pilot Neelam Kumari.
The crew took over the train bringing 120 Metric tonnes of Liquid Medical Oxygen from Jharkhand at Jolarpettai station and safely steered the 7th Oxygen Express to the Inland Container Depot at Whitefield.
In his call, Modi began with a `Namaste’ and lauded many women like Sireesha who were aiding the nation’s fight against the coronavirus.
Calling her an embodiment of Nari Shakti, the PM queried, “The country would like to know and I also want to know from where you got the motivation for it?” Gajini responded, “My father and mother. My father encouraged me completely. Her father, the late Rama Rao, retired as an Assistant Secretary at the Port Trust of India.
Congratulating her, the PM also asked her, “You have operated trains generally but when oxygen in in such a huge demand and when you are carrying oxygen, it must be a task with slightly more responsibility…what is your experience?”
Gajini replied that at the time of handover of Oxygen Express to her, everything was checked from the safety to the formation to the leakage. “Indian Railways is supportive and created a green path to operate this train. I completed 125 kms in one and a half hour. Railways also took the responsibility and I also shouldered the responsibility.”
Later sharing her experience of this crucial call, Gajini told TNIE, “I was very happy and was filled with pride. I had prepared all that I wanted to speak in advance but was a bit tense when the call came and forgot a few things I wanted to say!”
She said that an Oxygen train did not pose any specific challenge. “I was promoted as an LP six months ago and have driven many goods trains since then and this just felt like just another train. Every woman can do it.”