The male bastions are crumbling like a house of cards! Areena Khan, the only woman newspaper hawker in Jaipur, has demolished the myth that certain professions are sole male preserve. At 4 am, a time when most of the people are snuggled in their beds, it’s quite an unusual sight to see a woman riding her bicycle packed with newspapers. Areena, fondly called Paro, was just nine-year-old when she ventured into this profession. Her father Rauf Khan, who was a newspaper hawker, was advised by a doctor to quit this job due to its strenuous nature. Feeding a large family consisting of five sisters and two brothers looked impossible for Rauf Khan. Areena, not the oldest member of the family, rose to the challenge and told her father that she will push the cycle to make pedalling little lighter for him. Areena says: “I never thought at that time that I was destined to be a newspaper hawker. Pushing my father’s cycle through labyrinth alleys of Jaipur made me aware of the routes and when in 2000 my father passed the only option before me was newspaper distribution as I was just 14 years old.”
Since then, as the cliché goes, she has never looked back. At the crack of dawn, she picks up her cycle and rushes to Gulab Bagh newspaper depot to collect newspapers for distribution. The presence of men all around, harsh weather, long distances, or odd-working hours, nothing has been able to deter her. However, Areena has had her share of troubles. She was rusticated from three schools for reaching late. The fourth school, being sympathetic to her situation allowed to report late. Her perseverance and hard work finally paid as today she is a graduate. Socially-conscious Areena is aware of her duties towards society. Apart from newspaper distribution, she teaches Dalit children free. Areena says: “The struggle and hard work has not only helped me to bring food on the table for my siblings but it also has brought me the social recognition.”
She has received many accolades from different organisations but the proudest moment for her was when President Pranab Mukherjee honoured her along with women from different spheres of life on the first anniversary of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programe in January at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. They say adversity to bring out the best in man. In Areena’s case, it brought out the best in a woman!
Tags: Areena Khan | Woman Newspaper Hawker | Jaipur | Newspaper Hawker | Professions