There is something special about this unassuming 26-year-old woman working diligently in one of the busiest diagnostic laboratories in Bareilly, a burgeoning hub of medical facilities in Uttar Pradesh. Reshma Khan is the first, and only, woman lab technician in the Prem Nagar branch of Dr Lal PathLabs, set up eight years ago in Bareilly.
Khan’s is a classic example of jobs emerging in diagnostics across the country, especially in small cities. She is the daughter of an Indian Railways locomotive pilot, Jabbar Khan. Brought up in a financially constrained family in the city, Khan dreamt of becoming a doctor, but a crunch in funds forced her to settle for a nominally-paying yet respectable job in diagnostics.
The eldest of the three siblings, Khan earns ₹20,000 per month, helping her father support the family. “My father has always been very supportive. Unlike other people in my community who do not allow their daughters to study and then marry them off at an early age, my father encouraged me to study and stand on my feet," says Khan. “I don’t want my siblings to face the same financial conditions that I faced when I was studying. My parents have sacrificed many things to educate me and it is my turn to pay back."
After completing her schooling, Khan had contemplated pursuing nursing as she couldn’t afford an MBBS course. But she realized that the diagnostics sector offered better prospects in Bareilly and got a diploma in medical lab technology from Teerthanker Mahaveer University in Moradabad.
Khan has been working in the lab for more than two years now. Besides her usual lab testing duties, she has also been shouldering the responsibility of the store room, records and administration. Her seniors admire her for her sharpness and skills, while her juniors look up to her for her hard work and honesty. “I am the only woman in this lab but I want more girls to join in. This field is opening up many opportunities in small cities for girls. Unfortunately we don’t get applications from girls for them. By choosing this career I am living a respectable life, supporting my family and saving funds for my future," says Khan. She says she was thinking of buying an iPhone for herself, but didn’t. Instead, she settled for a more reasonably-priced phone so she could pay her brother’s college fee.