Pakistan Railways has changed the uniform of its porters, switching to green and yellow from the nearly 150 years old red.
For well over 100 years, coolies (porters) in the subcontinent – India and Pakistan – wore bright red shirts (the colour often fades to orange) which made it easier to spot them on the crowded platforms.
On this side of the border, the iconic red shirt has now been replaced with a green shalwar kameez displaying the logo of Pakistan Railways along with and a turban.
In the 19th and 20th century, coolie was a term for a locally sourced unskilled labourer, hired by a company, mainly from the Indian subcontinent or South China.
A coolie carries up to 40kg of luggage for a mere sum of Rs30 for a single trip – a backbreaking job where occupational hazards include stress fractures and spinal cord injuries.
Most coolies ‘inherit’ this job from their fathers and uncles – many of whom used to carry the loads for Rs5.
There are no women coolies in Pakistan but in India some ladies have been carrying loads for a living.