Kamala had been the apple of her parents’ eyes, since her birth. She grew up in a very warm environment under the care of her loving parents.
From the day, Kamala opened her eyes for the first time in this bright and beautiful world, her father’s luck changed. On the day of Kamala’s birth, her father was not at the hospital, which he regrets to this day. But on that day he successfully negotiated a business deal which changed his fate forever. Whatever business he did in his daughter’s name, it turned out to be successful. Her family believed that Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and fortune, herself was born in their house, so they named the baby girl Kamala which means lotus in Sanskrit, it is another name for Goddess Lakshmi.
Her parents saw her as a precious little thing which needed their constant protection. A little baby brother followed her into their family. She observed the difference in the treatment they gave her and her brother. Whenever her brother cried, he was told not to cry like a girl! Whenever she tried to climb up the peepul tree in the backyard or fly kites on rooftops, she was gently chided for acting like a boy! At first, these social norms which restricted her natural behaviour perplexed her. Gradually she began to hide her urges to climb trees, run in the fields and play with boy toys(trucks, aeroplanes etc)-basically Kamala started to act like an ideal girl.
But whatever she did, she could not stop fantasizing about the sky, the clouds and the little machines that flew through them-aeroplanes. At age nine, her parents took her to the republic day parade in Delhi. There she saw IAF(Indian air force) sorties cruising in various formations, creating beautiful patterns in the sky with their contrails. The jets showered flowers on to the people below in a synchronous way as the national anthem played in the maidan. This experience ignited her imagination and filled her with a passion to be one of those pilots who flew jets blazing across the horizon. She began to have a recurring dream in which a pair of wings grew from her back and she was flying over beautiful mountains and colorful flower valleys.
One day, a friend of their family came to their house. When they were sitting together, he asked Kamala what she wanted to become after growing up- an important question as she was entering her teens. Kamala unequivocally said that she would become a Pilot! Everyone at the table laughed at this, for them a girl becoming a pilot was unthinkable. Her father proudly said that, he would find the most handsome and eligible groom for Kamala and she would not have to work for a day in her life. Then Kamala said, “No I will not marry anyone. I will become a pilot”. Again everyone at the table laughed, forcing her to hide her inclination to be different.
But Kamala could never gave up her dream. Whenever she brought it up, her father would not tolerate her view and would reject it, terming it a childhood fantasy. This attitude of her father dumbfounded her. Its not that her father thought of her as any less than her brother, instead he loved her more than anything else. But he had a very constricted view that women were not born to become pilots- and that it is a man’s job. He could not understand why she wanted to risk her life by joining the military, when he was offering her a ‘better’ alternative and a safer life. As with many other Indian girls, she was made to join an engineering college.
When fate did its mysterious work, Kamala and her family found themselves in the middle of a sudden flash floods in Uttarakhand when they were on a visit to Kedarnath temple. For three days, they got stuck on the mountain without food, shelter and no contact with the outside world. During those three days, it was Kamala who kept the morale of the family up and played the leadership role in those turbulent times. Fortunately, after three days an IAF chopper spotted them and came to their rescue. When Kamala’s father was roped up in to the chopper by IAF personnel, he was shocked to find that the chopper was piloted by a woman and another woman personnel was helping survivors get in to it.
This experience deeply affected the assumptions of Kamala’s father with regard to a woman’s career. He thought of the courage and leadership qualities shown by his daughter during the floods. He knew that it was not the food but the motivation and direction given by Kamala which kept their spirits alive. He thought about the women pilots who worked tirelessly during the Operation Rahat in which they rescued hundreds of people.
Her father realized on that day, that her daughter was not only a Lakhsmi to their home but also a Durga(Goddess of power) who can fly solo! He understood that Kamala does not need their protection, and that instead the country needs hundreds of Durgas like Kamala to defend the country in times of need.
Now Kamala is an IAF cadet soaring above the skies, meeting her tryst with destiny.
Indian mythology is replete with fierce and brave heroines and Goddesses. For example, Satyabhama(one of the wives of Lord Sri Krishna) fought and killed Narakasura the evil demon, when Krishna became unconscious(falsely) in the battle field. Similarly Goddess Kali slayed the demon Raktabija and saved mankind. There are modern heroines like Rani Rudrama devi who ruled the Kakatiya kingdom, Chand Bibi who defended the Ahmednagar Sultanate from Mughals, the great Rani Lakshmi Bai who fought the Britishers and died like a true warrior on the battlefield. We have so many women politicians in Independent India like the brave Indira Gandhi who led the country in the 1971 war and many untiring social activists like Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy who fought for the rights of the deprived.
“A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.” – Nancy Rathburn
I have taken inspiration from the brave IAF women pilots who rescued hundreds of people during the 2013 Uttarakhand floods to write this story. Hats off to those who are serving the nation and breaking the one-dimensional labels society tags them to.
“This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus“. It is very encouraging that a big corporation like Gillette is taking on the fight towards one-dimensional labelling. And thanks for Blogadda for organizing such contests for Indian bloggers.
A short and beautiful video about the campaign by Gillette: