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Dreamt of becoming a pilot since I was 10: Navy’s 1st woman pilot

Sub-lieutenant Shivangi is the first Indian woman who will be tasked with flying an aircraft to track suspicious activities and go on rescue missions.

As a 10-year-old, she was fascinated by a chopper pilot flying a politician to address a public rally at her native village Fatehabad in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district, about 70 kms to the north-east of Patna.

The little girl, who could not differentiate between a commercial plane and a defence aircraft, had then dreamt of being a pilot.Fifteen years later, the girl -Shivangi – realised her dream when as sub-lieutenant she earned her wings on Monday and became the first woman pilot of the Indian Navy. Shivangi will fly the Dornier surveillance aircraft for maritime reconnaissance, search and rescue operations for the Indian Navy.

Shivangi was commissioned into the Indian Navy last year after her initial training and joined operational duties at the Kochi naval base Monday.

“I was in B.Tech (mechanical) fourth year at the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology, Sikkim, when the Indian Navy came up with the university entry scheme. An officer came to our college and showed us a video about life in Indian navy,” she said, as she took a trip down the memory lane, recollecting her dream journey to India’s coveted defence services, in a freewheeling telephonic conversation from Kerala..

“That was my first exposure to the Indian armed forces through the navy. The navy had then begun induction for women pilots. As a 10 year-old child, who nurtured a dream of becoming a pilot after seeing one, I seized the opportunity with both hands. And here I am now,” she said.

Shivangi hails from an ordinary farmer’s family. Her father, Hari Bhushan Singh, is a school teacher and in-charge principal of a government high school for girls, and mother Priyanka a home-maker.

Shivangi grew up in a conservative society where sending girls to school was not the social norm and considered an aberration.

To break the shackles, Shivangi’s great grandfather had in 1980 donated around 2 acres land to set up a school for girls — the Brahmarshi Yamuna Balika Uchch Vidyalaya, Fatehabad — to be adopted by the state government. Shivangi’s father is now its officiating principal.

“My father always encouraged me to chase my dreams. It was he who suggested I should go out (of the state), get exposure and pursue my B.Tech and then join the navy. He trusted me. He was never very protective and always supported me without putting any pressure on me,” she added.

Her two younger siblings, Jagriti and Harsh, who go by single name, are pursuing their bachelor of business administration (BBA) programme from Jaipur and Dehradun, respectively. Seeing their sister in sparkling white uniform, they are already motivated to join the Indian armed forces, said Singh.

Firmly grounded, Shivangi, however, would not accept that she has already become a role model for other girls in her village. She parried the poser, saying: “That’s a question you should ask other girls and not me.”

Though Shivangi got CGPA 10 in class 10 and 84% marks in physics, chemistry and mathematics in class 12, she and her father were not satisfied with her performance in the intermediate examination.

“She may not have been studious, but she was always very competitive and loved to take up challenges. It is her never-say-die spirit, which has rewarded her in life today,” the doting father signed off.

Shivangi is the second woman from Bihar to be a pilot in the Indian armed forces. Darbhanga’s Bhawana Kanth is one of the first female fighter pilots of India. She was declared the first combat pilot along with two of her cohort, Mohana Singh, and Avani Chaturvedi. The trio was inducted into the Indian Air Force fighter squadron in June 2016.

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