Last week when a batch of three trainee officers of the 7th Dornier Conversion Course qualified as Dornier pilots and were awarded the much-coveted golden wings at INS Garuda, one of them created history—24 year-old Sub Lieutenant Shivangi.
She became the first woman pilot of the Indian Navy. A Muzaffurpur (Bihar) native, she was commissioned into the Navy last year. Excerpts from an email interview where she speaks of the thrill of being a Naval officer, her love of flying and making dreams come true.
I can’t say adventurous but I was definitely someone who would try different stunts which as an adult you might find stupid. Things like jumping on sand piles from an under-construction house and climbing on trees.
Coming from a landlocked state of Bihar where there is no exposure to the sea, why did you choose the Indian Navy?
The idea of joining the Navy came to me in college when I saw Naval officers and a short video about the Navy. They had come for the University Entry Scheme. It was my first exposure to the defence forces, I tried and fortunately got selected.
And not having the sea in Bihar doesn’t mean that we can’t like and dream of it. Goa has always been on my bucket list so you can imagine my love for sea.
Why aviation thereafter?
Actually aviation has always been on my mind even before the Navy, it has been since I was about 10 years old. And when I came to know about the Navy, it had started induction of women pilots. So luckily for me, through the Navy I got to make my dream come true.
You have become an icon for the Indian woman, also for women from Bihar, which is still considered a backward state. What do you have to tell women about the strength of a woman?
You should believe in yourself first. Don’t think about society or your gender. You can do all those things that a man can do. Just be determined to achieve your goal. Work hard and leave everything else.
What were your thoughts and feelings after you were commissioned?
That it was the first time someone from my family was joining the Defence forces. I was very excited and so were my parents. They had come for my stripe shipping ceremony after my six months of training at Ezhimala. And after wearing those golden stripes I felt all the hard work and pain was all worth it.
You are not yet flying a combat aircraft. Are you ready if that is asked of you? Would you like to do that?
Of course! In defence we are trained to prepare for war, that is the ultimate goal. So given a chance I would love to be a part of it.
A lady officer in male domain…do you miss the stereotypical roles of a woman?
Not at all. People crave for this uniform and this life. I am living it. I don’t miss anything. Golden stripes and wings are all I need.
How was your first day flying the Dornier aircraft as an officer of the Indian Navy?
It was different because the first stage of training was on Pilatus, a smaller aircraft compared to the Dornier, also in the Navy we fly over the sea so there is no reference (horizon). So it’s a bit tough not to let yourself get disoriented. But with time, we get comfortable with the aircraft and now I love it.
You symbolise a seminal moment in the history of the Indian Navy. What do you have to say to your significant role in history?
I am just happy that more and more people will now come to know more about the Navy and get inspired. Also I think it will open up new opportunities for women in the Navy. I think the next step will be women on ships and fighters.
Now that you are a role model, who is your role model?
My parents. It is because of them that I am here.