I dreamt of becoming a pilot since I was young. My father was in the army – we lived in Pathankot and then shifted to Vijaywada. I was put in schools where we were taught to read and write in English- but where spoken English was rare. In class 9, a teacher asked me to write 10 things I wanted from life and I took that assignment seriously.
The first thing on my list was to become a pilot and the second was to become a lawyer. Someone told me that I had to get above 90% for that so I worked hard and got a 100 in almost everything… I was that passionate.
But there was a lot of social and financial pressure on my parents. It was an unconventional field, especially for a girl. It was also expensive–but still, they used their savings, took loans from banks and their friends and overcame the pressure to send me to flight school. That just motivated me to work even harder to make them proud.
Flight school wasn’t easy. People teased me when I spoke in English–they kept making fun of my pronunciations… but instead of cowering away, I learned from them and perfected my speaking skills. I was still so happy to be there. I think that got me where I needed to go–because I didn’t worry about the future.. I just learned along the way and kept going.
Once I graduated, I immediately got a job and my pilot license on the same day! In fact… I got my job before the license which doesn’t usually happen. Before I knew it, I was a 19 year old pilot!
After my training in Spain, I even became a first officer… It wasn’t easy–you’re in a new city with no set schedule, the timings are off and you go back to an empty house. But still – I just kept taking each challenge in my stride–knowing that this was the way of the world.
This somehow motivated me to even cross out the next thing on my list–becoming a lawyer.
At 19, I came back to Bombay and started taking courses to do my LLB. Becoming a pilot was my dream but I wanted to learn everything I could–never worried about chasing success. I’d make sure to attend the classes whenever I was in town. Even if my flight landed at 2:00am, I’d be ready to go to class at 6:00am on the same day! I’d study during my breaks on flight — I couldn’t be stopped!
And now, a decade later after a lot of flights and a lot of fight, I became the youngest female commander to fly a Boeing 777 with the largest twin-jet engine in the world… it was a different ‘high’ all together!
I was able to pay off my loans, contribute to my siblings’ education and travel the world–making my parents travel too! And now with most things crossed off that list, I’m making a new one–because the best is always yet to come!
Credits: Humans of Bombay
Tags: Inspirational Story, Pilot