From seeing the cockpit in fifth grade to becoming the first Kargil girl – the journey of this Indian girl is real and full of passion. Gunjan Saxena, the first ever women IAF officer to fly in a combat zone during the Kargil war along with her fellow lieutenant made her name written in golden letters in the Indian history.
Aspirations Sky High
Being raised in an army background, Gunjan was gifted with an environment which prompts her to work on her ambitions and passions, from a very young age itself.
While talking about her father in an interview she said, “He would always tell me and my elder brother that he wanted us to ride from a tricycle to an aeroplane. And when as a fifth grader I was shown a cockpit by a cousin who happened to be an Indian Airlines pilot, I decided that I only wanted to fly”.
Determined about her goal, Gunjan joined Safdarjung Flying Club, New Delhi to learn the basics of flying after completing her graduation from Hansraj College. After applying to get a job as a pilot, in 1994, she made it through and got selected into the group of 25 young women; the first batch of women IAF trainee pilots.
In an interview, she said that “When a course mate and I reached the Udhampur unit, we saw that basic things like a separate washroom and a separate changing room for women weren’t there. To ensure privacy, me and my other female course-mates would take turns standing guard at the gap, while the other changed inside. Thankfully, that arrangement ended soon”.
The Proud India
The Kargil War between India and Pakistan in 1999, gave Gunjan an opportunity to serve the nation and prove herself.
Flying in the war zone was not allowed for the 19th century women due to extreme physical and mental pressure. But at the time of the Kargil War, there was an urgent need for all the pilots. Thus, all male and female pilots were called in to serve the nation and Gunjan was amongst them. Her task under Vijay Operation was to evacuate wounded soldiers.
Amidst immense firings and attacks, she flew her Cheetah helicopter through hostile mountain territory spotting Pakistani positions, supplying critical medications and rescuing injured soldiers in the war. She proved her spirit brilliantly in the Kargil war and became the first ever woman pilot of IAF to do so.
In an interview conducted by NDTV Gunjan Saxena stated: “It was the evacuation of the injured Indian Army soldiers that motivated me the most during the war. I think it is the ultimate feeling that you can ever have as a helicopter pilot. That was one of our main roles there – casualty evacuation. I would say it’s a very satisfying feeling when you save a life because that is what you’re there for”.
Her unparalleled courage set her aside from the crowd and marked her the ‘Air Warrior’, an inspiration for the country’s youth, and for the thousands of passionate women who are looking to serve and protect the nation.
In her interview with NDTV, Gunjan mentioned that the decision to induct women as fighter pilots was a “positive step on part of the Air Force”.
She also said “Being a pioneer, I would say, it feels great and I would only say that I hope these women who’ve come into the fighter stream now give their 100 per cent and really, really touch the sky with glory”.
Her marvelous service in the Kargil war was honoured with the Shaurya Chakra Award by the army and she became the first woman to receive this honour.
Nation Salutes Her
She is often referred to as the “Kargil Girl” and recently her biopic has been released directly on Netflix. In the lead role there is Janhvi Kapoor along with Pankaj Tripathi and Angad Bedi.
The whole unit of production mentioned how focused they are on bringing the finest and the most entertaining film to the people around the world, “Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl a Story of Pure Courage and Determination”.
“Everybody at my age has a story to tell. Lucky few like me have Sharan and Janhvi to narrate my story”, Gunjan Saxena mentioned on her instagram account.
Ferofly salutes the immense bravery, hard work and dedication of flight lieutenant Gunjan Saxena for making our nation proud. We also accompany thousands of Indian heroes and warriors who are working effortlessly and passionately in various different fields of education, space, business, politics and others, with a belief that India will shine like a Golden bird, Always!