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Pratibhaji-force

For those worrying about women flying combat aircraft, the Indian President shows the way. In style...

india Updated: Nov 25, 2009 21:21 IST

President Pratibha Patil exchanged her sari for overalls and got inside a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet. Well, not only did she fly herself into history as the first female head of State as well as the oldest woman ever to get inside a fighter aircraft’s cockpit, but she also drove home the message that the demure Pratibhaji of the long-sleeved blouses can look Top Gun in Sukhoi couture. The Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces did more than wave her gloved hands and take the salute from a ceremonial guard of honour. So what if the nation was a bit nervous as it saw the image of the 74-year-old pull herself slowly up the staircase with both hands that led to the plane. Patil in a G-suit and a cap was ‘All Systems Go Sister!’ Pratibha.

One wonders about President Patil’s warm’n’fuzzy sensation of feeling “reassured” about the nation’s “skills, expertise and strength” to defend its borders after a 40-minute sortie. But hey, can’t a girl in a Sukhoi suit feel well-protected if she wants to be? It’s the other issue — which was the matter of a brief debate among the chattering classes last week — of whether women should be allowed in the Indian Air Force as combat pilots that still remains in the air. After all it takes more than power yoga, a few hours on the treadmill, and the uncanny ability to look like former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam from far to make the grade.

Or maybe, taking a cue from our president, aspiring women pilots should bide their time, make sure their kids have grown, gather up those tidy savings from jobs that throw in some maternity leave and hit the 70s at supersonic speed. If President Patil can, why not you grandma?