At a time when skewed sex ratio is emerging as the biggest concern of Haryana, HT speaks to three young girls from the state who excelled in fields that are otherwise considered male bastions.
Name: Lt. Manisha Takshak
From: Chhapar village of Jhajjar district
When India display was displaying its military might on Republic Day, Takshak, who led a Navy contingent, caught everyone's attention including US President Barack Obama, the chief guest on the occasion. Takshak is the only daughter of small farmer and hails from Chhapar village in Jhajjar, a district that has one the most notorious child sex ratios in the state.
"My father used to narrate stories of 'faujis', including my grandfather, who was martyred in 1962 Indo-China War. This sparked the passion in me to join the forces and serve the country," said Takshak, who is presently posted at Chennai.
Being the lone daughter, her parents supported her interest to pursue higher studies during which applied for the Navy.
"Girls need to be bold and expressive about their dreams and should not shy away from chasing them, be it at the cost of social taboos," said Manisha.
On measures to correct child sex ratio in her district, she said, "Unless people understand that girls and boys are equal and they should be raised without bias, the sex ratio cannot be revived."
On the armed forces reservations over permitting women participating in combats, she said that it was only a mindset barrier.
Name: Captain Poonam Malik (Military Nursing Services)
From: Kharawar village Rohtak district
Twenty-five-year old Poonam Malik is the first woman in her Jat family, who has defied society's norms by choosing to be a working woman instead of a homemaker.
"Despite the fact that my father is a former armyman, the decision to join defence services in medical core was not an easy one. The hostile environment an officer has to deal with was hovering in my parents mind," said Poonam, who was recently promoted to a captain.
Crediting her father, Subedar Mahtab Singh (retired), and mother, Savita Devi, who live in Sector 3 Rohtak, Poonam said: "Unlike other parents who are predisposed towards boys, my parents had been supportive since the beginning and showed confidence in my decisions".
On women empowerment, she said that the fair sex should be like diamond, which is beautiful yet strong. "If women are given a level playing field to grow, then it would make the country and society a better place," she said, adding that more than anything women need freedom from society's biases, which are hammered into her mind.
Nodding in affirmative on whether women should be allowed to take up combat roles in the forces, she said that nowadays fights on the frontiers are more about technology and strategies, which women are fully capable of handling.
Cadet Kumudini Bhutani
If Captain Poonam Malik and Lt. Manisha Takshak have made a mark by getting into the defence services, Bhutani made the entire Rewari region proud by becoming the best NCC cadet in the country.
It is for the first time in the 50 years since the establishment of National Cadet Corps (NCC) in Chandigarh that a girl from the Ahirwal region has been adjudged the best cadet at the all-India level.
Bhutani received the gold medal in the all-India best air cadet competition of NCC during the Republic Day Camp in New Delhi. To achieve the feat, she beat 17 boys and 16 girls from across the country.
The eldest daughter of a chemist father and teacher mother, Kumudini stepped out from Rewari in 2012 to pursue higher studies in Chandigarh.
"My parents always told me that they were proud to have a daughter like me. I never felt discriminated at any point in life," she said.
On her achievement, she said that it was the collective success of her parents, and staff and officers of Chandigarh NCC.
"Nowadays, girls and boys play equal roles in society. And being a girl is a matter of pride and women should live their lives with this idea," she said, adding that there was an urgent need for the society to shed its old baggage about women.
Hailing the retired woman IPS officer, Kiran Bedi, as her role model, she said that a woman should take inspiration from the bold, confident and determined personality of Bedi.