Women’s Day: Avani Chaturvedi, first Indian woman pilot to fly a fighter jet solo, says ‘Never give up’
Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi is the toast of the nation, having claimed the skies as the first ever Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft (MiG-21 bison) solo. That, too, at the age of 24! It’s no mean feat, but Avani humbly says, “I was just at the right place at the right time. I was a part of a team, so anyone else in my place would have done the same.”
Her success is an inspiration to several women — from those starting out or proving themselves in male-dominated fields to all those who challenge stereotypes in their own way. Accepting the adulation with even more humility, she says, “It feels good to have become [an] inspiration for someone. But I don’t think I’ve done something great, a lot of them have done the same before… Yes, you can say that for the first time a girl has done it, but the feeling isn’t very different.”
Is there a message she’d like to share with the ladies on International Women’s Day (observed on March 8)? “At any point in life, be it in any field, women should not feel that they are different, rather they should focus on doing their best in whatever they do, find their own voice and the rest will fall in place. If you are good professionally and competent, then everybody would accept you,” says Avani.
She adds that everyone has the capability to shine bright. “We all have it in us to overcome the hurdles, which are part of our existence. Dream big and then work hard towards achieving it. Never lose hope! Staying strong is important and nothing can stop you.” Her words carry the weight of an achiever, and the drive to scale newer heights is apparent.
A strong believer in equal opportunities for all, the young blood shares that the approach in the Indian Air Force (IAF), is no different. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. “Our training process was similar. We all had to follow similar schedule and [were] treated equally,” says Avani.
Reminiscing the days when she harboured dreams of flying high, she says, “I had always wanted to be a pilot!” Later, when Avani got an opportunity to fly as a member of her college’s Gliding and Flying Club (in Vanasthali University, Jaipur), that dream got wings, and she was convinced that she wanted to join the IAF. “Being in a family where most of my relatives are in the defence forces (in the Army) I wanted to be a part of it too. I wanted to wear the uniform,” she says.
In her journey ahead, Avani’s family — father Dinkar Prasad Chaturvedi, mother Savita Chaturvedi and brother Nirabhra Chaturvedi, who is a major in the Indian Army, stood by her. “They’ve always encouraged me. When I told them I want to join the Air Force and fly a fighter jet, they were supportive.” Her brother especially is a pillar of strength. “It’s good to have an elder sibling,” she laughs softly.
On a lighter note, Avani is a sports lover, and unwinds by playing badminton. “I enjoy running, too. I also watch films and read books when I get the time,” she signs off.
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