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'No Barbie dolls in the bunker'

Payal Mehta hopes to pack in some ?glamour? into her life and so, wants to join the army. Here?s some advice for the 21-year-old: it's best she looks for an alternative career.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 01:53 IST

Payal Mehta hopes to pack in some “glamour” into her life and so, wants to join the army. Here’s some advice for the 21-year-old: it's best she looks for an alternative career.

Air Marshal Padma Bandopadhyaya (retd) and Vice Admiral Puneeta Arora (retd), two celebrated lady officers who created history by reaching the three-star rank, caution that the uniform is not for girls driven by dreamy notions about the services. With almost four decades of military service behind them, they should know.

Air Marshal Bandopadhyaya puts it bluntly, “If a girl is not mentally prepared, the job could be worse than climbing Everest. Life is tough and there are plenty of difficult situations. They will have to deal with them like soldiers and not expect the gender factor to come to their rescue.”

The air marshal does not believe that the recent controversial incidents involving lady officers — including Thursday’s suicide — should be construed as the army’s inability to manage its women cadre.

“Before joining the armed forces, girls should make efforts to study the army way of life. Family life often gets disturbed. Deployment in tough areas is part of the deal. One could take it as a challenge or a punishment. It’s about the mindset.”

Vice Admiral Arora, who headed the Navy’s medical services branch before retiring last month, feels it’s extremely crucial for lady officers to choose the right spouse.

“The spouse can play a vital role in easing off pressures. And if that’s not the case, you have had it,” she cautions. Admiral Arora says mental conditioning is paramount for women aspiring to join the forces. “You are making a wrong choice if you like wearing pretty chiffon sarees everyday.”

Recalling a tough moment, Admiral Arora says she was terribly demoralised when the army many years ago introduced a rule which did not permit husband and wife to be posted together.