“Pinjre me qaid ho jana nahi, Pinjra tod ke udd jana he”
She was a child visiting the cockpit of a plane. It all started there. Her dreams were given the colorful wings by her father who was an army officer. His encouragement and her will gifted Flight Lt. Gunjan Saxena aka ‘The Kargil Girl’ to us.
India won the Kargil War in the year 1999 showing what we can do. As came directly from Gunjan, “The view was mesmerising and I knew in that moment that I belonged to the sky. My father, an Army officer, gave wings to that dream, encouraging me at every step.”
Who Is Gunjan Saxena?
Gunjan Saxena was one of the early women officers in the IAF, who was commissioned as a transport and helicopter pilot. Also, she earned the prestigious designation to be one of the two women officers who were on the war’s frontlines.
The Flight Officer Gunjan Saxena created history by entering the combat zone amidst the war. It was a glorious feat that wasn’t achieved by any lady officer earlier in the Indian Air Force. She was awarded Shaurya Chakra for her valour and self-sacrifice.
Gunjan Saxena – Early Life
Born in 1975, Gunjan belongs to a respected Army family. Gunjan’s father, Lt. Col Anup Kumar Saxena and brother, Lt Col Anshuman were in Indian Army. Her father was the biggest inspiration for her which is evident from the dialogue of 2020’s Bollywood movie dedicated to her life, “Plane ladka udhaye ya ladki, Dono ko pilot hi bolte hai.”
Gunjan Saxena did her graduation earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics from Hansraj College, University of Delhi.
Gunjan Saxena – Personal Life
Gunjan Saxena is married to Wing Commander Gautam Narain, an Air Force pilot of IAF Mi-17 helicopter. Narain was an instructor at the National Defense Academy, the first tri-service academy in the world. Gunjan and Narain are blessed with a daughter named Pragya born in 2004.
Gunjan Saxena – Life Phases and Achievements
During the time, when Gunjan Saxena was pursuing an undergraduate B.Sc course at Hansraj College, she got a golden opportunity of joining as a trainee pilot in the Indian Air Force, the very first female batch in the history of IAF. At that time, the defense forces were predominantly dominated by male officers.
The lady officers had no chance to fly helicopter like their male counterparts. But, being a strong headed and determined officer Gunjan was, she decided to grab this opportunity and did what other women haven’t done yet.
Gunjan set out to clear SSB, the entrance exam, and the required medical tests. After that, she joined as a pilot in the IAF in 1994. Her batch created history as everyone was unsure about how women can overcome the physical and mental stress of flying and enduring the chaos of war. Though, there were special reservations for women pilots in the Indian Air Force, yet young fearless women like Gunjan just needed one chance to prove themselves which they did in 1999’s Kargil war with elan. Befitting the movie dialogue here saluting Gunjan’s steel strong will power, hard work, and never give up mentality, “Jo log mehnat ka saath nahi chodte, Kismat kabhi unka saath nahi chodti.”
Gunjan Saxena – Success Story
Gunjan became a valued part of the Kargil war. She was listed as the first ever woman in IAF to fly in a combat zone. Along with Gunjan, another woman was there, Flight Lieutenant Srividya Rajan, who also flew Cheetah helicopter and fiercely entered the war zone.
Saxena was given the crucial roles of evacuating the wounded soldiers from Kargil, transporting the needed supplies and provide assistance in surveillance. She efficiently performed her duty of evacuating more than 900 troops including deceased and injured from the war zone. She served IAF as one of the best helicopter pilots for eight long years. Her service was put to an end in the year 2004. During that time, there was no permanent commissions for women.
Gunjan Saxena – Her Inspirational Story For The Youth
Rachna Bisht Rawat wrote a book titled ‘Kargil Untold Stories From The War’ in which a chapter is emphasized on Gunjan Saxena. Gunjan’s popularity spread wide with the Netflix release of the recent Bollywood film ‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’ in 2020. Janhvi Kapoor essayed the character of Gunjan beautifully. Dharma Productions, Essel Vision Productions, and Zee Studios produced the movie. Gunjan’s inspiring father’s role was given justice by the ace veteran actor Pankaj Tripathi. Another popular actor Angad Bedi played the role of Gunjan’s brother.
To boot, the film is a subject of an autobiography titled ‘The Kargil Girl’ that was co-written with Nirvan and Kirandeep Singh. Penguin Random House published it. Nirvan Singh quoted, “Her story is inspirational and our aim was to celebrate her achievements as a pathbreaker.”
What Makes Gunjan Saxena – The SuperHer?
Gunjan is living her life as a homemaker now in Varanasi with her husband and lovely daughter. The movie based on her life and courageous actions went through an array of controversies, overcoming which Saxena quoted, “I think the intention of the filmmakers was to inspire people to dream and chase their dreams. One must always believe in their dreams and work hard to achieve them, despite all odds…In the armed forces, nothing is a walk in the park. I had my share of struggles, like others have had theirs, and those hardships have made me what I am today.”
Gunjan Saxena’s success story is a tribute to the existing women power and the equality that just need one chance to be proved with glory. India’s daughter Gunjan, is the real super-hero for every woman who possess iron will and resoluteness that can win any odds with her dynamism.
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