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A Woman's Journey To IAF Top Post

Jul 13, 2004
Ref: http://headlines.sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=13620697&headline=A~woman's~journey~to~IAF~top~post

Tuesday, 30 November , 2004, 14:38

Bangalore: As a young girl with a "very conservative Iyer background" as she puts it, Padma knew nothing about the Armed Forces in the early 1960s.

But the Chinese aggression of 1962 changed all that. "It was a massacre of young people....who were all my friends...they were not there next day. That situation made me seriously contemplate the armed forces...thats the area," she says.

Subsequently, she joined the Armed Forces Medical College. "That was an opening for me to join the Armed Forces."

Four decades later, the decision more than paid off. She became the first Lady Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force and of all the Air Forces of the world.

"During my intermediate (pre-medical), I really did not know anything about armed forces," Air Marshal Padma Bandopadhyay recalled in a conversation with a PTI correspondent.

"Very conservative Iyer background...knew nothing about it. but the 1962 war changed a lot. a lot of young lives were lost. A down-to-earth person born in the temple town of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh in 1944, Bandopadhyay says success is not an individual story. "It's a total commitment of everybody... the home front, as well as the office."

Categorically stating that there is no gender bias in the IAF, she says if one is professionally competent, the sky is the limit.

"No difference, being a male or a female. the IAF has nothing against ladies." Women are not there in big numbers in the IAF because there is no permanent service commissioning for them (now they are taken on Short Service commissioning of 14 years), barring the Armed Forces Medical College.

"I do not call it (IAF) male-dominated.Women never entered it," she says. Lack of permanent commissioning for women means they cannot aspire for higher ranks.

On the personal front, the fact that her husband is also from the IAF -- Wg. Cdr Dr. S N Bandopadhyay -- helped her in no small measure. Her husband comes on top of her list of people who helped her become what she is today. Her face lighting up, the Air Marshal recalls how she spent a year or so in bunkers (forward area) during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. "I was the only lady then...I did not feel any different. It was an enjoyable experience."

And for those women who are keen on choosing the IAF as a career option, Bandopadhyay has words of caution. "If you keep saying `I am a lady, I am a lady..I need special treatment....why did you come here (IAF).....be a part of them. You cannot be a man. But you can be a part of the team and work together."

Life in the IAF is not a bed of roses,she warns aspirants. One has to be mentally tough and its not a 9-to-5 job where one can go home after work. "It (IAF) is a home, family even after 5 (pm) also. And there is social gathering in the evenings. Learn to be happy in this extended family". "If you can't get into this family..its very difficult to survive." In response to a question, Bandopadhyay says she personally believes in destiny and fate. "I have got a lot of blessings from God. I sincerely believe in the philosophy of `Karma. If you do good `Karma, you get good things back.



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