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Meet these path-breaking women who grew up as army kids, but chose to tread unfamiliar paths; not stopping at that but really aced their game and become super achievers.
How’s the Josh? How’s the Josh? How’s the Josh!
When it comes to these words our hands automatically offer a salute. With every mean feat being performed at the border, our collective respect and gratitude for the defence forces just increases exponentially.
For an outsider, army life is enchanting, but at the same time the challenges that army kids have in growing up in such a transitional manner are plenty. Well as they say, diamonds go through a lot of cuts and processes only to shine bright. Kids growing up in a defence environment also become super achievers because of those challenges.
Here’s a list of 7 prolific women who are army kids, and also their own super achievers.
Renuka Chowdary is one of the early representation of women in Rajya Sabha. When she entered the house as a young woman people would call her Rajni, the popular television character in the 90s. She was elected the first ever minister of Woman and Child development. A politician from the Indian National Congress, she also served as a Union minister in the Government of India.
Renuka was born to air commodore Suryanarayana Rao. Growing up in Andhra Pradesh she graduated in Industrial Psychology from Bangalore University.
Chowdhury was instrumental in getting the Domestic Violence Act passed into law. But the feisty minister did not stop at that. She continued her fight with the system and has been instrumental in putting across several other laws especially that on sexual harassment at the workplace during her tenure as Minister, without any debate or discussion on its relevance or merits.
She is a force to reckon with and has handled the sexist jibes at workplace independently. This is quite evident from her farewell speech when BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu asked her to lose weight and let her party’s weight increase instead. In her classic style she just retorted saying “Congress is doing fine” and put the man in place. Way to go Ma’am!
Image source: YouTube
The first time I saw Gul Panang was in a movie called Dhoop. A lesser known film, it was about parents grappling with the grief of losing their soldier son in the war. Gul played the girlfriend also dealing with this terrible news.
In the little bit of what I remember of that movie, even in the emotional scenes Gul came across as extremely radiant. Many years later when I saw her on news channels campaigning for elections I almost fell off a chair.
Born to Lt. Gen. Panag who served the Indian Army, Gul wears many different hats with panache. Former Miss India, she competed in the Miss Universe pageant. Beauty queen, movies, politics, sports, adventure enthusiast, social activist Gul has a journey that is not short of an adventure itself. After her brief stint in movies, Gul had contested the Lok Sabha elections from the Aam Aadmi Party from Chandigarh. Gul is also a certified pilot and was also trained in Formula E.
Being an army kid she studied in almost 14 schools and gained such varied life experience. Gul is a super achiever and definitely a lot different than the other Bollywood actresses who came from an army background.
Image source: Bollywood Hungama [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
“Daddy’s Lil girl” are the words tattooed on her wrist, which became a huge trendsetter.
Priyanka in her own words was always a Daddy’s girl and despite his early demise she always kept him alive in her work. Today Priyanka is the most popular youth icon who changed the definition of stardom here. She opened the boundaries of an Indian film star to crossover into mainstream films in the West. She is the first one to do this in a way that has paved opportunities for every upcoming actor in India and Asia too.
Miss India, Miss World, Bollywood actor, singer, Hollywood star and International Icon. Priyanka has become the face of every girl’s Indian and American. Her achievements are the stuff of legends, and will be remembered in history forever.
Priyanka was born in India to doctor parents Dr Ashok Chopra and Dr. Madhu Chopra. Both were doctors in the Indian army which gave Priyanka the kind of upbringing one gawks about. Born in Jamshedpur, Priyanka was ambitious and was raised as an independent girl thanks to her parents.
Image source: Fuzheado [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Let’s take a walk! Well perhaps literally because if we hear the amazing story of Srishti’s we would all be inspired to walk.
What she performed was no easy feat, and the motivation behind this initiative is a silent reminder to all of us that we have become so indifferent to the horrific incidents around us.
Plonked in a plush office in Hong Kong, Srishti once came across the Bulandshahr rape incident and it shook her to the core. She quit her job and returned to India to form an organization. She did not want to just sit back and turn the page on this as just another news item, which led to her forming CrossBow.
Being the daughter of an army officer, Srishti imbibed discipline along with courage. It is rare for someone to give up an entire career to put one’s heart into something they truly believe in. Through CrossBow, Sakshi has embarked on a walking mission spread over 260 days and 3800 kms. Through this she held several workshops and enlightened women and men of all strata about violence in women, sensitizing citizens in combating violence against women through financial and digital literacy. Her initiative is part of the Champions of Change with Empower Women Initiative by United Nations Women.
Image source: Twitter
In a tiny little garage of a corner in Noida, Meena now 71, started her journey as a mentor to poor children. Little did she or the children know that life was going to change soon enough. When you look at her images on internet with the smiling children, you immediately know she is a special soul.
Coming from an army background she wanted to give back to the society. And there she started teaching her house help’s children in the tiny garage of her house. Soon enough the numbers multiplied, and 20 years later she has a community of a hundred and more children who are not only schooled by her but taken care of too.
With the growing number of children Meena soon setup the Sankalp Sakhsharta Samiti where she not only educated them for free but also took care of their food, stationery and other needs. She needed the funds to provide for the children which then led her to doing random jobs like selling salt from her father’s factory. Since the children came from families where they were treated inhumanly, she realized that sensitizing their parents was also equally important. “My purpose in life was not to just provide them with education, but also develop them as a responsible citizen.” says Meena.
Meena was approached by the Smile Foundation and that led her to dive into her passion with more fervor than before. It gave her the financial support that she needed to expand. For this wonder woman age is truly just a number.
Image source: Smile Foundation
In history we had Rani Laxmi bai, Jhalkari bai, Hirkani and many women who battled their difficult circumstances to rise above and shine. In today’s modern times, the circumstances have still not changed, but the number of warrior queens have doubled; and that is a good sign.
In 2018 there was a compelling image of 3 women walking out of a fighter combat jet that changed our history and future as well. It definitely wasn’t in a movie, but in real life when Flight Lieutenants Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh walked out of the airplane. A sight to behold and cherish, they opened windows for many girls who had only dreamt of flying.
In October 2015 the government had opened the fighter pilot stream for women even as the Army wouldn’t sallow women to take combat roles. Since then Mohana had her colleagues, all of 20-something, who underwent gruelling training for a year to become the country’s first fighter pilots.
Born to a family of air force officers, the idea of flying and serving the country was most natural to Lt. Singh. Her father works in the IAF while grandfather is still serving as a flight gunner in the Indian Aviation Centre. Unfortunately, women in the defence forces and especially in the air force are confined to handling transport or helicopter units. When the opportunity for combat came through thanks to Minister Manohar Parrikar’s decision, Lt. Singh realized it was a great opportunity because it came from her need for speed. Lt. Singh was always keen to fly fighter planes and recently debuted at Aero India 2019. Given a choice, Lt. Singh says that she would like to fly all planes. It is her dream to become a good fighter pilot and make her parents proud.
Well needless to say, Lt Singh has paved the way for the future that the coming generations would be forever grateful for.
During her graduation years, Solonie had a serious accident that resulted in a knee surgery, which led her to believe she may never be able to run. In mid-2013 she started her fitness journey again, by walking, and later participating in 10km runs. By 2014 she took the plunge to participate in the Ironman.
For people living under a rock, Ironman is the world’s most difficult triathlon event. Although she was training for the half Ironman, by 2015 she had made up her mind to attempt the full Ironman. In August 2016 Solonie was the sole female participant in the Ironman and not just that but also completed the event successfully.
With female participants in sport one rarely considers the situation of menstrual cramps during the performance. With even her tough nerves, she was struck by blinding agonizing pain during the bike leg of the tournament. She could’ve easily given up by the cramps that hit her right then, but this army girl was not going to give up so soon. The race that was held in Sweden where temperatures are freezing, Solonie completed each leg before the cut-off time, and fun fact is the people who complete Ironman are just 0.01 percent of the world population.
Despite all the pain that she endured while completing the race the only four words that kept her going “You are an Ironman”. For an average 30-year-old woman, life is about partying and living it up, but for Solonie it was a shuffle between meeting her deadlines at KPO consultancy to training for swimming, biking or running. For her steel nerves, this sure was a different kind of a party.
I am the quintessential ya-ya girl, but also the silent rebel. I love fiction,
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