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Padmavathy Bandopadhyay the first woman Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force is an inspiration to all of us. This is why we salute her!
As the first woman Air Marshal in the Indian Air Force, Padmavathy Bandopadhyay is an icon for women everywhere who hope to touch the sky one day. She is the second woman in the Indian Armed Forces to be promoted to a three-star rank- after the Indian Army’s Lt. General Punita Arora.
Born on November 4, 1944, she joined the service in 1968 and has the distinction of being the first woman officer to become an aviation medicine specialist. Padmavathy was 60, in 2004, when she was awarded the rank of the Air Marshal in the Indian Air Force. Before taking over as the Director General Medical Services (DGMS), she handled the charge of Additional Director General of the Armed Forces Medical Services.
A decorated air force officer, she has the Ativisisht Seva Medal and the Visisth Seva Medal for her service during the Indo-Pak conflict in 1970. She was also the Air Officer Commanding of the Air Force Central Medical Establishment, New Delhi. Padmavathy Bandopadhyay is also a member of the Indian Society of Aerospace Medicines, International Medical Society and the New York Academy of Sciences. What’s more is that she has even been a member of a research expedition to the Arctic.
Life wasn’t always easy for her. Born to V. Swaminathan and Alamelu at Tirupati, she saw her mother sick and in the hospital. This strengthened her desire to become a doctor so no one suffered like her mother did. She grew up in Delhi where she studied pre-medical at Kirori Mal and stood first in her whole course.
In 1962, when the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) opened their applications, she applied and passed the examination in the first batch. However, owing to some familial issues, she was unable to join the college. The next year, she managed to convince her parents and joined Batch B at AFMC.
An excellent student, she won several prizes and medals during college. Since she had opted for Air Force, she was posted as an Internee at the Air Force Hospital in Bangalore which was where she met her husband Flt. Lt. Satinath Bandopadhyay.
In 1968, Padmavathy was commissioned in the IAF after passing out of the Armed Forces Medical College. However an issue with her eyesight forced her to give up her dreams of being a pilot. She stuck to her medical career in the IAF and specialised in aviation medicine in 1975. Since then, Padmavathy has 23 research projects and 27 publications to her credit. She is the first woman officer to become an aviation medicine specialist.
During the 1971 Pakistan War, she was posted along with her husband at the Halwara airbase in Punjab. At that time, Padmavathy was an intern fresh out of the IAF command hospital in Bangalore. Her husband, Satinath Bandopadhyay was an administrative officer. And for their contributions in the war effort both Padmavathy and Satinath Bandopadhyay were awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal. This is an award presented to the officers who have an exemplary devotion to duty. They were the first ever couple to be honoured with the VSM at the same defence ceremony by the President.
She was promoted to the rank of Group Captain and was posted as the Deputy Principle Medical Officer (Specialist) of the Western Air Command. This was when the Indo-Pak relations had reached their lowest ebb. During the Kargil Operations she toured all the forward areas and looked after the medical needs of the Air Warriors.
Padmavathy made history again by becoming the First Lady Air Commodore of Indian Air Force on June 26, 2000. She took over the command of the most prestigious Air Force Medical Unit, Air Force Central Medical Establishment. She was awarded Ati Vishisth Seva Medal for her service of meritorious order on January 26, 2002.
Padmavathy was promoted and became the First Lady Air Vice Marshal of Indian Air Force and also the first of all the Air Forces of the world. She took over as Additional Director General Armed Forces Medical Services. On October 1, 2004, she was promoted to the highest rank of the Medical Branch, that of an Air Marshal.
She took over the command of Air Force Medical Services and became the first lady Air Marshal of the world. And the first Lady Director General Medical Services of the forces. She is also the first Lady Honorary Surgeon to the President of India.
It seems impossible for an individual to have achieved so many things in such a short span. Padmavathy Bandopadhyay has won several battles, from the ones in the actual battle fields to the metaphorical ones. She achieved her dreams of curing people and making the world a better place though she was faced numerous difficulties.
Her story is proof of how much one can achieve if they set their eyes on the ultimate goal. Padmavathy Bandopadhyay is an ideal for all of us, a star in the firmament for all of us to look up at.
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