Army Today

Arms & the Women

Meeting a motivated lot of soldiers was a thrilling experience by itself and a reaffirmation of faith in the daring breed of women who have made their presence felt in the profession which has been conventionally associated with male dominance.

The fact that women are as competent as men in a wide variety of areas ranging from sports to academics to professions that require high levels of training and education has now come to be widely accepted. Armed forces are, unarguably, one of the most progressive, secular and professional organs of the state, whose contribution in making the country what it is today, is phenomenal. The induction of women in the Army occurred in 1993, when the Women's Special Entry Scheme (WSES) was introduced. India is proud to have its daughters, Rani Padmavati and Chand Bibi, who shone out as soldiers and generals in a period when women were under the suppression of the veil. Can anybody deny the administrative skills and chivalry of Rani Laxmi Bai? Young ladies who have opted for the Army have shown their grit against heavy odds, whether it is the snow-bound Siachen Glacier, or the sweltering Rajasthan desert, or the impenetrable jungles of the North-East or the coastal regions down the south and above all, in the face of invisible enemy, the militant. When the opportunity to meet some of these dynamic women officers of the Golden Arrow Division arose, it was like a dream come true.

Lieutenant Sophia Qureshi

A postgraduate in biochemistry, Lieutenant Qureshi while justifying her decision to join the Army, said: "The Army is the only career that enables you to lead a life full of adventure. If you have a sense of daredevilry coupled with the courage to withstand hardships, then the Army is the answer. The life of a service officer is a blend of varied experiences hard work, constant alertness and an opportunity to travel to various places in India and even abroad," says the proud officer who is the first Signals' lady officer to be made sparrow and given a challenging task of commanding a brigade signals company. Had she not joined the Army, she would have gone in for a job at the DRDO. She is proud of the fact that the women officers attended the same training courses as men and performed the same duties. The question of gender disparity does not arise, she feels. However, she admitted that there were some initial hiccups in getting adjusted to a hitherto male-dominated organisation. She adjusted to the set-up very soon and hesitatingly admits that she enjoys an enviable reputation for professional competence.

Captain Dinesh Bhardwaj Singh

"From a very young age, long before the Indian Army decided to allow women into the armed forces, I wanted to join the services" says Captain Singh, a smart young officer posted with the Golden Arrow Division. "I am not the kind of person who would fit into the regular nine to five job. Had it not been the Army, I would have joined the Indian Police Service," she asserted. A postgraduate in physics, she is married to a BSF officer and has a daughter. She feels that joining the Army is in no way any impediment to leading a normal family life, provided there is determination.

Lieutenant Sonali Gupta

An ordnance officer posted with the Golden Arrow Division, she feels that joining the Army is an excellent career move. The daughter of an ordnance officer in the Indian Army, she reveals that since childhood she was so fascinated by her father's uniform that she always nourished a desire of donning the same one day. Recalling her first day of service in Bombay, Lieutenant Sonali recounts that the moment she entered the ordnance complex, she saw a smartly dressed chap in front of her office and presuming him to be a senior officer, she saluted him. Later on, to her amusement, she found that the chap was working as a sahayak [security staff] in her office.

Lieutenant Parul Sharma

From the Engineers, she confides that it was Shah Rukh Khan in the television serial Fauji, who inspired her to join the Army. An honours in mathematics from Delhi University, when Lieutenant Sharma was asked why she chose Army as a career, she had only this to say, "Why not? Women officers have to work twice as hard as men to prove themselves but then the same is true for women in any other field of work. The Army offers excellent opportunities for personal development and overall growth." So, there is no question of regretting the decision to join the force.

Lieutenant Kalyani Deshpande

Another smartly turned up lady officer, believes that, "To begin a career with the Indian Army is an excellent training ground for any woman with aptitude. The Army prepares officers mentally, physically and psychologically for various levels of social interaction. We develop well-rounded personalities that enable us to adapt to any environment and emerge winners in all circumstances." claims Lieutenant Deshpande.

Asked to say a few words for the wannabe girls thinking to join Army. "Just do it!" they chorused. Do women make good soldiers, and are they ruthless enough to kill if the situation demands? "Yes"! is the unanimous reply of all these lady officers elegantly dressed in the combat gear. Their smart uniforms, neat hairdo, and a confident and firm stride places them in a different league altogether. Without losing out on their essential feminity they stand out even in civvies. Meeting a motivated lot of soldiers was a thrilling experience by itself and a reaffirmation of faith in the daring breed of women who have made their presence felt in the profession which has been conventionally associated with male dominance.

The Tribune - 06 April 2003

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