Sarla Thakral India’s First Women Pilot
Sarla Thakral, a mother of a four-year-old, created history when she became the first Indian woman to fly an aircraft.
Who was Sarla Thakral?
In 1936, Sarla obtained her pilot licence. She took her first solo flight at the age of 21 in a small double-winged plane, clad in a traditional Indian sari. She broke the glass ceiling that many of us talk about, and needless to add, she did it in 1936.
Thakral was born on August 8, 1914, in Delhi, British India. She later moved to Lahore in present-day Pakistan. She was an Indian pilot, designer and entrepreneur.
When Sarla took her first flight, she was married and was a mother of a four-year-old daughter. Her husband P D Sharma, a pilot himself was the initiator behind her achievement and more so, her father-in-law, who was both escatic and supportive of her aviation journey.
“My husband was the first Indian to get an airmail pilot’s license and flew between Karachi and Lahore. It wasn’t so much of him though. My father-in-law was even more enthusiastic and got me enrolled in the flying club. I knew I was breaching a strictly male bastion but I must say the men, never made me feel out of place.
– Sarla Thakral
After completing 1,000 hours of flight time Sarla gained her group ‘A’ licence. She was then on the lookout for a group B licence, which would have allowed her to fly commercially. Soon World War II broke out, and civic training was put on hold. If this was not shattering enough, her spouse died in a car accident while she was training in Jodhpur in 1939. At the age of 24, she was widowed. That’s when she decided to give up her dream of becoming a commercial pilot.
Sarla returned to Lahore where she enrolled herself to the Mayo School of Arts to study fine art and painting (now the National College of Arts). After partition, she moved to Delhi with her two daughters.
Sarla began her second innings by establishing a thriving jewellery and clothes design business.
“Always be happy. It is very important for us to be happy and cheerful. This one moto has seen me tide over the crisis in my life”.
– Sarla Thakral
In 2008, the vivacious and charismatic Sarla Thakral left us. She died leaving behind a legacy of smart and confident Indian women aspiring to fly high or create wonders in the world of business. Sadly, today’s youth are unaware of her achievements, and its time we give her the due she deserved.