It was impossible to believe that the girl sitting in front of me with an innocent smile is a Ground Cadet Officer in the Indian Air Force. Saidaniya M. Ansari, a Malayali girl, is the one who controls fighter planes and gives directions to the pilots, acts as a second set of eyes to the brave pilots in the force with her intelligence and presence of mind.
Though she got admission in Cochin University for MBBS, she chose English literature for B.A. degree and joined the first co-ed batch in St. Albert's College. She bagged the first rank in M.G. University in the first year and fourth rank in the final year.
For M.A., she joined Hyderabad University. And there, her flair for literature flourished! The campus and professors there showed her a different world of literature. The daughter of Dr. Asma and Public Prosecutor Ansari, grew to be a person who could take charge of her life.
One of her subjects was gay-literature and she had the golden opportunity to be the student of world famous gay-poet Hoshang Merchant. Philosopher and writer Merchant gave her the strength to find out who she really was and not to be afraid of society. He told her to accept herself and declare it to ourselves first, but not to satisfy the people around.
It was her mother who came across an advertisement to apply for short-term courses in the Air Force and encouraged her join one. Saidaniya's adventurous nature, her longing to see different places, ability to mingle with different cultures, and meet different people made her apply for it and after a tough entrance exam she was selected to the Indian Air Force.
During the training period in Mysore, the trainees had to undergo several tests including physical fitness test, group discussion etc. “The trainees first undergo a six-month-long coaching, which is one of the toughest periods. You are under observation 24 hours. The way you dress, eat, mingle with others, how you perform in a group task, how you help other members overcome the task, everything will be watched. You have to be in uniform day and night. You are not supposed to use any cosmetics other than soaps. The most important factor, in a regiment, when a task is given, you have to make sure that all other members in the regiment successfully complete it. Otherwise, all are considered failure. It is to develop a mutual helping mentality. This tough period makes you a soldier from a civilian,” she says.
“The next six months is even tougher, because you are in charge of the new batch coming. If they do something wrong, you get the punishment. During this period, you have to earn even your 'bread and butter'! Not only that, your bicycle, your belongings, for everything you have to work hard, and earn it. This makes you a self-sufficient person. It makes you mentally strong,” Saidaniya adds.
After the one-year-long training, only two per cent of the trainees come out of after the screening. That is, if 200 were there only 20 or so pass out. Those will be trained by higher Air Force officers. After giving training to those who get selected in flying ground duties, technical branches, and helicopter fighting, the eligible persons will be posted by the Central government according to their ranks.
After all the tough training period, when they finish their tasks, the day comes when the Chief of Army himself gives them medals according to their ranks at the parade ground. “And that golden moment will be watched by your parents. The sun-tanned skin, oily hair or other difficulties do not matter! All the troubles you had to face vanish for a few moments.”
Saidaniya M. Ansari is now protecting our borders in Assam.