Kolkata girl Taniya Sanyal loves dancing, reading and is equally adept at handling a major fire in the aviation service. She says a woman doesn't need to be muscular to break the barrier in male-dominated professions as mental capability holds the biggest key.
It was a "pleasant surprise" for the 27-year-old girl when she became India's first woman aviation firefighter to be appointed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in 2018.
"I happened to see the advertisement and gave it a shot as I wanted to do something very unconventional. Firefighting in aviation is different from the general firefighting as one needs to respond very quickly.
"It is all about technique. People with great muscle power can also fail," Sanyal told IANS after being honoured by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) for her achievements.
It was a proud moment for the soft-spoken girl as her efforts to break the glass ceiling have been recognised.
"In this field, time is really valuable and one needs to master that. So apart from physical fitness, mental strength is also very important," she explained.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules, the response time is 138 seconds for firefighters as in such cases one cannot stay inside the plane longer than that if there is a crash or a fire.
Sanyal, a postgraduate in Botany, applied for the job as she fulfilled the initial criteria, but disclosed it to her parents only after clearing the first round. They gave her complete freedom to follow her dreams. She took her final training from the Fire Training Centre in New Delhi.
"I feel very privileged to get full support from my parents, trainers and fellow mates. Still, during training I needed to keep myself motivated and Robin Sharma's book – 'The Greatness Guide' – helped me a lot," she said.
Sanyal describes herself as a girl-next-door who actively participated in cultural programmes during her college days.
"I performed Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Rabindra Nritya, and so on. I was never involved in sports, so my career happened out of the blue. Though I have always been active, my elder sister helped me a lot in training myself after I passed the theory paper," she said.
She recalls how she was calm enough to cut off the power when there was a sudden spark in the classroom during her post-graduation studies.
She is currently posted at the Fire Service Training Centre (FTSC) in the city as a trainer.
She says another woman who has recently been selected in the northern zone of AAI has been trained by her. She wants this number to keep rising.
"In 2019, it is high time that we break the gender barrier in all male-dominated professions. I believe every woman living in our society is a fighter and nothing is impossible for them," Sanyal said.