On February 15, when 10 women officers from the Indian Army flagged off from the Chennai Port, little did they know that the grueling journey from Chennai Nizampatnam-Vizag-Nizampatnam-Chennai on sea would help them charter a new course in the history of the Indian Army.
The expedition that lasted for 10 days was led by Major Mukta Gautam, and the crew comprised of Major Priya Semwal, Major Priya Das, Major Rashmil Sangwan, Major Arpita Dwivedi, Major Sanjana Mittal, Captain Jyoti Singh, Captain Malvika Rawat, Captain Shubham Solanki, and Captain Sonal Goyal. The women covered a distance of nearly 900 nautical miles marking this voyage as the first-ever sailing expedition undertaken by the all-women crew of the Indian Army.
From cooking, swimming to singing, and witnessing some rare species of marine life, the girls lived through some adventurous time on Bavaria 44 foot sailing yacht. Rough seas, scorching sun, biting cold and freezing winds, to no winds for an entire day, the girls faced everything with unrelenting spirit. The crew went through the training on the Seabird boat under the tutelage of EME Sailing Association and HBTC Marve before embarking on the expedition.
We caught up with the crew members to talk about their experiences onboard.
Major Mukta Gautam |
In love with the uniform
The skipper of the boat, Major Mukta is the first woman to join the Indian Army and got commissioned in 2011. “As a skipper, I always have to be on my toes. You are constantly in a tight spot to make decisions. You need to have a lot of patience and respect others’ opinions as well because there are other equally qualified minds onboard,” says Mukta who is currently posted in Delhi.
Major Priya Semwal |
Marching on his legacy
The wife of Naik Sharma who served in the 14 Rajput regiments in Arunachal Pradesh and was martyred in a counter-insurgency operation near Tawang, Major Priya Semwal decided to join the armed forces to pay tribute to her husband and became the first army wife of non commissioned officer to join the army in 2014 as an officer. A mother of a 13-year-old daughter, Priya is currently posted in Assam. “Being a woman, I think, I have proved enough that women are strong and capable to take up anything and finish that successfully. We wanted to motivate women to take up challenges,” says Major Priya.
Major Rashmil Sagwan |
Major Rashmil Sagwan, proudly says that she is the first woman officer to be posted in the toughest region of high altitude – 15000 feet above the sea level in Ladakh, where the temperature is -37 degrees with minimum oxygen and highest UV rays. “I have always been posted in field areas like Baramulla and Suratgarh so sailing was another challenge that I wanted to take up,” says Rashmil, who joined the Indian army in 2014 to fulfill her mother’s wish when she was detected with last stage cancer. “I feel rewarded now and this entire expedition has taught me a lot about myself,” she says.
Major Sanjana Mittal |
Advocating gender equality
Hailing from a family of entrepreneurs, Major Sanjana Mittal decided to carve her own path and joined Indian Army in 2014. This expedition was her first mission on the sea and she tells us that it was fulfilling. A mother of a three-year-old son; Sanjana is passionate about her service. “I have learned that if you are in a team, you can achieve anything. We all women came together from different cadres but we all had similar goals and focus. We were never treated differently for being women. We are all uniformed officers and we all have to prove equally,” says Sanjana, who is posted in Panagarh in West Bengal.
Captain Jyoti Singh |
The second generation of Army officers; Captain Jyoti Singh started her career with a multinational company and after a few years, she realised that she wanted to join the forces. “It’s a 360-degree turn for me, but it’s wonderful. We had a wonderful time onboard and it didn’t feel we were away from our families.,” enthuses the officer who joined the Army in 2018 and is posted in Jorhat, Assam.