Femcyclopaedia by Kirthi Jayakumar

Art by Kirthi Jayakumar

Art by Kirthi Jayakumar

At a time when equality and women’s empowerment were notions still unheard of, Sarla Thakur became the first Indian woman to fly an aircraft. Born in 1914, she earned an aviation pilot license in 1936 at the age of 21. By that time she was already married and had a four-year-old daughter. In spite of the odds, her husband P.D Sharma encouraged her to achieve her dream of flying. Sarla was also supported by her in-laws, who have a long line of pilots in their family.

While Sharma became the first Indian to get his airmail’s pilot license, Sarla became the first Indian woman to attain her ‘A’ license when she accumulated over 1000 hours of flying. After the tragic demise of her husband in a plane crash in 1939, Sarla went on to get her commercial pilot’s license from Jodhpur. Unfortunately, World War II had broken out by then and flying was suspended. Abandoning her plans to become a commercial pilot, Sarla returned to Lahore and joined the Mayo School of Art. There she trained in the Bengal school of painting and obtained a diploma in fine arts. Sarla met her second husband, P.P Thakral, when she moved to Delhi after partition. Being an ardent Arya Samaj follower, it made it easier for her to remarry, since they advocate widow remarriage. From there onward began the second innings of her life. Sarla dabbled in costume jewellery, which were not only worn by the who’s who but also supplied to Cottage Emporium for fifteen years. She also designed sarees after taking to block painting. Sarla all along kept to painting and also began designing for the National School of Drama. Quite like her personality, Sarla kept herself active and involved till her last breath in 2008.

– Femcylopaedia by Kirthi Jayakumar


* Source: Wikipedia


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