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Soaring in air force, without flying

New Delhi, Nov. 29: Air Vice-Marshal P. Bandopadhyay, the first woman to rise to the post in the Indian Air Force, could not fulfil her dream to fly.

But she is not complaining. “I do not regret the fact that I could not become a pilot, as it was because of some physical impairment,” the doctor explains.

The 57-year-old, who was commissioned in the medical branch of the air force in 1968, is “excited and proud” after taking over as additional director, Armed Forces Medical Services.

It is time for her to say her thank yous, too. “I owe hundred per cent to my husband, Dr S.N. Bandopadhyay, a retired Indian Air Force officer, for what I’m today,” she says.

Bandopadhyay would also like to thank the Indian Air Force and the Armed Forces Medical Services for selecting her.

She had joined the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, in 1963 — a year after it was thrown open to women students.

Coming from a conservative Tamil Brahmin family that traces its roots to Coimbatore, Bandopadhyay had to overcome her parents’ opposition to don the uniform.

An expert in aviation medicine, Bandopadhyay has several firsts to her credit. She was the first Indian woman to reach North Pole as part of an Indo-Russian project in 1989-90, the first woman officer to complete the Defence Service Staff College Course and the first woman air force officer to be awarded the Ati Vashisht Seva Medal last year.

The air vice-marshal says she is yet to grasp the responsibilities entrusted upon her, but is confident she will “definitely leave an imprint on the important chair”.

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