Reshma Nilofer Naha goes to the high sea on a small boat, climbs on to a large vessel with a rope ladder and enjoys it.
India’s first “river pilot” was felicitated at a women’s day programme hosted by the Calcutta Port Trust on Monday, having returned from Delhi where she received the Nari Shakti Puraskar from President Ram Nath Kovind.
As a river pilot, Naha’s work is to guide ships from Sagar right up to the Calcutta and Haldia ports through the meandering Hooghly, something she has been doing “efficiently and professionally”.
“If you think there are no boundaries then you think everything is possible. There is no glass ceiling. It is just an imaginary concept we all have heard for many many years,” Naha, 30, said during a panel discussion on Challenges: Work and Life.
A BE in marine technology, Naha said she had been keen on an offbeat career ever since she was a child. The Chennai woman joined the Calcutta Port Trust in 2011 as a trainee pilot and qualified as a river pilot in 2018.
“It is a great feeling (to be the only woman river pilot) on one hand but on the other hand I would like to have other female colleagues very soon and I look forward to it. I think my story will inspire more women to get in here,” she said.
Naha said navigating the Hooghly is tough because of “bends and narrow channels” where the depth of the water is a concern. “We have different kinds of ships and each ship behaves differently. The tides are strong here… and all this makes pilotage tough,” she said, recalling how she had to once anchor for four days because of bad weather and strong winds.
“It is a proud moment for the Calcutta Port Trust to have India’s first lady river pilot with us…,” said Vinit Kumar, chairman, Calcutta Port Trust, who felicitated her.
“It is a long treacherous journey she has undertaken. To be a first in anything is always a challenge because the infrastructure, the attitudes, the systems are not very friendly or they are made with keeping only men in mind.... So the struggle of the first person is always more than those who follow,” Kumar said.