For they are currently students of XLRI School of Management in Jamshedpur.
Enrolled in the general management course launched for the defence personnel in January this year, these eight brave women are now part of the XLRI family.
With many experiences to share — be it treating soldiers during the Northeast insurgency or flying a fighter jet — each has a different story to narrate.
“After years we are back to civilian life. It is different but equally hectic,” says Commander Anuradha Kanchi, a naval officer from Vishakapatanam, who has served in the Indian Navy for 14 long years.
Having sailed around almost half the world, it was the need to do more in life that brought Kanchi to the management school.
“I belonged to the second batch of women officers in the Indian Navy and completed my tenure only last year. It was time for me to do something new and a career in the corporate world seemed like the right option,” says the commander.
But is campus life easy for these officers? Major K. Akila, an engineer, who has worked in places like Pune and Hyderabad before moving to the BPO industry, says, “Getting used to it after a long gap is indeed difficult but we are enjoying it.”
Her classmates include Captain Sujata Jha from Muzzafarpur in Bihar, who also has a two-year-old daughter, and Major Gitanjali Chauhan Chakrapani from Dehradun, who served in the logistics department of the Indian Army for seven years. Major Navdeep Kaur from Punjab, who is also an electronics engineer, is the placement co-ordinator for students from the armed forces. “Life in the forces is not easy and I have worked in the most adverse of situations like the terrains of Kashmir,” says Navdeep.
Flight lieutenant Pratibha Sharma and Deepti Gautam, a medico, have many experiences to share as well. While Pratibha, who is also an avid sky diver, has worked in places like Lonavala, Chandigarh and Ladakh, Deepti cannot forget that one day at Manipur when she had to rush into the forest to save soldiers who suffered multiple bullet injuries.
Kavita Rawat, another officer from Dehradun, also shares the memories of her first posting at Chausari in the Northeast. “Every morning we had to carry heavy arms and patrol for almost nine kilometres in the dense bamboo forests,” she says.
But Pratibha does not quite need to illustrate a particular incident, as for her, life at the air force is always an adventure. The other officers could not agree more. However, Navdeep quips in, “Something that is worth mentioning is, unlike the popular belief that women are not treated equally in the forces, we had no problem whatsoever.” Her friends agreed at first but only to differ later.
The one problem is that some soldiers do not like taking orders from women, but actually that is in every profession,” points out Anuradha. “We have to struggle more, as first we have to prove that we are equal to the men and then, better than them,” adds Pratibha candidly.
With only two more months to go at XLRI, these women would bid a final goodbye to life in the forces and walk through corporate corridors. “At the forces we learn a lot. Life has been great there, but one has to move on,” says Sujata.
So, what would they miss the most when their corporate career begins? “Perhaps our uniforms. Even when I looked at my uniform last as it lay hung in the corner of my room, I was full of tears,” says a nostalgic Pratibha.
With great memories as their companion, these women would surely emerge victorious, though the battlefield would be a different one.