Title: From Sarees to Stripes
Author: Manisha M. Puri
Genre: Non-Fiction, Flying
Price: Rs 799
Link To Purchase: From Sarees To Stripes
I chose this book for reading and reviewing mainly because I am keenly interested in reading about women pilots and the difficulties they face in a field dominated by men. A few years back when I was traveling from Chennai to Kochi, on one occasion, I was very impressed by the way the flight was manned. To travel from Chennai to Kochi it usually takes only around an hour. The cabin crew and the pilots made sure all of us were looked after properly and everything was done as per procedure. I think I was traveling by Indigo or SpiceJet. I am not sure now as it was a long time ago. As we cruised in the skies, I turned around to the gentleman sitting next to me with whom I had struck up a friendship and said, ‘This is indeed a very well manned flight.’
He immediately remarked, ‘It is not a very well manned flight. It is a very well-womaned flight. The entire crew comprises of ladies including the captain and the co-pilot.’ When I heard this it sent a thrill through me because I am a feminist to the core. Coming to the book ‘From Sarees to Stripes’, the author Manisha M Puri starts off with her own story and how she had to face several challenges in her career as a pilot. She gives us a very good idea of how she overcame these challenges. She also mentions that she has written this book with the same passion as it took for her to become a pilot. After the introductory chapter, she slowly and steadily begins to trace the stories of women who took to the skies in India from the late 1930s right up to the present day.
The first woman to ever fly in India was Sarla Sharma Thukral. Captain Manisha tells us the stories of several women who took to flying in the skies during that time. This was in the 1930s and 1940s. This is followed by the story of captain Prem Mathur who was the first woman to fly commercially. She used to fly the Dakota aircraft. Those were the days when women in India were expected to get married and be good homemakers and nothing more. In such times, for a woman to reach up and fly aircraft was indeed a wonder. Next comes the story of captain Durba Banerjee who joined a commercial airline and flew planes commercially. Captain Durba was the first woman to break the Glass ceiling and get command of an aircraft. Getting command of an aircraft was the pinnacle of a commercial pilot’s career. This is followed by the stories of several women pilots like Captain Saudamini Deshmukh and others right down to the modern-day women pilots such as captain Avantika, Captain Sonica, and several others.
As the number of women in the aviation industry increased so did the outlook of the society on flying as a career for women. In the 1930s and 1940s, society used to frown on women who flew, and there was absolutely no support from families. But with time, parents began to support girl children who took up a career in flying.
The author introduces us to all the difficulties women face as pilots. To begin with, it was and is a totally male-dominated field and it is very difficult for a woman to survive in a bastion like that. In addition, it also intrudes on family life. Then comes the attitude of the men towards women pilots. Captain Manisha makes it very clear that to this day Gender bias exists in the aviation industry. A woman pilot is judged at every step and they have to constantly be on tiptoe.
The book also tells us about the path an aspiring man or woman must trace to become a pilot. From flying the small Cessna aircraft right up to the big B-777 it is an uphill task. The book describes this process in a very thrilling way, detailing the steps through joining a flying club, followed by a flying school in order to get the requisite number of flying hours to acquire a CPL (Commercial Pilot Licence). One can get first-hand knowledge of this when one reads the book. One more thing I loved was the several photographs included in the book showing women pilots proudly holding aloft their trophies and accolades. The author has exceptional writing abilities and makes the book a worthwhile read.
Conclusion: A big Yay! This is a great book to read if you want to learn about the role of Indian women in the aviation industry. It is especially useful if you have a daughter or son who is interested in flying. I include sons too because there is also plenty for men to take back from this book.
Rating: I am going with a full 5/5 for Captain Manisha M. Puri’s book ‘From Sarees to Stripes’. It is a very good read, particularly for young girls and boys who aspire to be pilots and sit in the cockpit one day and command a flight.
This book review is written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program