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Sarla Thakral: The First Indian Woman To Enter Aircrafts’ Cockpit In A Saree

This is a story of sky and sacrifice. It is about a woman who dreamed beyond limits and sacrificed beyond words.

“Always be happy. It is very important for us to be happy and cheerful. This one motto has seen me tide over the crisis in my life”. – Sarla Thakral

Sarla Thakral was the first Indian woman pilot who got her pilot license in 1936, at the age of 21. At the time when women were restricted to even step out of the house and marriage for the already assigned goal for most of them, Thakral lived her dreams.

She persisted and continued a thousand hours of flying the aircraft owned by Lahore Flying Club and obtained her ‘A’ license. Sarla Thakral was indeed a natural pilot and her achievements are far-fetched. Just after an eight hour training, she actually drove the aircraft and impressed all her instructors.

Thakral’s family: Her Pillar Of Strength

Sarla also known as Mati married P.D Sharma, India’s first airmail pilot at the age of 16. Her husband’s family had 9 pilots which one way or other encouraged her more to reach the sky someday.

Sarla once said ‘ It was not much of my husband encouraging me. My father-in-law was the one human I found enthusiastic about his work and he also helped me enroll in the flying club. I knew I was not doing the very women thing, but the men in my family never abandoned me and always stood by me.’

The moment when Sarla took her first flight, she was married and was the mother of a four year old daughter. But her family always stood ahead with her adding more achievements in the list.

The Very First Step And Also Starting Anew

Sarla entered into the cockpit of the aircraft in a Saree and inhaled every inch of bravery. She was known for doing wonders at the time when aviation was only for men.

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But life then got tough when Sarla’s husband died in an aircrash in 1939 and Sarla was left alone with her daughter. Being the same fierce lady, she took the responsibility of raising her child alone and moved to Lahore. She also obtained a diploma degree in Mayo School of Arts where she taught painting.

Soon after the partition, Sarla moved to Delhi in 1948 with her two daughters and started a new life. She married R.P Thakral and became a painter, designer and a successful entrepreneur.

Sarla Thakral was not only the first Indian woman to fly an aircraft, she was also the first woman who taught every Indian girl to have wings.

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