THE AC­CI­DEN­TAL PI­LOT

Thatʼs In­di­aʼs only hot-air bal­loon woman li­censed pi­lot.

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Ni­cole Suares

The lights were still out in most homes, roads empty and the long stretches of fields head­ing to South Goa passed by in a blur. We were up at the crack of dawn ex­cited to be on the way to an ex­hil­a­rat­ing morn­ing. At the drop-off point, in the mid­dle of a large field prepa­ra­tions for the hot-air bal­loon ride were on. As the two large en­velopes (bal­loons) were get­ting blown up, the only lady in the crew, Ritu Ya­dav, strode through the set with in­struc­tions.

Not to be mis­taken as ground staff, Ritu is In­dia’s only ac­tive hot-air bal­loon pi­lot. Ath­let­i­cally built with long black hair, she cheer­fully greeted the group. Af­ter the stan­dard pre-flight pro­ce­dures like safety and weather brief­ings she jumped on board. Up, up and away we went over the same fields we passed on the way there and stretches of co­conut groves. Peo­ple out on the road waved at us. This is just an­other morn­ing at work for Ritu. The 38-year-old, who is also Asia’s only woman air­ship pi­lot, ad­mits that she never har­boured big ca­reer dreams when young. All she wanted was to be a ‘good wife to an army of­fi­cer’ and a very homely girl.

Mar­riage to an army man Colonel Mukesh Ya­dav hap­pened in 2001. Far from lead­ing a quiet life, the union gave her the wings to fly, quite lit­er­ally. Dur­ing their courtship, his talks about his work in ballooning sparked an in­ter­est in her. He has seven Limca Book of World Records to his credit and his sis­ter too was the first In­dian lady to get a fly­ing li­cence.

Ritu soon fol­lowed af­ter mar­riage. “I got my li­cence from the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Civil Avi­a­tion for a lighter than air air­craft ac­tiv­ity,” she says, thank­ful to the

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