Meet Flying Women of Kashmir

Meet Flying Women of Kashmir

Kaneez Fatima, Iram Habib, Captain Tanvi Raina and Ayesha Aziz are the recent entrants to the exclusive high-flying club. With these women pilots, Kashmir is now gradually getting a good group of women who fly the aircraft.

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Kaneez Fatima, a 24 year old woman is second woman pilot from Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. The first Muslim pilot from Ladakh is Hina Masood who is working with Air India.

Soon after Kaneez Fatima completed her training, she was also hired by Air India .The rise of Kaneez Fatima from the arid desert region of Kashmir is a fascinating story.

“Our family has struggled a lot to make this happen. With the active support of Fatima’s grandparents – Haji Fatima Banu and late Ghulam Rasool, their nurse mother worked hard to ensure Fatima’s pursue the career she chose for herself,” Abdul Majid, a relative of Fatima explained.

A resident of a Leh locality near the Polo Ground, Fatima’s parents got separated when she was very young. She was brought up by her mother, Shakeela Banoo, a nurse in the state-run Leh hospital.

“She lifted a huge amount of loan from a bank for the same,” Majid said. “The entire amount lifted from the bank as a loan was spent on Fatima and it will take her mother some more time to liquidate that.”

Fatima was enrolled in the local Imamia School at Leh. From the basics, she studied there till her middles. Later, her mother shifted Fatima to Srinagar where she was enrolled in the Government Higher Secondary School, Kothibagh.

Early 2013, the family got Fatima’s admission in Government Aviation Training Institute at Bhubaneswar (Orissa). Her mother spent a fortune to get her daughter trained as a pilot.

Fatima spent almost six years for training and getting equipped with the subsequent flying experience, mandatory for the job.

Fatima’s older sister, Nahida Ibrahim, 28, is an engineer who works in the field of aviation too. Ibrahim works for the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) which manufactures choppers and light aircraft.

Iram Habib, 30, a resident of downtown Srinagar is the first Muslim woman from the Kashmir to become a commercial pilot. Iram kept her dream to fly an aircraft alive despite pursuing a master’s degree in forestry from the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir.

“A Kashmiri girl can’t get into the role of a pilot”, she was told. But Iram Habib’s dream to become a commercial pilot was too strong to brush aside, so she shared it with her parents after cracking Class 12th exams.

Although she managed to persuade her parents, it took her six years to convince them. “Somehow, the dream to fly an aircraft was in me all through my years of education,” Habib, the daughter of a businessman, told .

The Muslim young lady completed her first degree in forestry from Dehradun and post-graduate in forestry from the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

While Habib’s family wanted her to pursue PhD in forestry and get a government job, she kept looking for options to train as a pilot.

“I pursued PhD for one and a half years but left it and went to a US flight school,” she says. “I looked for things on my own and kept my dream alive.”

Iram completed her training from Miami in the US in 2016 and returned to Kashmir to get a commercial pilot licence, as the Muslim region’s first female pilot, but the journey wasn’t easy.

“I had to study hard and pass exams. In the US, I had 260 hours of flying experience which is important for the licence. I got a commercial pilot licence in the US and Canada on the basis of my flying hours but I wanted to work in homeland,” she explained.

“Dad supported me but my relatives and friends kept telling me that a girl from Kashmir would never get a job as a pilot,” Habib admitted with a smile after succeeding in proving the opposite.

The female pilot says that it’s difficult for her relatives even now to believe that she flies an aircraft. “They still can’t believe I chose this profession and got a job too,” Habib says, adding she had also trained in Bahrain and Dubai in Airbus 320.

“During my training and exams everyone would be surprised to see a woman from Kashmir as a pilot, but there was no discrimination. I worked hard and got a job offer from IndiGo and GoAir. I am set to join as a first officer in IndiGo,” She informed happily.

Tanvi Raina, becomes the first Kashmiri girl and the youngest to become a commercial pilot in 2016 at the age of 18. She has completed her flying training from Haryana Institute of Civil Aviation Karnal.

Her family migrated from Kashmir in 1990when insurgency erupted. After migration the family settled in New Delhi, but did not lose touch with their roots. Tanvi was born in 1997, Tanvi.

She is daughter of Capt Kapil Raina, Sr Comander/Check Pilot on Airbus fleet of Airindia. They are originally from Karan Nagar Srinagar from a business family.

“My father is extremely attached with Srinagar. My mother is from Jammu. We are close to our roots. We eagerly wait for the holidays to be there… Even when news about me earning the CPL spread, the friends of my grandfather called to congratulate me. It was a proud moment,” she said.

Revealing her success mantra, she had said, “Youngsters, especially girls, should pursue dreams and remain positive in their approach to reach their goal.”

She has done her schooling from Convent Jesus and Marry, New Delhi. Crediting her achievement to her parents, Tanvi had said, “My father is my inspiration, but my mother put in a lot of hard work and motivated me during the tough training.”

Tanvi Raina is a versatile Kathak dancer and has performed in various Kathak dance concerts . She was also head girl of school and an ace basket ball player. “Whenever you want to move on and progress there won’t be many hands to pull you up but at least a million and counting to pull you down. You have to gather your inner strength, find just one reason to take the first step and then you’ve got it.”, says Tanvi.

What drove Tanvi to achieve this feat was a passion to break the traditional mindset and do something different. “There is a single-track thinking among many parents that their wards should become either doctor or engineer, especially when it comes to girls. I wanted to shake this mindset,” she said. This realisation dawned early on Captain Tanvi and that is why she took to Khatak training at a very tender age.

Ayesha Aziz, a 22-year-old, in April last year became India’s youngest pilot after receiving her commercial pilot license.

Ayesha began training while she was in school. In 2012 at the age of 16, she received her student’s pilot license from the Bombay Flying Club, making her the youngest woman pilot in the country.

Ayesha resides presently in Mumbai as few years back, her family moved from Valley. Ayesha’s mother Khalida Aziz hails from Baramulla and her father Abdul Aziz Lunkandwala is a Mumbai-based industrialist.

“My mother is Kashmiri. I have relatives in Kashmir. I have a house in Kashmir that I frequently visit. You can even call me a Kashmiri-Mumbaikar,” she said.

On the day of receiving her license,   Ayesha posts on her Facebook timeline, “The MOST precious booklet of my life arrived yesterday and brought me happiness unbound. You were one tough job. Countless exams, sleepless nights, innumerable hurdles and whatnot! But It all seems of so much worth now. What once was just a dream is a reality now”. Her liaison with the aircraft began when she would fly with her parents to her mother’s native town in Kashmir twice or thrice a year.

“While I would enjoy take-off and landing of the plane, my brother would be scared and always sleep during the flight,” she told media.

Ayesha even had the opportunity to visit NASA in 2012 and meet former astronaut John McBride and her second biggest inspiration Sunita Williams in Mumbai. She completed a two-month advanced space training course at NASA. She was among the three Indians chosen in panel for space training programme in the United States.

Ayesha at that time had said as quoted in media: “It was amazing to be at NASA… an experience which cannot be described in words. I greatly admire Sunita Williams and read about her life. Luck favoured me as I met her there.”

She credits her family for being the driving force behind her laudable achievement, especially her father. “I have always believed that knowledge and enquiry are keys to human progress. If my child had a dream which was achievable, I had to be part of the process and see that she realised this dream, Ayesha’s father told media in Delhi.

According to her family, as a child, she would always be excited and run out of home every time she heard a plane cruising in the air. “But unlike other kids, she would also dream about becoming a pilot”, they said.

Ayesha has set eyes firmly on her mission of flying fighter jets. “My message for Kashmiri girls would be to chase their dreams, to not let anything let them down, have goals in your life and achieve them”, said Ayesha.

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