In a patriarchal society where women are often perceived as the weaker sex, there are certain jobs and professions that have been reserved for men. But, with changing times, many women are coming forward to shatter the social norms. They are taking the road less traveled to show society that women can do anything. One such inspiring soul is Taniya Sanyal.
Taniya Sanyal is the first woman firefighter to be appointed by the Airport Authority of India (AAI).
Until 2018, AAI recruited only men as its firefighters, but the rules were relaxed last year. And Sanyal emerged as the winner to enter the field dominated by males. Now, Taniya trains both men and a handful of women aspiring to be aviation firefighters.
While sharing with HT when and why she decided to become a firefighter, she mentioned:
Since my childhood, I always dreamt of taking up challenging tasks and wanted to choose the path less traveled. I dreamt of becoming a person who can do something that would bring a positive change in the society.
While sharing her strenuous training experience with HoB, she mentioned:
“On the first day of my firefighting training, I discovered that I was the only woman amongst hundreds of men! The principal called me and said, ‘Do you know that you’re the first woman at our centre?’ I was stunned– I felt proud to have made it so far, but suddenly burdened with a responsibility to prove my worth.
In the early months, the trainers were a bit lenient with me– They’d ask me to rest whenever I felt tired and even exempt me from punishments. But I wanted to be treated equally as other men– even on my monthly period, I wouldn’t take any breaks. And when we were given punishments for not performing a task well, I’d willingly be part of the team. We’d be asked to do frog jumps and uthak baithaks… it was quite funny actually and helped me break the ice with my batchmates.
Training was strenuous–we were made to run around the huge campus 6 times; Meri halat kharab ho jaati thi. We’d have to wake up at 6am, then run, PTE, fire fighting training; by the end of the day, I’d be exhausted. Even in the evenings, there wasn’t a moment to rest– I’d have to stay up late and study for the next day.
We had to run around with a 40 kg sack; I weighed only 52 kgs at that time! But that wasn’t an excuse– my batchmates were doing it; I didn’t want an exemption so I pushed myself to keep up. The body ache was terrible; my blisters hurt so bad. I won’t lie– I had many weak moments during which I’d call my sister and she’d motivate me. Maa-Baba would constantly tell me I could do anything.
But after the intensive training, she knew she has made her parents and the country proud.
Finally, after 5 months of intensive training, I was appointed as the first woman aviation firefighter in India. It was surreal; Maa and Baba cried– It was the best day.
And after that the doors opened– more women enrolled to be firefighters. Over the last 2 years, I’ve trained over 16 women firefighters to walk shoulder to shoulder with men and nothing gives me more happiness. Last year, I received the Citizen Safety Award and recently, I was felicitated under the Government’s Suraksha Bharat Mission. That day, Baba hugged me and said, ‘My daughter is equal to 10 sons.’
Sharing how people still react to her choice of profession, she mentioned:
But even now, people ask me, ‘Isn’t this a man’s job?’ I just tell them that whatever a man can do, a woman can do whilst bleeding! A daughter is no less than a son; and it’s high time we all know that.”
At IFORHER, we are proud of Taniya and hope many more women would seek inspiration from her to shatter the glass ceiling to take the road less traveled. Thanks Taniya for inspiring us!