BENGALURU: Major Vandana Sharma always knew what she wanted to do with her life. Join the Indian army. And so she did. She served the forces for a decade.
According to her gender exists only in one’s mind. “I am a person who does not give up especially not because I am a girl. In fact, at times, I used to think I am very superior and that really helped,” she laughs.
Grown up in a family of armed forces, she always wanted to be an army officer. “My father was in the air force and my brother who is eight-years-older than me also joined the army. I would wear my father’s cap when he would return home and look myself in the mirror wondering if I could ever wear the uniform. I was in grade two or three then,” she adds.
She saw the army as such an exciting and interesting profession that no other career option crossed her mind. “I always wanted to be in the army. That was my first love but at that point of time, there was no government scheme of having women officers,” she says.
When women officers were included in the army in 1992, her dream came true. “My brother was lieutenant in the army already. I knew this is what I am going to do. I cleared the exam in my first attempt in the service selection board and landed at the Officers Training Academy in Chennai. There were 33 women in my batch,” she says.
She calls it a great profession for women. “Though active combat is still a challenge for women and they are not part of it, there are services like legal, supply chain, education, engineering, communication and medical, were women can conribute as much as men. It’s a great full-fledged career and has also become a permanent commission. When I started out, it was a short term contract for 5 years or 10 years. But now government has made it permanent,” she says.
Starting out could be difficult as people look at you with curiosity and wonder if you can make it but once you prove yourself, gender does not matter, she says adding, “If you can run as fast, shoot as well, and do what you are signed up for - in my case, it was being able to supply stores effortlessly - as well as other male counterparts, nobody looks down upon you or considers you less,” she adds.
She has been posted to different parts of the country such as Ladakh and North Bengal where no one had seen a woman in uniform then and also played a backend role for the Kargil War 1999.
“Logistics are most prone to sabotage by the enemy because if the logistics are gone, how would the war be fought. We were the backbone of the operations,” she says adding, “You get used to the tough terrains and harsh weather conditions. When you are at war, you do not think about the weather. In general, when you walk fast for 20 metres, you become breathless. It was tough, but we were there with the soldiers ensuring that their morale was high.”
Her family has always been supportive even during the war. “It was difficult to communicate those days. The only way we could communicate was through the letters. It always read: we are very proud of you. You are doing exactly what a solider in uniform should do. As a 20 or 21-year-old, seeing that, changes you as a person. It makes you more responsible,” she says.
Vandana is a single parent to two sons. “I am the hero to my children. . Both my sons have grown taller than me,” she giggles.
Vandana Sharma, who was felicitated at the Women of Substance Season 3 by SRL Diagnostic on March 8, now works as a Chief People Officer at HolidayIQ.com, a travel portal.