The life of Sarla Thakral is one of those stories which deserve to be told out loud.
Born in New Delhi at the beginning of the last century, she had to make her voice be heard clearly and loudly in order to become the first woman to obtain a pilot’s licence in India.
Sarla was born in 1914 and grew up in a family that was, for the time, a very open-minded family. Despite the modern education she received and the affluent environment her parents belonged to, she got married when she was sixteen, which was considered the appropriate marrying age for an Indian girl.
Thanks to her husband, Captain P.D. Sharma, the still very young Sarla became increasingly passionate about flying. Sharma was a clever man who was open to progress as well as one of the first Indians who received a pilot’s licence for airmail. After her training and racking up a thousand hours of flying a plane belonging to the Lahore Flying Club, Thakral became the first Indian woman to obtain a type “A” pilot’s licence. And she did it wearing a very colourful Indian sari with her head held high in the face of criticism. Nobody dared to stand in her way.
However, the outbreak of the Second World War and the unexpected death of her husband wiped out Sarla’s dream of obtaining her next licence as a commercial pilot. With a son to raise and her ability to adapt like a chameleon, the pilot soon transformed herself into a brilliant fabric designer. She also became a successful painter, having gained her diploma in Fine Arts at the Mayo School of Art.
She was a pilot, wife, mother, entrepreneur and artist, but above all she was a happy woman. As Sarla once said: “Always be happy, it is very important for us to be happy and cheerful. This one motto has seen me tide over the crises in my life.”