Captain Shikha Surabhi is the first woman to lead a formation of 36 men and 9 Royal Enfields of the Indian Army’s motorcycle display team on Republic Day.
She tells Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih how she made space for herself in a team that has never had a woman before.
It is after a long time that Captain Shikha Surabhi is getting two consecutive free days, and she is on her way to the railway station in New Delhi to pick up her father, an LIC agent in Bihar.
Her family is arriving to see her on Rajpath on the nation’s grand day when she will lead a formation of 36 men and 9 Royal Enfields of the Indian Army’s motorcycle display team on Republic Day.
She will stand on top of the bike for a distance of 2.4 kilometers to salute the President of India, the supreme comander of India’s armed forces. The bike will only be maouevered by her legs and will move at 22 to 23 km per hour.
The team called ‘Daredevils’ consists of 136 jawans, two male officers and 34 motorcycles.
She is the first lady officer to be part of the team.
Born in Arrah, Bihar and raised in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, Captain Shikha learnt to ride a bike around her home as a girl and picked up serious biking after her first posting in Arunachal Pradesh.
She did a bike trip from Shimla to Ladakh over 8 days last year. “It brought strength to my arms and taught me how to handle rain, mud and difficult situations,” says the officer from the Corps of Signals who was encouraged by her commanding officer to be part of the Daredevils team.
Posted in Bathinda, Punjab, she volunteered to be part of the Daredevils team three months ago.
Selected after a month’s training in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, the team has been undergoing rigorous practice for three months.
IMAGE: Leading a human pyramid formation that will be at the parade on Republic Day. Two male officers are leading other formations.
“My team members were initially worried about how they would teach me. They weren’t sure if I would be strong enough, but they now tell me I have learnt fast, perhaps faster than them,” says the officer who will soon complete four years of service in the army.
“It is tough to prove yourself. You have to put your mind and body to it, but they have accepted me as a Daredevil officer.”
“I have had some injuries, but thankfully nothing major,” she says over the phone from New Delhi.
The team arrived in Delhi on December 18 and has been practicing every day, rising at 3.30 am.
Not really nervous about the big day, her only concern is the chance of rain. Heavy rain can make the bike unsteady.
“Rain or no rain, we have to perform 100%.”
Captain Shikha’s main motivation to pursue sport and a career in the army was her mother, who is a sports teacher at a school in Ranchi.
“I am from a Hindi medium school and because of sports, I participated in three National Games,” she says.
Hand wrestling and kick boxing were her events. She was even part of the army’s mountaineering team that trekked to the Gangotri glacier in Uttarakhand.
“I wanted a job with some physical activity,” says Captain Shikha who earlier wanted to be an IPS officer but seriously considered the army as a profession while studying computer science in college.
“The armed forces are a very good profession for girls. You have respect within the army as well as outside.”
“It also gives you many opportunities like a life of adventure. I wanted to do something for the nation and nothing is better than the army.”
Her younger sister, who is in Class 12, wants to follow her in the armed forces while her brother is in Mumbai trying to pursue an acting career.
Such was the officer’s commitment to the Daredevils display on Republic Day that she and her fiancé, also a captain in the army, postponed their wedding from December to May.
Fiancé Captain Ankit Kumar will be there to watch the parade with his parents and has been her biggest pillar of support as far as biking is concerned.
He is immensely proud that she has worked hard and made space for herself in a team that up till now only comprised men.
As Captain Shikha Surabhi’s big day dawns, she is overwhelmed with the opportunity and the privilege given to her.
“I am too happy, nothing could beat this feeling but in life you should crave for the next thing — and there are more things to do ahead — for the country and myself.”
Source….. Archana Masih in http://www.rediff.com