Gender barriers will stay, break the bias and create opportunities for yourself: Shital Mahajan
Shital Mahajan is the first woman to skydive from 21,500 ft in front of Mount Everest. She holds 25 national, two Asian, and eight world records, and is also a Padma Shri award winner.
Gender barriers will exist, but women must overcome bias and create opportunities for themselves, said Shital Mahajan, the first woman in the world to jump off a helicopter from a height of 21,500 ft in front of Mount Everest.
Speaking at a fireside chat at TechSparks Delhi 2023, Mahajan said, “Gender barriers will always stay, so women cannot take a backseat because of it. Instead, we have to break the bias and create an opportunity if it's not already there.”
“Indian women can do anything in any field if given a chance,” she said.
Mahajan recalled that many critics questioned her when she told them about jumping in front of Everest.
“So I decided I will set the benchmark so high that no one can break it,” she said, adding, “Whenever anyone says to me that I can’t, I just say 'watch me’.”
Mahajan is the first woman in the world to skydive over North Pole, South Pole, and Mount Everest. She completed her first jump at North Pole in 2004 and the second one in Antarctica in 2006. She wanted to cover the third pole the next year. However, she got married and had children because of which she put her plan on hold.
Then after 16 years, Mahajan accomplished her dream by doing the highest jump in front of Mount Everest.
She had told HerStory in an earlier interview, “There was a moment when I felt that I did not have enough oxygen, but all was fine. It was just a feeling of panic—the kind when you think whether the parachute would open or not.”
Mahajan holds 25 national, two Asian, and eight world records and is also a Padma Shri award winner. Looking forward, she aims to be the first woman to skydive in space.
Awareness about aero sports
Mahajan explained that, just like there is the Olympic Association for Olympic Sports, there is the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale for aero sports. Thirteen disciplines, including skydiving, hot air ballooning, para motoring, paragliding, and drone flying, are included in aero sports.
“We too have world championships where 91 countries come together and compete. Earlier, people from the military have represented India in these championships. However the times are changing. Now young budding skydivers are coming forward,” she elaborated.
Mahajan wishes to lead an Indian team to the championships in 2025.
She believes that many people know about aero sports but do not know how to compete in them. Through her academy, she is working with a group of youngsters to conduct awareness camps.
India plans to establish an Aero Sports Federation under the Aero Club of India, which will regulate and oversee state and national-level sporting activities in the country.
Talking about government support, Mahajan said the government is coming up with new policies for aero sports. The government will also be conducting an aero sports festival in Gujarat.
“Through these festivals, a lot of awareness about aero sports will be created. India has so many terrains, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, for conducting such sports competitions. In the coming five years, I feel India will become the hub for aero sports,” she said.
Edited by Swetha Kannan