Sarla Thukral married a pilot at the age of 16.
Such was Sarla Thukral’s dedication that only after eight hours and ten minutes of training, her instructor found her ready to fly solo.
The story of Sarla Thukral, who got her pilot licence at the age of 21 is truly an inspiration for many. She was also one of the first Indian women to fly solo.
Sarla Thukral was born in 1914 in New Delhi and married PD Sharma, also a pilot, at the age of 16 and moved to Lahore. She received immense support from her husband and his family to pursue a career as a pilot. After her father-in-law enrolled her in Lahore Flying Club, there was no turning back for her. In 1936, at the age of 21, Sarla obtained her aviation pilot’s licence and flew a Gypso Moth, solo.
Such was her dedication that only after eight hours and ten minutes of training, her instructor found her ready to fly solo. She completed her 1,000 hours of flying and became the first Indian woman to obtain an ‘A’ licence. Post this, her aim was to get the ‘B’ license, which would allow her to fly a commercial aircraft. However, during this time, World War II broke out and civil training was suspended. Tragically, in 1939, her husband died in an aeroplane crash.
At the age of 24, Sarla Thukral was a mother of two and a widow, and she gave up her desire to become a commercial pilot. But, life had something else planned for her. She returned to Lahore and pursued a Diploma in Fine Arts after joining the Mayo School of the Arts. After the partition, she came to Delhi with her two daughters. She met RP Thukral in Delhi, to whom she got married in 1948.
After her marriage to Thukral, she established herself as a successful designer, making costumes and jewellery and designing sarees and painting for the National School of Drama. Reportedly, one of her clients was the 8th President of the United Nations General Assembly, Vijayalaxmi Pandit.
Sarla Thukral died in 2008 but yet serves as an inspiration to many women. She was a pilot, a designer, a painter, a mother and even a successful entrepreneur.
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