The United States has a long history of women being firefighters. However, in a conservative country
like India, it is still rare to find a woman firefighter because a the job supposedly requires strength, endurance, and
courage along with the ability to hike long distances through rough terrain.
Smokejumpers are highly trained professionals who work hard and risk their lives to protect others.
Unfortunately, people still believe that only men can possess these qualities. It is thought that women are not strong enough to go through such intensive training and handle dangerous jobs like firefighting. However, just like in
any other thing in this world, women have proved themselves in this industry too.
Taniya Sanyal, India’s first Aviation Women Firefighter has proved that women are as tough as their male counterparts. A woman can be anything she wants to be.
Let us hear her story:
I am Taniya Sanyal. I was born and brought up in Kolkata in a close-knit middle-class Bengali family. Currently, I am serving my country as an aviation firefighter. However, becoming a firefighter was never my goal. It was a sudden incident that changed my life.
How Taniya Sanyal Got There
After finishing my Master’s in Botany, I was looking for career opportunities. While reading the newspaper, I came across an advertisement that said that there is a vacancy in the Airports Authority of India.
I don’t know what got into me that I thought I could do this. It was very different from the things I had tried before so I thought about applying for it. I took the exam and surprisingly did very well.
I told my family about the opportunity. They had mixed reactions. They were surprised and this career option was beyond their imagination. However, I don’t come from a conservative background like other families in India. So my parents didn’t object. After their permission, I took the next round of exams. The tests included an endurance test, a
medical test, and a driving test. I successfully passed all the rounds and a month later, I received a
Figuring Out She Was The First
So I shifted to Delhi to start my training. On the first day of my training, the principal asked me: Taniya, do you know that you are the first woman at our center? We have never hired a female aviation Firefighter before.
This took me by surprise. Then through some sources, I got to know that I was India’s first female aviation firefighter. No woman in history has done this job before me.
After knowing the truth, I felt a sense of pride and that is why I decided to work even harder in training. So I could prove that women can do anything. We are no less than men.
When I first started, I went through 5 months of high-intensity training because an Aircraft firefighting job requires specialized training and equipment, which makes it a very difficult field to enter. One of the biggest things to understand about aviation firefighting is how difficult it can be for firefighters to gain access to the burning area. Space is limited and besides, an aircraft carrying a huge proportion of fuel that is highly flammable can be a cause for disaster. So it is very important that you understand the job of aviation firefighters and how they work to keep planes
The training process is also extremely rigorous and requires a lot of mental and physical strength.
I used to wake up early in the morning, go to the field and take 6 rounds of the huge campus. Then the actual training would begin.
Initially, I had a hard time dealing with my daily routine as I wasn’t used to it. I made mistakes and we were punished for making mistakes and for not handling our tasks properly. I would willingly take the punishment so I could learn from it.
Because I wasn’t in favor of soft behavior, I was glad that I was being treated similarly to my male counterparts.
The best part of the training was that there was no discrimination. A firefighter is a firefighter and the job is beyond gender discrimination. There was no female privilege. No one treated me differently and they never judged me for being a woman.
I finished my training and got posted in Kolkata. At present, I’m training new girls and boys. After I was hired, more women started taking up this profession. The department is actually looking for female candidates.
Taniya Sanyal ‘s Achievements
For my contribution in the field, I was awarded at the Safety Professional Association of India (SPAI) under the government’s Suraksha Bharat Mission.
“The theme of this event was women leadership in disaster management.
I received the Citizen Safety Award 2019. The event was organized in Jaipur and I represented West Bengal. I’ve also received an award from the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), Government of Delhi, and Sunmarg Aparajita Award 2020.
To Other Women Out There
For women willing to get into the profession, I have some advice. Firefighters are some of the most highly trained emergency response personnel in the world; they’re also passionate individuals who love to serve their communities.
It’s a job that requires you to be on call 24/7, and then in the times when you’re not on the job, you’re training for it. It can be tiring, but it’s one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.
The biggest challenge you’ll face in becoming an aviation firefighter is training. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it can be done.
A career as an aviation firefighter gives you the opportunity to save lives and protect property. Even though the training is rigorous, there’s nothing quite like the rush of responding to an aircraft accident – and walking away with a smile on your face.
Firefighting is all about discipline, our main mantra is “Tranaya seva mahe” which means “You are always ready to help people when they are in trouble”.
It’s the zeal that matters most. In other words, when you fight with fire, literally or metaphorically, it can destroy you, so be practical, smart, tactful, cautious and fit, both physically and mentally.
Edited by Yara Fakhoury