My journey from both sides of the clouds – Indraani SinghNovember 15, 2017 1 By admin
I was born and brought up with two brothers in a simple Bengali family long settled in Delhi. As a little girl, when my father dropped me to school, it puzzled me to see that street kids did not go to school like I did. What was different about me – or them, I wondered.
After completing my schooling from Summer Fields School, while in college I trooped off to join the All India Gliding Club. From then on there was no looking back. After the thrills of flying the engine-less gliders, I joined Indian Airlines and flew nothing less than the Boeing 737.
In 1989, I went to Toulouse, France, to train for flying the Airbus 320 and became the first ever woman in Asia to fly the aircraft. Again in 1995, I became the world’s first woman commander on the wide-bodied Airbus 300.
All this while, as I flew higher and higher, my heart was right on the ground. The same question kept popping in my mind – What was different about me – or them.
Soon enough, I realized what it was – the opportunity.
“Indha” means the broad base used for balancing several pots placed on top of one another, and woman carrying them on their heads is a common scenario in rural India. This balancing act is intertwined with their lives as women balance multiple roles. With this philosophy, was born Indhacrafts, an initiative to help underprivileged women take control and balance their life gracefully.
Indha was started with a group of 10 artisans in 2005. Under this initiative, women are trained to master various craft-related skills. The products made by them are sold to help them earn a living. The focus of Indhacraft is on corporate gifting. The organization has become a canvas for hundreds of women’s dreams and caters to varied clients like Microsoft, Kuoni, General Electrics, Tupperware, World Bank etc.
We also have a wastepaper recycling unit that manufactures paper used for making greeting cards and other stationery-related paper products. Today, Indha has completed over a decade of existence. It has increased the number of centers across India, and employs about 320 artisans, making them self-reliant and empowered.
I believe that it is critical to empower a person with education, and then offer employment. This concept of 3E that powers Indha Craft (Empowerment, Education, and Employment) has benefited almost 9,000 women till now and provides the financial backbone to Literacy India.
But combining two roles that require sharp focus and solid commitment was not easy. Naysayers and skeptics were in plenty. I was accused of using social work as ‘time-pass’ and of harboring ulterior motives, even political ambitions. In 1996, nobody helped me in setting up an NGO. The more people refused to help me, the stronger became my resolve. The underlining lesson for me has been that if you have compassion, come what may, you can make it happen. If somebody creates an obstacle, take it as a challenge for growth. Plan how to make things better.
There is a point in our lives where we want to do something that makes a difference to the world. Choosing that difference among multiple options is always based on that difference, implicit or explicit. When it’s time to pay back the country there is a time to involve others and a time to simply take control. The choice to be made – to be a jawan or a soldier, to defend the country’s borders or focus on a number of pertinent issues the country’s been facing and needed support: population, poverty, hunger, health, and illiteracy.
Our nation or the entire world for that matter needs more passionate people. People of grit, who are willing to make a difference. Only with a collaborative and focused effort, can we propel India to the greatness it is truly capable of.