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The Sky of Dreams: Story of Our Very First Woman Skydiver: Rachel Thomas

From standing on the ground and feeling something deep inside me every time I thought about the sky, to becoming India’s first female skydiver, I could understand the restlessness I felt as a kid. Skydiving was in my blood since the beginning. Now, I’m a grandmother for the sport!

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I grew up in a small town of Chittaranjan, well known for Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) in West Bengal. I wouldn’t think about the possibilities for my life. I remember going out and making “manjha”, so I could fly my friends’ kites. When I figured out that I felt love for the sky, I wanted to be a pilot. But I didn’t see how that could happen, so I thought that I would just become an air hostess. However, things were different back then, and even though my mom thought that I could go out of the city and get training for the same, it just didn’t happen.  God had other plans. So instead, I got married to an army man and had two kids. My life was really simple, but who could have guessed that in one party I would be introduced to something that I’ve always wanted to do? That’s how I started doing what I love.

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The beginnings weren’t that easy though. I started training and used to go for demo jumps. It was a big change, with all the media people  (mostly men) around, but I didn’t let this affect me in any way. I worked hard and continued being myself. Now, I address all such concerning issues in my Ted Talks, because it’s disheartening to see the world turning into a place that’s not kind enough. I try to educate everyone, as the time  ahead of us can only be faced when we understand that life  doesn’t wait for anyone. I’m just trying to become the change I’ve always wanted to see, and with little steps, things will work out for the better. So, my advice is that you should be so strong that you can also empower others. That’s what I’m trying to do with my story.

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When you look at the sky from the ground it looks magical, but there’s a lot of science behind air sports. I wanted to master it and my only motivation was based on the thought that I was doing something  I loved, and my passion was like a magnet to me. I went to so many locations and lived so many experiences. Sometimes, things went so wrong that I only wanted it to be a bad dream I could wake up from, but I had to live through that too. Once, we had to stay in the North Pole for 6 days, and that experience is going to stay with me forever. There were moments when I almost touched death, and I remember praying to God, begging:  “You’ve given me  two children Please, take care of them if something happens to me today”. But my faith saved me all these times. 

I was awarded Padma Shri in 2005. Now, when I think of it, I’m just thankful to God, because at the end of the day, isn’t it all written?  I worked hard for it, so shouldn’t I appreciate it? When the lockdown happened, I became more active on social media platforms and now, it’s like I’m living all those moments again. Everyone asks me about how to get into this field, so I try to help them the best I can, which makes me happy. My advice to everyone is to work hard for what they love and see how the universe helps them achieve it. I never planned on going skydiving for rewards, I simply did it because it made me happy and that’s why I’m here today.

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