Girls from Old City charting new careers paths
CHARMINAR: A narrow, unpaved lane in Moghulpura leads us to a first floor two-room rented apartment. Awards, shields and certificates lining the tiny drawing room wall show the dizzy heights Salwa Fatima has scaled. Daughter of a sales manager at a bakery, Fatima is the first Muslim woman pilot from the city and would soon be flying commercial planes once she finishes her advanced training.
The story of the ‘pilot girl’, as she is popularly known in the area, has in fact given wings to the dreams of many more girls from the area. They are charting new career paths and English is now a priority. “Currently two Muslim girls from the area are studying in IIT. The girls are doing much better than boys academically in some cases,” says Urdu daily Siasat chief editor Zahid Ali Khan who was instrumental in fulfilling Fatima’s dream.
Living with her parents and three siblings — two sisters and a brother — Fatima broke the chains of conservatism to dream big. So, while other girls from the community joined teaching or the few ambitious ones became doctors, Fatima had her sights set on flying higher as a pilot.
Trained first at Andhra Pradesh Aviation Academy, she completed a course in Multi-Engine Rating (MER), necessary to become a commercial pilot, this September from New Zealand. A few more months of training and she will join an airline to fly passenger planes.
But her journey began many summers ago when she read that there were just three women pilots in India. “I found that there was no Muslim woman pilot in the city and secretly dreamed to become one,” says Fatima, 28, as her father Syed Ashfaque Ahmed and mother Syed Siraj Fatima look on.
And lady luck smiled on her. Siasat chief editor Khan, who was a guest at a programme conducted by Fatima, was impressed with the girl’s fluency in English. Khan asked what she wanted to become. “When uncle (Zahid Ali Khan) heard that I dreamed to become a pilot, he told me to meet him,” she says.
Next, Khan decided to con-tribute to funds required for her education. He even approached some friends. “It was a revelation for me. A Muslim girl from the Old City, which is often described as backward, wanted to be a pilot. I had to support her,” says Khan.
But when she needed a massive 36.02 lakh for advanced training, Khan approached Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao and the state agreed to give her a scholarship.
Fatima, who is married to a management graduate, says: “I am fortunate to have the backing of my parents, husband and in-laws.” Her mother-in-law, a retired school principal, supports her dream completely.
Fatima already has big plans for her 18-month-old daughter. “I want her to become an IAS officer,” she says.