Sarla Thakral, India’s first female pilot, was inspired by her pilot husband and his father to take to the skies. Following 1,000 hours of instruction, Thakral received an A. Thakral’s objective of obtaining a commercial pilot’s licence was thwarted when her spouse died and World War II broke out. She became a jewellery and apparel designer and artist after enrolling in an arts college and working well into her nineties.
Sarla Thakral holds the distinction of being India’s first woman pilot, despite her goals not to win a triumph for women. Thakral was born in Delhi in 1914, under the British Raj; the British would control India until 1947 when it was divided into the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. Little is known about Thakral’s life before her marriage to P.D. Shwarma at the age of 16. She went to live with her husband’s family in Lahore, in the northwest corner of the Indian subcontinent, in what is now Pakistan, as was customary for Indian women at the time. Her spouse, a captain, was born into a family of nine pilots.
Within their first year of marriage, Thakral, then known as Sarla Shwarma, and her husband had a daughter. Captain Shwarma pushed his wife to engage in the family heritage after noticing her interest and the possible ability for flying. Her father-in-law escorted then-19-year-old Thakral to the local flying school to sign up for lessons because he was too busy with his flying assignments to personally teach her.
Thakral was a natural pilot, as Captain Shwarma had predicted. She proudly climbed into the cockpit of her instructor’s Gypsy Moth biplane while wearing a sari.
Thakral solo-flew the Gypsy Moth to the desired altitude and back. She’d aced her first solo and was on her way to more advanced training. She obtained her A certificate after 1,000 hours of additional training, which she completed while caring for her husband and young child. She was twenty-one years old in 1936.