8 August: Remembering Sarla Thukral on Birthday

Saurav Singh
3 Min Read
Remembering Sarla Thukral on Birthday

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Sarla Thukral (8 August 1914 – 15 March 2008) adorned the ranks of pioneering Indian women who took flight amidst the boundless skies.

Early Life and Union

Born in the year 1914, she achieved an aviation pilot license in 1936, gracefully aged 21, and soared the skies alone in a Gypsy Moth aircraft. Following the attainment of her initial license, she demonstrated unwavering determination and amassed one thousand hours of flying in aircraft owned by the prestigious Lahore Flying Club. Her spouse, P. D. Sharma, to whom she was married at the tender age of 16, hailed from a lineage of nine pilots and served as an ardent source of encouragement.

The Aviation Journey

Although P.D Sharma had secured the distinction of being the first Indian with an airmail pilot’s license, navigating the skies between Karachi and Lahore, his wife stood amongst the first women in India to acquire her “A” license. (Mrs. Imtiaz Ali had received an A license in June 1936, while Urmila Parikh was the first Indian woman to obtain a license in 1932. Sylla and Rodabeh Tata, sisters of J.R.D. Tata, had obtained licenses earlier, but being of British nationality, their accomplishment held a distinct context.) Thukral earned her “A” license, crossing the threshold of one thousand flying hours.

Tragedy struck when Sharma met her untimely demise in a heart-wrenching airplane crash in 1939. Subsequently, Sarla sought to pursue training for her commercial pilot license, but the advent of World War II suspended civil aviation training. With maternal responsibilities weighing upon her and a livelihood to sustain, she relinquished her aspirations of becoming a commercial pilot. Instead, she returned to Lahore, where she enrolled in the Mayo School of Art. There, she embraced the Bengal school of painting, culminating in the acquisition of a diploma in fine arts.

Death

Thukral remained an unwavering devotee of the Arya Samaj, a spiritual community dedicated to upholding the profound teachings of the Vedas. Within this community, the prospect of remarriage stood open for Thakral. Following the Partition of India, she relocated to Delhi with her two daughters, and there, in 1948, she crossed paths with R. P. Thakral, whom she embraced in matrimony. She died in 2008.

On 8 August 2021 a Google Doodle was created to celebrate Sarla Thukral’s 107th Birthday.

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