Monday, November 1, 2010

For all unborn daughters, a mom ready to dive

Interesting story from Chandigarh reported by Gajinder Singh in The Telegraph, Kolkata Edition
Archana Sardana, 38, wants to jump from Delhi’s TV tower in support of the girl child, but has not got permission yet. Three years ago, the mother of two had become one of India’s first women skydivers. 'I have approached the tourism and sports ministers and officials seeking permission to spread awareness against female foeticide through my sport. I want to jump from Delhi’s TV tower in Pitampura with the Indian flag and a message to allow girls to live,” she said.

Sardana, who took up skydiving after marrying a naval officer, said she wants to plead for an end to female foeticide in Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, three states with a dismal sex ratio. “My vision for Indian women is to break the glass ceiling and achieve greater heights, to prove to the world that Indian women are second to none,” she said.

Born in Jammu in 1972, Sardana completed her schooling from Srinagar and graduated with science. She also has a diploma in interior design. Encouraged by her husband and in-laws, she took the adventure, basic and advanced mountaineering courses from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling, and the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi.

“I am even prepared to skydive on the highest drop zone in the world near Mount Everest with the Indian Tricolour to prove that girls are equal to if not better than boys. I want to demolish the myth that women cannot take up extreme adventure sports because of physical reasons,” said Sardana, who is India’s only woman base jumper (those who jump from buildings, antennas, spans and cliffs). Sardana is now scouting tall structures in India to jump from to spread her message.

“I have received assurances from many quarters on my way of spreading awareness. It is very hard to get permission as there are many agencies, from the local level to even defence related ones, involved. But I am hopeful that I will emerge victorious,” she said. That permission is not easy to get is clear from her visit to a senior bureaucrat in Delhi who advised her to shelve her plans as they amounted to committing suicide.

Sardana lamented there was no scope for civilian skydivers in India. “Apart from the defence services, there are no proper training facilities available here. I have been skydiving and jumping from buildings and cliffs in the US and Malaysia because I cannot do that here on my own,” she said, adding she sold jewellery to fund some of her training and jumps in the US. On one of her trips to that country, Sardana witnessed a large number of American women jump to spread breast cancer awareness and make a record formation in the air. Her proudest moment was to skydive with the Tricolour in California’s Perris Valley last year. Sardana has completed 238 jumps and has a “C” licence from the United States Parachute Association.

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