Updated: Mar 11, 2021
One of the wonderful things about being a woman in the twenty-first century is the fact that we no longer need to be dependent on others for our happiness. Having pets, sleeping well, reading books, and having a fulfilling career, all contribute towards a life filled with contentment. This is what Bipasha Hrangkhawl, Tripura’s first woman Air Traffic Controller (ATC), believes. Bipasha brought great pride to her community in particular and the state as a whole when in 2017 she joined the service that had so far remained the sole domain of men.
Bipasha says that it is very important for women to realize how strong and wise they really are. “Women are very strong but sometimes they don’t realize it. It will really help them if they spend time with people who support them and avoid people who try to bring them down.” She adds that women should also strive to be financially independent as it would give them the freedom to make their own choices.
Delving into her childhood and how she came to be an ATC, Bipasha remembers that she grew up watching the popular show “Air Crash Investigation” on TV with her father. Those who haven’t heard of the show, it showcases aeroplane crashes and interviews experts about the possible reasons behind the accident. Bipasha remembers that while watching the show as a child, she would notice the pilots of the condemned planes frantically talking to someone on the ground over the radio. “I found out that the people guiding the planes from the ground are called Air Traffic Controllers”. She says that when she first joined her job, she was one of the few people who had a good idea about what it would entail.
We met Bipasha at the Bir Bikram Airport of Agartala during her break. Dressed in a casual t-shirt she brims with confidence that comes from knowing that she is really content with her chosen career. Bipasha, however, reveals that after graduating in Electronics and Telecommunications from Maharashtra, her first job was at a private company. “My father kept telling me to keep trying for other jobs so I sat for competitive exams. I cleared the ATC exam in the second attempt,” she says.
Bipasha, 28, belongs to Rangamura village in Khowai district which is about 50 km from Agartala. The Hrankhawls are one of the 19 communities living in Tripura. Bipasha’s rise in life has been a matter of great pride for the community. Her father, Bijoy Kumar Hrankhawl, has been a constant support in her life and encouraged her to get a good education. To that end, Bipasha studied in good schools and worked hard to keep her grades up which made way for further opportunities in life.
When she is not working, Bipasha loves to spend time with her four dogs, go bicycling, play badminton and read philosophical books. She is not only a level-headed person but also warm hearted as she feeds stray dogs. When I tried to know how they control the air traffic, it dawned on me that they have such great responsibility on their shoulders. One slight mistake can lead to a disastrous outcome. Not only do they need to stay updated and alert but I have also learned that they even have to clear the traffic on various different levels (from ground level to 20,000 feet approximately within Indian airspace). And during critical weather conditions, pilots have to depend on their call to successfully land the passengers safe and sound. To handle all this, one needs to be calm, composed and quick-witted.
When asked whether she ever faced any discriminating for being a member of the indigenous community or for being a woman, Bipasha is quick to reply that she would never tolerate such behaviour from any outsider. But, she admitted that she does receive snarky comments from people within the community about her single status. “Some people ask me to get married which I don’t like since I would never poke my nose in anybody’s personal life.” As for the workplace, Bipasha says that she has been treated with utmost professionalism. “The workplace’s attitude towards women has been very positive. If it wasn’t so, I would definitely make the people realize what they have done,” she says half-jokingly.
It is easy to believe that Bipasha will break many more glass ceilings in her life. Her dedication and love towards her work, family, and extracurricular activities is a testament to her strive for balance. Here is wishing her all the success.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.