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Inspirational journey of lady cadets at Officers Training Academy

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Journey Of Lady Cadets

Read the inspirational journey of lady cadets at Officers Training Academy Chennai. One woman hailed from a village in the South of India and another woman hailed from the Northeast of the country, each one of them had to face their own challenge in pursuing their dreams.

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Hailing from Nanjamadai Kuttai, a village near Erode in Tamil Nadu, Saranya was born in an agrarian family of four. Right from the time of her secondary schooling, she had been known for breaking stereotypes and enjoying physical activities.

She admits to not having had a great academic bent of mind, and she began playing Kabaddi from 6th grade onwards and took the sport very seriously. As she moved ahead in her schooling, she noticed the village tradition of getting girls married early on. She had a deep desire to change this norm and be a pathbreaker, setting an example for the girls of her village.

On completing her civil engineering from the Kongu Engineering College, she became the first woman graduate in her family. On getting placed in IT services firm Cognizant, she worked there for six months and then decided it was time to move on to her love of sports – Kabaddi. 

Witnessing many young girls in her village being unable to pursue their dreams and passions, owing to the familial pressure of early marriage, Saranya thought of something that none had ever attempted in their taluk (subdivision of a district) – she aimed to become the first woman to join the Indian Army.

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She embarked on this arduous journey, in the hope that the young girls in her village would be motivated to step out of their homes, dream big, and work towards achieving them and attaining their potential.

When her family got to know of her SSB preparation, they were apprehensive about it and wanted to get her married, as was the case with other girls in the village. In the face of this pressure, she remained resolute and requested her family’s support. To prove her capabilities and merit, she took up a job at Coimbatore and supported her family’s needs with the income and also went on to contest in open Kabaddi tournaments.

Testimony to her steely resolve is the fact that she made five SSB attempts and cleared the final one. It is laudable that she chose to try again and again, despite the pressure and apprehension at home. 

At the OTA, while she was in Chennai, the capital of her home state Tamil Nadu, she felt out of place as she did not know a word of Hindi. However, all it took was two months and she successfully adapted to the new ways, and witnessed significant improvement in her personality and progress. As she gets ready for the big day, she looks back at the tremendous transformation of a village girl into an Indian Army Officer.

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Hailing from Digboi, Assam, she did her schooling at the Delhi Public School in her hometown. Excelling in both academics and sports, she got the opportunity to pursue her college education in New Delhi and earned her Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Political Science from Dayal Singh College.

While at college, the opportunity to serve in the National Cadet Corps was a life-changing decision for her, as it granted her the exposure and confidence to take on various challenges and work in teams. As the Junior Under Officer of her college NCC, she represented the institution in sports and other events. Her experience as an NCC cadet instilled a fascination for a career with the Indian Armed Forces. 

Her native town, Digboi, Assam comes under the Tinsukia district, which has been an AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) imposed region.

While it has been largely peaceful, there have been insurgent activities, and for the people living there a career in engineering or medicine is the most preferred option. The youth there and their families don’t think beyond these conventional professional courses. Even Minerva’s own family, hailing from the Gorkha community was surprised at her career choice. 

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Right after college, she attempted the SSB exam twice. In the latter attempt, she secured the All India First Rank in the NCC Short Service Commission (Women) – 53 entry and became the first candidate from her home state Assam to be ranked first.

At the time, the Indian Army’s 18 Garhwal Unit was posted in Digboi and they felicitated her and highlighted her achievements before the NCC cadets in the town, with the aim of motivating them to join the Armed Forces.

Minerva believes that it is a matter of convincing the people and helping them understand the importance of the Indian Army’s service and positive impact on the nation’s security.

With her training now completed, even her parents who were initially surprised at her decision are extremely proud of their daughter for having chosen a career with the Indian Army. She isn’t the first Army Officer of her family alone, she’s the first one from her school and the first woman officer from all of Digboi, Assam.

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