Last year, Taniya Sanyal, born and brought up in Kolkata, made history-she became the first woman firefighter to be appointed by the Airport Authority of India (AAI). Till 2018, the statutory body working under the Ministry of Civil Aviation recruited only men as its firefighters, but the rules were relaxed last year and Sanyal, who had away wanted to pursue a challenging and offbeat path, became the lone woman candidate to storm into the male bastion. “The moment I saw the advertisement for this position in a newspaper, I grabbed the opportunity,” recalls the 27-year-old firefighter, who now trains both men and a handful of woman
The moment I saw the advertisement for the position in a newspaper, I grabbed the opportunity.
Exercise: Prefers to do free hand exercise over training with equipment in a gym.
Begins her morning with soaked almonds. Lunch is simple comprising rice, dal, vegetables, and fish or chicken. Eats at least four eggs per week.
Aspiring to be firefighters with the AAI. After she cracked the online written test for the job, Sanyal was called to Bhubaneswar for medical, physical, and driving tests. To clear the tests, she started working out and running so that she could pass the physical endurance tests that required firefighting aspirants to run, climbs ladders, and carries a 40-kg sandbag for a distance of 60 meters, among other things. Needless to say, Sanyal passed all the tests with flying colors.
After a rigorous training at the Fire Training Centre, New Delhi, Sanyal was posted at the Kolkata Fire Training Centre as a trainer. At present, she is training 61 aspirants from Bengaluru airport. Apart from this, Sanyal’s job also requires her to help evacuate people in life-threatening situations using mobile high-performance vehicles, fight fires with a range of equipment such as hoses, foam branches, and monitors, participate in organised drills for fire control, and rescue work; conduct fire safety inspections; inspect fire alarm boards; test and maintain fire vehicles and other equipment; operate Fire Control Centres at airports; and observe aircraft arrivals and departures, among other things.
Asked about the fitness and mental alertness levels required for her job, Sanyal says, “Mental alertness is of utmost important. Airport fire service is not only about firefighting, but also about rescue operations on aircraft. As per the International Civil Aviation Organisation rules, our response time is 138 seconds. So, you imagine the kind of mental alertness we need. “To stay fit, Sanyal prefers to do free hand exercises over training with equipment in a gym. In any case, the intense physical activities at work help her stay in shape. She elaborates, “My day starts at six every morning. I conduct physical training sessions, parades, technical learning classes, and teach trainees to handle fire equipment such as hoses, ladders, and other firefighting paraphernalia.” She sings off, “Apart from physical barriers, women need to cross their mental barriers as well. Believe in yourself, set targets, and tell yourself that you can achieve whatever you want in life.” And that’s the motto Sanyal has always followed in her own life.