She is one among the six navy women who set sail to circumnavigate the globe. Dehradun-born Lt Payal Gupta — like every valley child — was fascinated by the army and wanted to get into it.
“When I was in college, I did my NCC training in army. So I was fond of the army, but then I got through Indian Navy,” Payal told SheThePeople.TV.
“After that whenever I thought of navy, I thought of being in the ocean and on ships. But I came to know that lady officers don’t get to go out to sail. I learnt that education officers will never get a chance to go onboard a ship,” Payal says. She adds that this made her determined to sail at least once in her lifetime.
“You need a lot of muscle power and strength working onboard because when you take the sail up, it can weigh up to 150 kg”
Till a few years ago, Payal was working a nine-to-five job in the navy in Gurugram. But she did not like it much and wanted to get away from it.
Initially, she volunteered for the first sail — ‘Cape to Rio 2017’. She then got to know that Navika Sagar Parikrama is also happening.
Indian Navy started this initiative to send a group of six women on a sail to circumnavigate the world. It is the first time in its history that a group of female navy officers are attempting such a task.
So, Payal volunteered for it and got selected for the circumnavigation team. Then naval officers in Goa called her as part of the team to train them to take on this unprecedented mission.
Talking about the training, Payal says, “It’s not at all an academic training. It requires going onboard and learning the whole process while doing every task with your own hands.”
“Like if an officer is pouring the oil, we ask them ‘what kind of oil are you pouring?’ After how much time do you re-fill it? What to do in case of emergency? Etc.”
“Also, you need a lot of muscle power and strength working onboard because when you take the sail up, it can weigh up to 150kg. Sailing requires a lot of pulling of ropes. But for me, it was like what I wanted to do in life and I really enjoy the whole process,” says Payal.
On her family’s reaction, she says that her family never stopped her from doing anything. “In fact, I told my mom that I want to volunteer for this, so I am praying that I clear it. And she replied that I’ll also pray that you clear the test because you want to do this. My parents are the happiest after getting to know that I will be going around the globe on a boat.”
“I was very happy when I went for my first expedition from Goa to Vizag. But there was a time when the sea became rough and the boat was banging down and swinging. I used to ask my seniors if the boat would be alright, whether it will break and if we will reach home safe. Also, when you go for sailing, you get used to it after some time.”
INSV Tarini is the boat that the navy has got custom-made for the women to sail on for this journey.
The gutsy officer says there are other challenges when you do something for the first time. “I was very happy when I went for my first expedition from Goa to Vizag. But there was a time when the sea became rough and the boat was banging down and swinging. I used to ask my seniors if the boat would be alright, whether it will break and if we will reach home safe. Also, when you go for sailing, you get used to it after some time.”
There is not much demand for ocean sports in India. Sailing is one of them and once you start playing a sport, you want to keep playing it. It is challenging but at the same time, it is also thrilling and adventurous, says Payal. “I see that a lot of youngsters in India today, especially women, now want to do more of adventurous stuff like bungee jumping, skydiving, etc. But I have never heard anyone say that I want to sail in the ocean. I am waiting for it to become a norm,” she says.
WHAT SHE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO
The women set sail on Sunday (September 10). They will reach their first stop—Freemantle in Western Australia — in about 37 days. Payal says that she is most excited to see the three capes of the continents of the southern oceans—Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, Australia’s Cape Leeuwin and South America’s Cape Horn.
“I have got my GoPro, will make lots of videos for my collection. I might also show them to my grandchildren,” she giggles.
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