#Personal Stories

I Donned ‘The Whites’ To Serve The Nation And Marched on Rajpath Twice

Lt Cdr Bidisha Pandey,
Lt Cdr Bidisha Pandey: I have been a proud Army brat since the time I gained my senses! The olive-green uniform and those glittering stars on my father’s shoulders had me mesmerised every morning as I saw him leave for office.

Who knew I too would get the opportunity to don ‘the whites’ and serve the nation! I joined the Indian Navy as a Short Service Commissioned officer in July 2011. In my ten years of service, I lived my dream of leading the Naval Marching Contingent on Rajpath as a part of Republic Day Parade celebrations, twice, in 2014 and 2015! Yet another highlight of my service tenure was representing the Indian Navy as a part of the Cape to Rio Trans-Atlantic Ocean Sailing Expedition 2017 where I was a part of the six-member return leg crew and sailed 5,000 Nautical Miles from Cape Town to Goa in 33 days onboard INSV Mhadei!

After a decade in uniform, I am ready again to embark on a new journey to support my community by making widows and dependents of martyrs, who lay down their lives for the nation, financially independent. I will be pursuing Masters in Prosperity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London. I am honoured to have been awarded the prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship Award by The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

While I still have a long way to go, here are a few lessons that I have learnt from my diverse life experiences so far.

The Choice is Yours!

A lot is expected from us as women, but the ultimate choice is ours. Firstly, understand what makes you happy, and then have the strength and conviction to stick to it. My mother is a homemaker by choice, and she enjoys it. I, on the other hand, have always been more inclined towards the world outside, the adventurous kind. We both are great at what we do, and most importantly, we are both happy! There is no right or wrong, the key is to be able to take your own decisions and take complete responsibility for them. Just a few months after my marriage, I had left for Cape Town to participate in the Cape to Rio 2017 expedition. I was away from my husband for months. For a lot of people, it was “not necessary”. For me, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I believe my naval tenure would have been incomplete had I not gone for it! Today, instead of regret, I am glad I have tons of ‘at-sea’ memories to share.

‘Personality over Perfection

“Trying to change who we are to fit someone else’s ideals lessens our sense of self-worth, causing self-esteem to plummet and insecurities to soar.”

A woman often loses herself in the process of trying to become the perfect daughter, the perfect wife and the perfect mother. What I have learnt is that perfection is a myth and it is fine to be flawed. It is your individual personality that takes precedence over perfection. Embrace it. Interestingly, when my close ones first came to know that I will be joining the Navy, few of them expressed their concern about me being too polite and too soft to be able to control and take charge of troops. Today, after having spent ten years in service, I can proudly say that I never felt the need to raise my voice in the office, I had my own ‘polite but firm’ leadership style and my teams have immensely respected me for that. The only place where one heard my voice at its loudest was on the parade ground and trust me, I spent a considerable amount of time practising there, being among the very few officers who have had the privilege of marching on Rajpath twice!

The only place where one heard my voice at its loudest was on the parade ground and trust me, I spent a considerable amount of time practising there, being among the very few officers who have had the privilege of marching on Rajpath twice!

Build your Team

Who is your team? The people who keep reminding you of your dreams when you get distracted, after all, you too are a human! It is your partner, your parents, your children, your siblings, your best friend. This team is your first line of defence against the myriad judgements that society passes on you. While I was lucky to have parents who unflinchingly supported me in all my decisions, when I was to choose my life partner, I made sure that he is aware of all my desires and my fears, that we together work as a team, and also have enough space to allow individual growth. My husband is an early riser, a fitness enthusiast and loves to cook, while I am the night owl who is into creative writing and reading non-fiction books on psychology and behavioural economics! While I move to London to pursue higher studies, he will be here in India, serving the nation, working on his goals. We are both proud of each other.

You are Never Too Late to Start Something

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”. So, take that chance.

I was an operations and supply chain specialist in the Navy. When I completed my ten-year tenure, I was either expected to take an extension for four more years or switch to corporate operations and supply chain role. Instead, I chose to change gears and start fresh in a domain where I have no experience – social entrepreneurship. Why? I believe that’s my ‘Ikigai’. Every individual must strive to do something he/she loves, something that he/she is good at and something that benefits society. When I first worked for the resettlement of Veer Naris as part of my duties at Visakhapatnam, it gave me a deep sense of satisfaction. When I was transferred to Mumbai, I got in touch with the VeerNari Shakti Resettlement Organisation and volunteered to work with them for the same cause. Finally, when I was in my ninth year of service, I decided to apply to social entrepreneurship courses. I did not have a formal background in the social sector, and therefore I was sceptical, but I took that chance. I am extremely excited and thrilled to begin again!

The views expressed are the author’s own.