RIP, Wg Co Dr Vijayalakshmi Ramanan, India’s First Woman IAF Officer & Breaker of Glass Ceilings

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RIP, Wg Co Dr Vijayalakshmi Ramanan, India’s First Woman IAF Officer & Breaker of Glass Ceilings

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

India bid farewell to one of its heroines yesterday. Wing Commander (Retd) Dr Vijayalakshmi Ramanan, who was the country’s first woman IAF officer, passed away due to health complications in Bangalore. She was 96. Her ashes were immersed in the Cauvery River. In an interview to ThePrint, her son-in-law S V L Narayan, said, “She passed away peacefully Sunday night. She was very active till the very end. Days before she died, she had even given a handwritten note to her doctor.”

Before joining the defence forces, Ramanan completed her MBBS from the Madras Medical College in 1943. She went on to do her MD in obstetrics and gynaecology, before being commissioned into the Army Medical Corps in 1955, and was later inducted into the IAF as part of the Short Service Commission.

According to ThePrint report, in a 2018 interview Ramanan had admitted, “Initially, I was scared to work with men, but I was brave and thought to myself, I could face anything.” For many years, she was among a handful of women officers in the army and navy.

According to reports, Ramanan also designed the sari uniform that women officers wear.

In the wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971, Ramanan also tended to wounded soldiers, and was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal in 1977. She finally retired as a wing commander in 1979.

Ramanan was an inspiration to many young women.

A pioneer in her field, she will be remembered for breaking a significant glass ceiling.

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