Google, on Sunday, released a striking doodle to honour the life and achievements of Sarla Thukral, India’s first woman pilot. On the occasion of her 107th birth anniversary, the doodle recreated the iconic image of the trailblazer, sitting in the cockpit, in a saree. Created by artist Vrinda Zaveri, the doodle is described by the search engine giant as a celebration of the “Indian pilot, designer, and entrepreneur.” Born in Delhi, British India in 1914, Ms Thukral moved to Lahore, in present-day Pakistan. It was here that she fell in love with flying, thanks to her husband, who was an airmail pilot and came from a family of fliers.
After rigorous training at the Lahore Flying Club, at the age of 21, Ms Thukral stepped into the cockpit of a small double-winged plane for her first solo flight. Dressed in a saree, her maiden flight meant that the skies were no longer a space reserved for men. “Lifting the craft into the sky, she made history in the process,” the note attached to the Google doodle said.
During her training, Ms Thukral also held the distinction of having completed 1,000 hours of flight time, which gained her an A licence. This was another first for Indian women.
However, World War II threw a wrench in her plans to pursue civil aviation training for which she had even begun preparation. But this did not mean, she stopped her tryst with education. “Instead, Ms Thukral studied fine art and painting at Lahore’s Mayo School of Arts (now the National College of Arts). She later returned to Delhi where she continued painting and built a successful career designing jewellery and clothing,” the note added.
Listen to Ms Thukral’s story in her own words here.
The same doodle was originally planned to be released last year, on the occasion of her birth anniversary. “However, when the tragic plane crash occurred in Kerala, we withheld the doodle out of respect to the event and relief effort,” Google said, adding that they do not usually run doodles more than once. “Ms Thukral left such a lasting legacy for women in aviation that we decided to run the doodle this year in honour of her 107th birthday,” the company explained.