Shital Mahajan Rane, an Indian extreme sportswoman and skydiver is a Padma Shri awardee. She is known to be the first woman to have done her first ever parachute jump without undergoing any training over the Geographical North pole in minus 37 degree Celsius from 2400 ft and first accelerated free fall jump without any trials over the Antarctica – South pole from 11,600 feet, in minus 38 degree Celsius. She also happens to be the youngest woman to jump over the North and the South Poles, without trials.
35-year-old Shital has several national and international accolades to her name and now adding to her line of achievements, this woman skydived wearing a nauvari or traditional nine yard saree from a height of 13,000 feet, on Sunday at Pataya, Thialand’s Thai Skydiving Centre.
Speaking to Mirror, Shital Mahajan shared, “I have always wanted to do something different with skydiving. I have 17 national and 6 world records to my name. I keep doing different and exceptional things in skydiving sport. I want to promote what Indian women are capable of doing on the world forum if given a chance. When I did it on the North Pole, I just wanted to prove to the world that Indian women can do anything.”
On asking what inspired her to do skydiving in Maharshtrian style saree, she said, “I have dedicated all my earlier records to India as I say I am India’s daughter, so this time I wanted to do something for the Marathi community, being a Marathi mulgi, I wanted to do something different for Pune and our community. Recently, we also had Marathi week celebration in Janaury first week, ever since then I was wondering no one has ever done this stunt wearing a saree so I got the idea that I can do it wearing nauvaari saree which is tucked both in fornt and back. This style of saree comes from the Peshwa’s era, which intrigued me as it was a bit safe, although if any part had come out it could have turned into a risky affair. So I prepared my saree by taping, stitching and pinning it properly.”
So was she allowed to do diving wearing an Indian attire? Shital said, “The instructor in Thailand was very strict and the first day I wasn’t allowed to do it, but on the second day, I convinced him, although, due to bad weather we couldn’t go ahead. On third day, i.e, on Sunday I finally did the jump from 13,000 feet.”
On her future plans with skydiving, Mahajan shared, “I want to represent India at several world platforms, but I need sponsorship for that. Indian government has not been helping me at all. I have been spending money from my own pocket. My family helps me out.”
Expressing a little discontent on government’s role, Shital said, “Last year, in 2017, I finished Skydiving in all 7 continents. And government did not acknowledge or even felicitate me. My name was suggested for international Gold medal in skydiving, which in Indian history no one has achieved so far, but as earlier I had finished skydiving in 7 continents in 10 years, my profile got rejected. They asked if I could do 6 continents in 1 year’s span. On February 10 this year, I have finished all 7 continents in 1 year.”
Shital spoke about her struggles and said, “I have faced harassment from Indian men and their mentality. Right now I am the only woman persuing skydiving from India. In the past, there were a few women who quit due to financial reasons, lack of family and community support. I have received no appreciation whatsoever from male counterparts.”
Talking about empowering women, she said, “Women are capable of doing so much. While being a mother is a beautiful thing, restricting women to take care of just that department is something I don’t believe in. If a woman is given freedom and space, she can do wonders. I think my skydiving can inspire women, but it comes with its own set of risks.”