Very rarely have people seen a woman clad in a firefighter uniform. Even more son, the National Fire Service College (NFSC) located in Nagpur never saw a woman as a firefighter in their 46-year history. However, Harshini Kanhekar changed everyone’s belief in 2002.
Harshini Kanhekar still looks back on the moment with fond memories. She remembers when she received the telegram stating that she had cleared the entrance exam. She was not even aware that there was no girl student before her in that institute. When she walked around the campus, all she saw was men and not a single woman was around. Rather than deterring her, she became even more determined. All she saw in that moment was the big red building and all she wanted was to get admission in the college. Someone from the administration even told Harshini Kanhekar to apply for the Air Force or the Army where there are facilities for women. This college had no such separate facilities. This only made Harshini Kanhekar even more determined.
Harshini Kanhekar managed to clear the entrance exam where only 30 seats were available. Once she cleared that, she had to appear for a medical examination. The doctor that was handling the tests said to Harshini Kanhekar that the course is very grueling and she should think twice before enrolling. Her final test was an interview with a very intimidating panel. Although one of the panelists stated that Harshini Kanhekar would become the Harshini Kanhekar among firefighters, this did not go to her head. While there were people that were always looking to encourage her, there were always a number of people looking to pull her down. Upon clearing the interview, she knew that her dream of wearing the firefighter uniform was very close.
When she arrived at the NFSC, a man told her that her attempts for admission would be futile. However, he was surprised when he realized that she had already gotten admission. Harshini Kanhekar later realized that the man became an active supporter of women looking to join the NFSC. Although she managed to get admission to the college, her dream of becoming a firefighter was a long way off and Harshini Kanhekar was aware of that.
Harshini Kanhekar knew that everyone’s eyes were on her. All the other candidates were constantly keeping an eye on her during the interview and also during the initiation process. The mock drills as well as dealing with the very heavy water hoses were proving to be difficult. However, Harshini Kanhekar pointed out that it was difficult for everyone. She did not want others to point a finger at her and this made her practice even more. She would go to the storeroom and do extra drills. Her motive was that she should get out of training with her pride intact and no one should find an opportunity to mock her.
Featured Photo by DVIDSHUB