Their daredevilry stole the thunder

A group of 14 young girls from a local college was the star attraction at the
Republic Day parade on the Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Bhuba­ne­swar this year.

Press photographers jostled with each other to click the girls’ photos while the crowd, present to witness the annual colourful event, cheered and attempted to shake hands with the team members. Some people were seen capturing the girls’ photos in their mobile phones.

The girls from the local Maharshi College of Natural Law, aged between 18 and 21, won adulation and admiration. For, they are members of the country’s first all girls’ daredevil team, displaying their skills in their maiden public show. “We all were on cloud nine. We had never imagined that we will be receiving such an encouraging response from the public. It was really a great feeling,” said Chinmayee Bhuyan, leader of the 14-member team, with a broad smile.

The team mesmerised the audience. “I had seen daredevil bikers from the armed forces displaying their skills in public shows. But I never thought that young college girls can also perform them. The girls’ balancing show was really marvellous,” said Pradip Senapati from Bhubaneswar, who was present on the Mahatma Gandhi Marg to witness the parade.

The all girls’ daredevil team couldn’t have seen the light of the day but for the efforts of one man-- Flying Officer Mihir Ranjan Saran, a professor in physics at the Maharashi college who doubles up as the college NCC officer.

An ace biker himself, Saran was instrumental in forming an all boys’ daredevil team in the college in 2011-- he also claims that the boys’ team was the first “non-military” daredevil team in the country which has won several awards and trophies across the state by displaying their skills in special shows and important events like Independent and Republic Day parades. The success of the boys’ team
encouraged the young professor to try and form the all-girl team.

Wanted to change perception

“I thought that if the boys can do it why not girls. They also can be part of a daredevil team though it is definitely a tough job. Moreover, I wanted to demo­lish the common perception that girls from Odisha are generally docile in nature and are unfit for hard and tough jobs in life,” Saran said. The girls, after the Republic Day show, proved that they were not inferior in anyway compared to the boys.

Selecting the girls was not a difficult task as they themselves were keen to be members of the new daredevil team. According to Chinmayee, she and her friends had seen the boys’ daredevil team practising on the college campus. That had generated interest in them to be part of a daredevil team and do the stunts. And when the opportunity came, they simply grabbed it. “We thought why the boys only should have all the fun,” said the young collegian, quoting the popular dialogue of a scooter commercial delivered by Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra. To train girls, however, was tough. Before their maiden public show on Republic Day, Saran had made the girls to go through vigorous training sessi­ons for nearly a month.

What helped the girls in acquiring the daredevil skills was the self-defence training they had already received in the college-- a programme launched by the Odisha Government for girl students in educational institutions in all the districts. “The self-defence training played a major role in boosting our confidence and morale during our preparation for our maiden show,” said Chinmayee, who was also honing her skills in flying as a cadet pilot in the NCC.

The words of encouragement from their parents as well as college authorities boosted the girls’ confidence as well as professor Saran’s. “Neither the college authorities nor the parents of the girls ever discouraged me when I was building up the all-girl team. In fact, some of the parents came and told me that they had complete faith in me. These encou­raging words were enough for me to train girls and prepare them for their first public show during Repu­blic Day parade,” said the college teacher, adding that many parents had rung him up and congratulated on the girls’ spectacular show at the parade.

Regular training

The teacher, however, has a piece of advice for his girls. According to him, they need to continue their training as skills like balancing, etc which are
important components of daredevil exercises needed regu­lar practice. “They can better their skills only through regular training,” he said.

Saran’s next aim is to take his all-girl team to New Delhi to take part in Republic Day parade there. “We intend to display our skills in the national
capital,” said the professor . He added that the team was also looking for opportunities to showcase their talent abroad.

The success of the all girls’ daredevil team has already become a source of encouragement for many other girls from different colleges in the state capital to be part of the team. Saran said he had already been approached by at least 100 girls to train them after the success of Republic Day show. “The resp­o­nses from girls are overwhelming,” he says.

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