By Shevlin Sebastian
Captain Radhika Menon is on a roll. The first female captain of the Indian Merchant Navy has bagged another award. This time, the Ministry of Women and Child Development is presenting a 'First Ladies' Award to her at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan on January 20. A ministry communication stated: 'This is an initiative to recognise women who had the courage to tread an unusual path and succeeded in being the first in their respective professions. Our aim is to empower and encourage the women of our country.”
Earlier, Radhika had won the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. This is for her role in the rescue of seven fishermen from a sinking fishing boat off the coast of Orissa on June 22, 2015. She is also the first woman to win this award. It was presented to Radhika at a function of the IMO at London on November 21, 2016.
At that time, Radhika had said, “To be honest, I was not trying to win an award when I initiated the rescue operation. Instead, I considered it my duty. But, yes, the recognition from the IMO is memorable and I am humbled and honoured.”
On April 5, 2016, National Maritime Day, the National Maritime Day Celebration Committee of India conferred the 'Seafarers Gallantry Award' on her.
Radhika was appointed as captain in early 2013 and usually, she handles an all-male crew. “They know me well, and have no problems in taking orders from me,” she says. “Do remember I have been with the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) for about 26 years.” Radhika did a one-and-a-half year radio course at the All India Marine College in Kochi before she became a radio officer in SCI, the first woman to do so in India.
But it has not been a smooth journey. “As compared to a male officer, I am scrutinised much more,” she says. “I try to avoid making mistakes. If I do make one, it will be talked about, and never forgotten. My attitude is simple: if a hurdle has been placed in front of you, then you will have to clear it.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)