Connecting over 25 millions NRIs worldwide
Most trusted Name in the NRI media


After North Pole's free fall parachute jump record, Shital Mahajan readies for another record

The only way I could have gone into the record books was by making it the first jump of my life
Jump queen, jump!

The Hindu
Dec 09, 2006

Shital Mahajan has quite a few records in her sights

In this `I want to be on television' generation, youngsters are taking up unusual challenges. Shital Mahajan is no different.

This coming week the 24-year-old will make an accelerated free fall parachute jump over the white continent of Antarctica.

Never before has any man or woman dared to make the first free fall jump of life over the world's most demanding drop zone where temperature ranges between minus 40 and minus 50 degrees Celsius.

"As a youngster, I wanted to be in news. First I thought of talent shows where one has to dance or sing. Then one day I met my friend's brother who is a squadron leader in the Indian Air Force. He told me about parachute jumping. The concept excited me and I decided to do it," says Shital before taking a flight to the U.S.

On December 10, she is supposed to start from Chille (Punta Arenas), the last camp for the South Pole. Then she will take the jump according to the weather conditions.

Her first target was to jump over the North Pole, which she successfully completed in April 2004. Recently she has been awarded the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award for the feat.

"I discovered that one Indian woman, Rachel Thomas has already achieved the feat. So the only way I could have gone into the record books was by making it the first jump of my life. I learnt that Rachel had some 15 years of professional para jumping experience before she undertook the North Pole expedition. I had never set foot on an aircraft before taking the expedition."

The only advantage she had was that she was allowed to have a parachute that opens automatically. There was no fear, she exclaims.

"Nobody had to push me, as I was waiting for the opportunity to come."

This time, however, she has to open the parachute herself. "I will jump from a height of 12000 feet and the parachute will open after 4000 feet of free fall."

She will jump with two instructors who will be guiding her throughout the free fall.

"The moments would be captured by experienced free fall cameraman Mustafa Karampurwala through the camera attached to his helmet."

If she completes the feet, Shital says she will become the first woman in the world to jump over both the poles without any practice.

Hailing from Pune, Shital, a student of BSc at Ferguson College, shares that the expedition requires a lot of money.

"Tata Motors, where my father is employed, is sponsoring me. Then I am using the National Award money. Also, I have taken an education loan by mortgaging the house."

Talking of other challenges involved, Shital says during the first jump she was supposed to wear seven layers of clothing. "This caused skin problems, because you can't take out some layers even in the tent. Thankfully, my brother is an Ayurveda doctor, so I recovered soon. This time I am taking along silicon thermal wear," sums up Shital.

Puna City girl readies for North Pole odyssey

City girl readies for North Pole odyssey
PUNE, Mar 29, 2004

Shital Mahajan, a third-year B.Sc student of Fergusson College, was bragging one day on the campus about the thrill of taking the plunge — strap on a parachute, open up the hatch, jump out of an airplane, feel life!

A friend then gave a counter-point. "You're crazy," he said. "I can't believe you jump out of planes for fun. It's so dangerous." Shital doesn't think so.

Spurred by the national record set by Squadron Leader Kamal Singh Oberh of the IAF, Shital has decided to take a plunge, that too above the North Pole, on April 12.

She will be the first Indian girl, perhaps the first girl in the world, to make a maiden skydive on the Arctic Circle in sub-zero temperatures. "One lady did it a few years ago, but she had several earlier skydives to her credit. Mine would be a maiden jump of my life," she told .

Shital was inspired by Sq. Ldr Kamal's feats and his subsequent presentations in the city. An officer attached to the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, he is the first Indian to go sky-diving on both the poles — at South Pole in Antarctica on January 1, 2000, and at North Pole in Khatanga on April 20, 2002.

"I wanted to do something exceptional and Sq. Ldr. Kamal Singh's video presentaion caught my eye," says Shital.

There was initial opposition from her middle-class family. But she was able to persuade her parents as support from philantrophic organisations came forth. She will be leaving for Longyearbyen (Slavbard) in Norway on April 9 and will jump from an MI-8 helicopter from the Ice Base on April 12.

Since this would be her first jump, she would make a static-line skydive, where the canopy (parachute) opens by itself, the moment one jumps out of an aircraft. Prior to that, she will go to the Parachute Regiment Centre, Bangalore, for a two-day ground and basic training on simulators.

The expedition will cost Shital a bomb — approximately Rs 13 lakh. But she has been working hard for six months. So far, she has garnered around Rs 9 lakh.




Pole Star

Shital Mahajan PHOTO: V. SUDERSHAN- Shital Mahajan always liked to experiment with things that people think girls cannot do. “I like to do everything but studies,” says the zoology student from Fergusson College, Pune. Her next target: South Pole, naturally.