Meet Azan Salati, all set to Become First Kashmiri Commercial Pilot in Canada

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I was 17, when I moved out of home. I studied engineering in Delhi for 4 years. I worked like there was no tomorrow. I had a full time night job and classes in the day and not because my parents couldn’t have afforded my studies but I was kind of a nutjob, wanting to do it on my own. No friends and social life, 3 hours of sleep every night for 4 years, insomnia, and acute anxiety issues later I was still cringing each time I looked up in the sky and saw a plane. I never owned a barbie. I was 2 years old when my uncle got me a plastic “aeroplane”. Love at first sight, ever heard of that? It was my 26th. And it was alarming. Holy smokes, that’s really old, I thought when I turned 26. And why am I still not flying? Backup plan, I am an engineer. I applied to one of the finest flying schools in Canada. And with the blink of an eye I was packing all my life, memories, struggles and pain (which I have had more than my fair share) to bid farewell to my mum and dad and leave.

I moved to Toronto, Oct 10th 2014. I knew no one, no one was waiting for me at the airport. When the immigration officer asked me where I was going to stay, I told him, I might have to sleep in a park tonight or if I get lucky I’ll find some place near the airport. The glitch was that they didn’t let me fly my cat “Zoon” along and I was heartbroken and cried for two days straight. My cat was everything to me. She saw me through my ups and downs. So instead of looking for a place to stay in, I was crying over zoon. Almost a year and a half now, I am at an arms distance to getting my commercial pilot’s license. It’s not easy. Never has been. But I have never known easy. I learnt French here. Made few friends. I am less anxious now. Two part time jobs and I am a great pilot (with utmost humility). If I had a nickel for every time people told me, “You’re a girl, are you sure”. ” Its not like living in Delhi alone, Canada is very far, how will you manage, They don’t give Muslim girls any opportunity, Flying is dangerous, You have a great career, Marry now” I bet I would be going to the airport in a corvette. But here’s the thing. You do what you have to do. You fall and then rise again. You will get hurt, get wounded and heartbroken. You’ll feel lonely, but guess what your battle scars are going to be worth it. When I look back and think about all the things I have been through to get here, I get goose bumps, but I wouldn’t even for once change any of that. Apart from being hardcore obsessed with flying, Had it not been for my mum and papa, who believed in me, took the taunts (kashur people can be a tad bit too “kashur”, we all know what I mean) This would have been far more difficult. So to all the aunties, who told my parents, ” koor kot gastchi kunizin, khandar kar chus karun, patloon kyazi cha lagaan….. ” lol, raise your glasses, kehwa cups, or whatever you’re drinking right now, to the first koshur pie- lot koor grin emoticon

Thanks to everyone who said, I couldn’t do it, I needed that extra push.

If I were to give one piece of advice that would be, Don’t believe them when they say, It’s crazy, don’t do it. Do yourself a favor, stick to your passion and grind for it. Be ready for days without food and hope for a place to crash in at night but don’t expect it. Chances are you will be working two jobs, studying more than ever and no one would have a clue. No one should. It is YOUR own baby, you chose it, you pull your socks together and don’t rest until you see it through. The invisible stars on your shoulder will tell you how your smiles will be brighter in all adversities in the process of chasing and living your dream than they could ever be, with all the riches. Go get it.

Peace & love. Azan Salati