'My family cut me off when I left my village': UAE cabin crew from rural India breaks stereotypes, asks girls to take risks

On this International Women's Day, Mamata Choudhary talks about how she had to struggle out of her traditional settings to see her dream of taking a flight as an Etihad flight attendant

By Harriet Shephard

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Mamata Choudhary. Photos: Supplied
Mamata Choudhary. Photos: Supplied

Published: Wed 8 Mar 2023, 3:40 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 Mar 2023, 10:22 AM

Etihad Airways cabin crew member Mamata Choudhary is the first woman from her village to work abroad. From a very young age, she believed 'she could fly', but her journey to see her dreams take flight wasn't easy.

Growing up in Rajasthan, she was expected to stay in her village, get a job within her community and prioritise cooking, cleaning and raising children. However, Mamata wanted to do more for herself.

"My community places a lot of restrictions on girls," she told Khaleej Times. "We are expected to dress modestly, and even getting an education is tough. I walked 5km to school every day and then another 10km afterwards to work on our family farm."

When she went to college and moved to Delhi to pursue a career, her family cut ties with her. Finding a job was difficult too. She didn't speak English or have a passport.

"I didn't have money for language classes, so I taught myself through YouTube," she says.

Growing up, she had never heard of cabin crew or flight attendants, but after going to Delhi and completing her studies, she saw a Facebook post, and I was curious about the job.

"I searched on YouTube, and I watched videos about cabin crew, and I found it very interesting and glamorous, and I decided to become a cabin crew. I didn't have a passport, and it was tough to get one without going through my parents, who were not cooperative at that time.

"With no financial stability and no support from my parents, it was a struggle to get my dream job. I'd go days without food, and I often felt lost and depressed. I missed my family a lot."

Mamta did not give up on her dreams of being independent and standing out as an example for her village girls. She continued to do odd jobs, including modelling and being a body double for popular Bollywood actress Taapsee Pannu.

Her dreams eventually took flight; she flew and joined Etihad Airways as a cabin crew in 2022. "When I wore the Etihad uniform for the first time, I felt like a queen with wings, thanks to my lovely Etihad family that gave me wings to fly."

She added, "My first flight with Etihad was astonishing. The managers really took care of me and I must say I have never seen such a caring and friendly crew."

She has now reconciled with her family, travelled to 23 countries, bought her dad a car and conducted talks at girls' schools in India.

She hopes to bring her parents to visit Abu Dhabi, "It will be their first flight, so I'm very excited to see them on my flight."

Mamta wants young woman never to stop dreaming and achieve their goals by being fierce and taking risks. "Don't let anyone or any situation dictate who you are and who you can be. Fight for your dreams because no one else is going to do it for you."


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