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Gone are the days when one’s age would define what work they are best suited for – whether they must retire and take lighter responsibilities or just be the torch-bearers for passing wisdom in families. While ageism is still deeply embedded in our Indian mindset, society, in general, is becoming more progressive and a lot of enthusiastic individuals are defying the age-old age stereotypes.

In November 2016, a group of ISRO scientists went to the totally uninhabitable Antarctica to operate the Indian research station, Bharati. Mangala Mani, a 56-year-old woman was a part of this team. Mangala Mani is the first woman who has spent 403 days at the Antarctica research station.

Originally from Hyderabad, she had been a curious and intelligent child with strong analytical skills. Being the single female student among 80 male students, Mangala did her 4-year course at Model Diploma for Technicians – Radio Apparatus (MDT-RA) and was intensively trained in analytical skills and to be eligible for prestigious institutions like HAL and ISRO.

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She worked at the HAL during her apprenticeship years and was soon selected by the ISRO. And years later, Mangala Mani made history. She was selected as a part of a 23-member team – the only woman in the team.

Mangala Mani at 56, has shown much grit and perseverance by dedicating her services to the country. For one who had never seen snow in her entire life, spending more than a year amidst the snow galore Antarctica was thrilling.

However, going to Antarctica is easier said than done. The temperatures there can go down to -90oC. The winds can be brutal. One could suffer from hypothermia, frostbites, chilblains, trench foot, heart failure, etc. due to extreme cold conditions. To acclimatize for such severe weather conditions, the team had to go to Auli in Uttarakhand, 9,000 feet above sea level. Mangala and her team also underwent a number of physical and mental tests for weeks before they were certified as fit to go there.

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Mangala Mani came up triumphant through all this and still stands tall. As the first woman to spend 403 days in Antarctica, she is now stronger both mentally and physically for any issue she may face. She is very confident of women being able to do anything and everything and hopes that more young girls take the initiative to step out with their dreams and achieve. She is an inspiration for many who may find age pulling them back to attain their dreams.

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