Growing up in an Army family and in cantonment areas, it was an easy decision for 19-year-old Shanan Dhaka to choose a career in uniform. So she didn’t think twice before applying for the National Defence Academy examination when the Supreme Court ruled to allow women candidates to appear for the test last year.
Clearing the NDA entrance exam, she secured the first rank among women candidates and stood 10th in the overall rankings, becoming one of the first women cadets to be admitted to the NDA.
Hailing from Sundana village of Rohtak in Haryana, Shanan says that she was always inspired by her grandfather Chanderbhan Dhaka and her father, Vijay Kumar Dhaka, who served as a Subedar and Naib Subedar in the Army.
“Growing up in cantonment areas, I saw the respect being accorded to Army officers. Plus the trust everybody has in Army personnel really motivated me to join the service. It’s an opportunity to serve the nation with unparalleled pride and honour,” she told The Indian Express in an interview.
She was also highly influenced and inspired by late president APJ Abdul Kalam, who started his career from scratch and scaled heights through his skill, determination, and honesty. “Even though he became President of the country, he was always grounded,” Shanan told The Indian Express.
Shanan, who always excelled in academics, had scored 98.2 per cent in class 12 and 97.4 per cent in class 10.
After her schooling from different Army Public Schools at Roorkee, Jaipur, and Chandimandir (Panchkula), she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in arts (BA) from Lady Shri Ram College for Women in Delhi last year. She enrolled for the course with an aim to either join civil services or defence services. When the Supreme Court ordered in favour of women, she said she applied without any second thoughts.
Speaking to The Tribune, she said that if the SC wouldn’t have allowed women in the force, “The next window to enter defence services was to come in the Combined Defence Services (CDS) examination after graduation, that is, after three years.”
Talking about how she prepared for the entrance exam, Shanan says that as her basics were strong, she didn’t have to prepare very hard. She studied five hours a day for 40 days and added that referring and solving previous year’s question papers helped her get through.
According to The Indian Express, last year, there were around 5,75,856 applicants for the entrance exam, among which 1,77,654 of them were women. The ruling of the Supreme Court came out on 8 September last year and the exam was held on 14 November.
She also cracked the Services Selection Board interview, considered as one of the toughest, under the coaching and mentorship of Colonel Ashokan, at Olive Greens Institute. She also received tips from Suman Singh, a retired Army officer and principal of APS Chandimandir, for the interview.
As a piece of advice to the aspiring NDA candidates, Shanan says that the aim to join the Army shouldn’t be for the glory and shine of being an officer, rather one must only pursue it only if they are very passionate and ready to work hard for the nation.
Shanan, who currently lives in Zirakpur in Punjab, is the second child among three sisters. Her elder sister serves as a nurse in the military while her younger sister is in school.
“Both daughters were good at studies and showed their skills. There was an opportunity to enter services after Class 12 and Shanan clinched it,” her father said while talking to The Tribune.
An instant decision: Entrance topper of NDA’s 1st women’s batch, published by The Indian Express on 22 June, 2022.
Rohtak’s Shanan Dhaka is topper among women in NDA exam, published by The Tribune on 22 June, 2022.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)