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‘Iron Lady’ of Mysuru

Who said only men dominate adventure sports. This lady from our city has gone on to prove even women are capable of taking part in adventure sports that too with a rare degree of success. Right from her school days in the heritage city, ‘Iron Lady’ as she is fondly referred to by her peers, Rukmini Chandran would always look to dominate whatever she did.  She always wanted to be part of the nature. Climbing hills, trees or rocks used to be her day-to-today routine.

That his daughter was adventurous by nature, father N Papanna, who was with the Southern Railways then, would always encourage Rukmini to put her hand on anything that she liked. It is precisely this undying support that helped Rukmini to pursue her dreams.

I am from a very orthodox family. But my father always stood by me to continue my passion in NCC and sports. He always encouraged me to play   sports, join scouts and guides during my early days as a Bulbul, and NCC till I completed my graduation. He would come and watch me doing parade in NCC. But I was not so good in studies,” she recalls her school days.


If there is something that Rukmini would love to discuss for hours, it is adventure sports. The more you ask the more she talks. In the sport for decades now, the veteran athlete knows adventure sports like the back of her palm. When you quiz her if the sport is risky, her answer is a firm no.  “If we do it with all the safety gears and precautions, it is very safe. We have been conducting all types of adventure sports safely for the last 33 years. As there is no authority to lay the rules and guidelines, people, who are not trained, are also conducting adventure camps to earn fast bucks, without proper safety precautions,” she reasons.

Rukmini has many firsts to her credit but she is not unduly worried about winning or losing. She wants to remain ‘adventurous’ as long as she can which seems to be the order of the day.


Could you tell us something about your childhood?

I am the eldest out of four of us, one younger sister and two younger brothers. I was born and brought up in Mysuru. I was brought up like a boy. I used to go for jogging, play football and hockey, practice with my father, always playing the games like lagori, football. From childhood, I always loved village life and liked to be part of the nature, climbing hills, trees, rocks, catching fish and crab using dhoti in the village water streams.

Schooling and college.

My primary schooling was in Avila Convent till 4th standard, then NTMS Government School till 7th standard, then at Marimallappa’s High School from 8th to 10th. Then for pre-university, I went to Maharani’s Science Collage, then graduation at Maharani’s Arts College.

Something about parents. What was their influence when you were a child?

My mother Puttamma and father N Papanna, who worked in Southern Railways, played hockey and football for his employer. I am from a very orthodox family. My father always stood by me to continue my passion in NCC and sports. He always encouraged me to play   sports, join scouts and guides during my early days as a Bulbul, and NCC till I completed my graduation. He would come and watch me doing parade in NCC. But I was not so good in studies.

Sporting activities during school and college.

When I was in school, I always participated in each and every sport event. I always use to be in winners’ list, getting lots of certificates, but during college my interest turned to NCC.

Something about your NCC sojourn.

NCC is my passion which taught me to be tough in decision making, face challenges in life with confidence which helped me overcome all my difficulties. Till 1980, there was no air wing for girls. I participated in maximum number of interstate, national level camps, underwent training in trekking, mountaineering, shooting (I was Number 2 in snap shooting in the country), got trained in rock climbing, first aid, map reading. In 1980, air wing was opened for girls, and we underwent training in glider pilot, parasailing, aero modelling and  aero sports adventure. I was a senior under officer in NCC.


Was choosing adventure sports by choice or chance?

Adventure sports is my passion and I am addicted to it. It is by choice that I got hooked to it.

Do you think the sport growing in India?

In the West, people know that how important is adventure sports to make us mentally and physically fit, to bring discipline in our life. But in India we are not getting any importance and encouragement.  Hope things change. Mandakalli airport was built by Maharaja, and they introduced gliding (which is a royal sport in western countries) for NCC cadets which has produced hundreds of pilots from our city who are serving as a pilots all over the world and also in India. Today it is closed due to sheer negligence.

Is there any age limit to be part of this sport?

The participants should be able to understand our instructions and he/she should know what she is doing. We do it for children who are above eight years. As far as upper age limit is concerned, there is no limit. As long as the person is fit mentally and physically, it is fine.

Any memorable moments in life.

At Mandakalli air field, when I was doing parasailing advance training, the 600 feet towing rope connected between me and towing jeep got cut. Luckily, the instructor had given instructions as an emergency on how to land in that kind of a situation. I could land safely without any injuries.

Any unforgettable moment.

Wild life trekking was allowed from 1998 to 2008. At that time we came come across a team of poachers/smugglers with arms in Kerala border Mule range. We were the part of the team that against them. Forest officials could arrest one person.  

How is Rukmini Chandran as a person?

As person I would love to be left alone with nature. I have no fear. I love to be with my friends, very committed to family, like to help/assist helpless women. But adventure is my addiction.

How do you treat success and failure?

With failure only, we can identify our mistakes and come up in life.

What does it take to be a good athlete?

First, we should have a goal. We should have patience and self-confidence and hope, there is always a solution to every problem.

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