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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Meet Captain Chhavi, The Daredevil Who’s Teaching Women To Live For Themselves Through Yoga

  • IWB Post
  •  February 23, 2018

“I feel proud when they call me Sahab,” says Captain Chhavi Sood, the woman who dons so many hats that you will lose the count if you attempt it at all. An alumnus of SRCC, a recipient of The Garwal rifles and Garwal scouts trophy and an internationally certified advanced yoga instructor, the woman does nothing less than acing it all.

Currently serving as a defense officer, Captain Chhavi takes free yoga and nutrition workshops on her off days. She has guided many young people to join defense services.  She has traveled to over 15 countries to spread awareness about women’s fitness and is passionately working for it.

You’d never be able to guess that she is a mother of six until she decides to share it with you.  She is warm, lively, and “a trained tigress,” as she calls it. The woman’s energy is so infectious that I could feel it over the phone. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Tell me what Chhavi is like as a person sans all her tags and the responsibilities they command. What is your idea of fun?

Work or no work, I am a brave person and always stand for what I believe in. Whenever I am free, I try to make time for sports or some interesting workout session like rugby or power yoga.

Tell me about your journey right from a well-established corporate career to becoming an army officer and a yoga teacher. How did the transformation occur and what inspired you to get into defense services?

Rather than looking at it like a transformation of roles, I’d rather look at it as an addition of roles. For instance, while earlier I was just a daughter, now I am a daughter of the nation. After working abroad for a while, I got disillusioned from the lifestyle. I wanted to work for my country wherein I could connect to people on a more personal level. My current job gives me the freedom to do that.

How do you balance your personal life, especially motherhood, with all the roles that you are playing?

Well yes, balancing it all is a challenging task but that’s what makes it fun. I look forward to all the challenges of motherhood. If I am going to have a busy day I take my daughter along with me. Of course, there are times when I am constantly running and also times when she is running with me. With all this I am sure she is learning to take responsibility on a universal level. You must have heard this beautiful phrase “Vasudev Kutumbakam.”  Isn’t it a beautiful way of life?

You are not just working in a male-dominated territory but also leading men in it. What is the experience like?

Yes, there are few women in uniformed services and yes, we are leading men here and I just love it and feel immensely proud when they address me as “Sahab”.

How do men take it?

The majority of men that I lead come from rural backgrounds. It’s a shock for them in the beginning because they are used to their women remaining behind kitchen doors. But, as soon as they observe that I know my job, the respect automatically comes in. The experience has been great so far.

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Have you ever faced gender bias in the army?

Not in the army. Like I just said, it takes them a while to get accustomed to my presence but eventually, I get treated with immense respect and love. And I believe that no other workplace in the country gets as inclusive for women as the army.

What is the major loophole preventing women from entering defense services?

I’d say mindset! The biggest blocks, in this case, are the mental blocks. While designing their careers their first concern is always about managing their family life. The profession involves a lot of displacement owing to regular changes in posting and they have this in their head that due to the nature of this job they will not find a suitable spouse.

How do you think we can bring more women into defense?

By example! I was the first one in my family to pursue the career and now a lot of women in my family wear the uniform and they are inspiring many more. It is an evolutionary process rather than a revolutionary one but I also think that the time has now arrived. We have already seen a female president, a female defense minister, and I am positive that in almost no time we will be everywhere.

You teach yoga and are working relentlessly for women’s fitness and nutrition. What got you interested in the field?

Women make babies which has a tremendous impact on their bodies. In a phase when their bodies ask for the best care and nutrition, they start neglecting themselves and that’s how they develop a lot of health problems. I have observed it to be a common habit among women, especially housewives, to put their health on the back burner. They stop taking care of themselves altogether and dedicate all their time to family, which is not right. I want to change all of this.

What changes would you like to see?

I want all the women to become aware of their existence and realize what beautiful creatures they are. I want them to cook for themselves the food of their liking instead of eating whatever others like or even worse, the leftovers. I want them to take care of their bodies, go out for a walk and not just to walk the kid or the dog but for themselves. I have seen people and especially elders asking women to do household chores to stay in shape but that’s not working out. I want them to get engaged in at least 40 minutes of mindful workout.

How do you think fitness can help underprivileged women?

I have observed women in villages and kachchi bastis get in the habit of chewing tobacco and smoking beedis merely out of boredom. They have no idea of the adverse effects and have no concept of eating for themselves. I want them to realize that a healthy woman makes a healthy family and their health is as important as anybody else’s.

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Tell me about an instance where you could feel that you had actually made an impact.

A few days ago, I went out to give a talk on nutrition. I told them that, “Jab aap khud Baahubali banoge tabhi aap baahubali bachche bana paoge,” and I could sense that it hit them at the right place.

Tell me how yoga helps you understand motherhood better?

Yoga has helped me in everything. Yoga is not just about the 30 or 60 minutes of my day that I do it for but it actually begins after it. Yoga helped me with motherhood in the sense that it provided mental stability to me and that helped me connect with my daughter effectively. My daughter is just six and she meditates with me and I am just proud of the fact.

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What did yoga teach you about leadership?

Yoga has certainly enhanced my leadership qualities. It has helped eliminate aggression and also taught me to deal with it calmly. Of course, it has given me a clearer mind and that has aided me in decision-making.

How do you plan to work for women’s fitness in the future?

I want to address women on various forums and maybe I would come up with my own fitness studio after retirement. I’d also love to have a tie-up with the Aayush ministry to promote Yoga. I want Yoga and meditation to become a compulsory part of school curriculum everywhere.

How are you involving your daughter in your social work?

My daughter accompanies me to all my events and seminars. She has a desire to take the country forward and I will let her decide for herself. She is just six and I want her to carve her own path. For more details, you need to interview her. Ha-ha.

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How do you start your day?

I begin with meditating for five minutes. It’s more of a gratitude exercise. Then I have some warm water, followed by an hour of exercising.

The army is all about discipline. One rule that you love to break?

I don’t really break any rules at work because I have to set an example. I do break a few fashion rules though, like there are times when I spend the entire day in Yoga pants. (Laughs)

What would be your message to your 18-year-old self?  

You got me here! Ummm…so I’d say follow your dreams! Do whatever you like! Chase your dreams! Go!

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