The media has dubbed her ‘AgniPutri’ for good reasons. She has made our country proud in an area where males indisputably dominate. She was also the pupil of former president APJ Abdul Kalam. Now, do you know who is she?
She is Tessy Thomas, the first woman scientist in the country to head a missile programme. She has been associated with the Agni projects (III and IV and V) for many decades.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Indian Science Congress that Thomas is an example of a “woman making her mark in a traditionally male bastion and decisively breaking the glass ceiling”.
Thomas is thought to be one of the very few women working on strategic nuclear ballistic missiles in the world.
In the male-dominated world of the country’s highly secretive missile development programme, Tessy Thomas, 51, said that her “egalitarian upbringing” came in handy. Thomas says she always considered herself a “scientist” and not a woman.
Thomas, a Roman Catholic, was born to a small-businessman father and a home-maker mother in Alleppey in southern Kerala state. She grew up near a rocket launching station and says her fascination with rockets and missiles began then.
And like a dream, a B Tech and an M Tech later, there she was joining the almost all-male DRDO ‘club’ in 1988.
So how does she feel about about working on some of the most powerful weapons of mass destruction? Thomas says she is developing “what are really weapons of peace”.
Named after Mother Teresa, Thomas says what is more difficult is juggling work and family. But she believes that immense support from her husband, Saroj Kumar, a commodore in the Indian Navy and son, Tejas, an engineering student has helped her a lot.
She credits Dr. A.P.J. Kalam as her inspiration and says he was her original guru. From the “missile man” to the “missile woman”, India has indeed risen to greater heights.