Anny Divya was in Class 5 when her mother told her that she could become a pilot one day.
"Growing up in Vijayawada, we didn't get to see a lot of planes, but I was fascinated by the idea of being a pilot. It was an idea that remained with me throughout my schooling years," she says.
At the age of 30, Divya became the youngest female commander of a Boeing 777 in India and, according to CNN, in the world too. Divya has been a pilot with Air India, ever since she graduated flying school at 19.
Divya was born in Pathankot and lived in a few places across the country, as her father was an Army official.
However, she spent most of her childhood in Vijayawada, where she studied in Kendriya Vidyalaya.
"It was a very simple place back then. Even my school did not have a proper building at that time. It had a huge ground though. The neighbourhood was also like any other place, with auto-rickshaws moving around. Nobody in the area spoke English, and even I wasn't that fluent," she narrates.
Pursuing her dreams was no easy task for Divya. For perspective, Divya experienced her first flight only when she went to flying school.
After completing her intermediate, Divya cleared the entrance exam for an engineering college in Vijayawada and even attended classes for a short time.
However, her heart remained bent on conquering the skies.
"It was not an easy choice. I had gotten through EEE (Electronic and electrical engineering), which is one of the harder courses, but sometimes, you have to make a decision," Divya says.
At the time, Divya says that engineers and doctors were the only mainstream professions, and something like a pilot was unknown to people.
"It was difficult, as everyone was becoming either an engineer or a doctor, and I wanted to be a pilot. Additionally, it also meant stepping out of my comfort zone, as I was studying in the same place I grew up in, and was living with my parents," she adds.
However, Divya made the choice to follow her passion, and she hasn't looked back since.
While Divya knew that she wanted to be a pilot, she says that she did not know how to approach it, as she had no guidance from anyone in the aviation industry.
Her introduction to flying school played out in a very peculiar way.
"A 'Swami ji' had come home once, and I asked him if I can become a pilot. I didn't do it for an answer, but I generally asked him. It did work out in my favour, as he later referred me to a newspaper advertisement for a flying school," she says.
That's how Divya was introduced to the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) when she was 17.
"My sister got the application form, and we filled it up. While my mother was completely supportive, my father was very worried, mainly because, he did not know how to pay for it. He asked me to clear the exam first, and said that we would decide after that," she says.
Divya says that flying was not popular at the time, and an education loan for a flying course was hard to obtain.
"At the time, it was an all India exam and only 30 people would be selected. Only 24 were selected in my batch, and I was one of them," she adds.
Flying school was a culture shock for Divya, who had grown up in Vijayawada. A lot of people also used to mock her poor English-speaking skills, which made her more determined than ever, to work harder.
Captain Anny Divya
Divya finished flying school in 2006, when she was 19 years old.
"I got offers from a few airlines, who had come for campus interviews. However, ever since I wanted to become a pilot and fly a plane, Air India was the airline that I wanted to join. This has been my dream job, and I am now living it," she says.
After joining Air India, Divya went to Spain for training and began flying the Boeing 737.
"After flying the 737 for a few years, I went to London for training, and became certified to fly a Boeing 777," she adds.
The Boeing 777 is the largest twinjet aircraft in the world, and can seat between 300 and 400 passengers.
Another thing that Divya was insistent on, was that she wanted to pilot international flights.
"I had the option of flying domestic flights, and many people had suggested that I take it. However, I insisted on flying international flights," she said.
At present, Divya mostly flies to cities in the US like Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Chicago. However, through her career, she has flown to most of Europe and also the Middle-East.
Divya credits her success largely to her parents.
"Life is a journey, and you need people around you at every stage, who will support you. My parents have done the most for me, as I would not be here, if it was not for them. I've also had great teachers, right from my school, to airline training, which also helps to a great extent," she says.
"However, that being said, you will also need a lot of passion and determination if you want to succeed. You have to love what you do," she adds.
For now, Divya continues to soar high, and has no plans to stop.