Biju Patnaik, a pilot with the Royal Indian Air Force during World War II, had married Gyan Sethi, a Punjabi from Lahore, in 1938. The flamboyant Biju Babu flew the groom’s party to Lahore for the wedding.
Gyan Patnaik, wife of former chief minister Biju Patnaik and mother of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, was an achiever in her own right: she was one of India’s first women commercial pilots.
Gyan had accompanied her husband on his daring 1940s mission to rescue Indonesian leader Sukarno from a Dutch-besieged Java. She passed away in February 2009, some 12 years after Biju’s death.
Gyan had been at Biju’s side as he flew sorties to evacuate British families from Rangoon when the Japanese forces advanced on Burma. The couple later worked closely with Nepal’s democratic movement in the early 1950s.
Biju Patnaik had been a daring man right from his childhood. As a young college boy, he cycled all the way from Cuttack to Peshawar. Much before 1947, he had joined as a pilot in the Royal Air Force of British Empire.