Sitagita.com salutes Kalpana
Chawla and mourns the passing of this prodigious daughter of India. Our hearts are filled with pride for this brave Indian woman who
made a mark in history by rocketing into space.
She was born in a small town. And very often at night she lay outdoors gazing
at the star lit sky. Even in those early years, there was wonder and longing in her. She marvelled at all that space above her.
Could man ever travel to the stars? Or anywhere close to them? Could she ever travel outer space?
Her fascination never left
her. To a traditional family like hers, her interest in space travel was bizarre! If women had careers they should be doctors and
teachers, they felt.
But Kalpana Chawla was different. She always had been. Early in her life she knew her calling in life.
She wanted to be an astronaut. "This is what I really want to do" was her common refrain in her youth.
The path of true love
ne`er runs too smoothly - and her true love was her vocation in life. She had to fight people`s opinions, orders, attitudes and
outlook. She countered them every step of the way.
Not the one to
let anyone deter her from her goals, she resolutely followed her dreams. Aero space engineering was what she wanted to specialise
She didn`t find what she wanted in the Indian universities. She didn`t think twice about looking abroad. This was a
gigantic step for a small town girl from a traditional family.
But Kalpana didn`t get to be one of the most renowned Indian
women by letting obstacles stop her. Her choice wasn`t considered lady like but she wasn`t interested in being a lady. It was more
important to follow her dream. She yearned to work on high tech planes.
And she did. She excelled in it. And was chosen by
the space shuttle programme. She added a pilot`s license to her other qualifications. And technology was her forte.
rocketed into outer space and became India`s first professional astronaut. The sky was the limit!
She met and married an
American Jean Pierre Harrison. They made a compatible couple and were happy together. Harrison, a flight instructor and writer,
supported his wife`s dreams every bit of the way.
A vegetarian with
strong Indian roots, Kalpana never failed to keep in touch with her little hometown where she grew up.
The souvenirs she took
aboard the space shuttle Columbia included items from her school and college in India.
She even had her school principal, flown
to America, along with her family to witness the shuttle launch.
This Indian girl who dared to follow her dreams will always
have a special place in all our hearts.