When I heard her name for the first time in 1997 soon
after she was selected
to go into space, I had no idea
that one day I would see her standing in front of me.
My excitement reached its
zenith when Sanchari Bose and
Kamlika Chandla returned to India after meeting her in
1998. The two girls told us stories
Chawla's experience in space.
Little did I know that next year
it would be my chance to
meet her! Thanks to her efforts, which enabled two
students from her school in Karnal to visit
Goel and I were selected to visit the space organisation
The two of us were there for twenty-one
vividly remember almost every moment of the eleven days
that we spent at her house in Houston, Texas. July
August 10 stand out in my mind even today... [it is] as
if we have returned only yesterday after meeting her.
attending lectures at the International Space
School Foundation, we would snatch every bit of time that
we could to
be with Kalpanadidi.
To be with her was an experience of a lifetime and we
carefully heard every word that she said.
her busy schedule she would find time to cook.
She loved to cook rice and grams. Occasionally she would
manchurian to show us that she knew many
other dishes. She was a cook par excellence.
At home she was a different
person altogether. Bubbling
with life... she loved to hear [flautist] Pandit Hari
Prasad Chaurasia, who seemed to be
her favourite. She
loved to hear Indian classical. She also liked old film
songs by Lata, Mohammad Rafi and Mukesh.
singers like Begum Akhtar as well.
She was not particularly fond of any particular Indian
she loved to see old films once in a while.
She was an extrovert and loved to talk. Her mantra was
'reach for the
She was very grateful to her mother Sanjukta Chawla.
told us: 'But for my mother I would not have been here.
My father was not very happy when I decided to go for
and later chose aeronautical engineering as my
subject. My mother would put her foot down and support
me. This gave
me tremendous confidence and I decided to
carve out my own course. I left India in 1982 against the
wishes of my family
members to continue my studies in the
United States and here I am today. My family is now with
me and I am happy about
She told Gaurav Goel to complete his basic studies and
get in touch with her... she said she would sponsor
studies in the US.
She had no time for fashion or things like that. She
would be clad in jeans and shirts
most of the time. She
loved to wear black sometimes.
She told us that she wanted to visit India. But that did
happen... I salute my brave didi.
Nitika Gogia is a student of Tagore Bal Niketan, from
where Kalpana Chawla
did her early education