Wednesday, February 5, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



A dream that ended too soon

WHEN news of the Columbia tragedy shot across the globe, faster than any space shuttle, Indians everywhere let out a collective gasp: “Oh no. Kalpana was aboard.”

Kalpana Chawla didn’t just represent us — she represented the best in us. She was dazzling proof of how far an Indian woman could go with opportunity and determination. She epitomised brilliance in a way that no actress, no beauty queen could ever hope to.

Soaring higher than even her family had imagined — literally and figuratively — she evoked admiration and pride not just in her native Karnal but in two nations, an overachieving daughter who brought joy to both her adoptive and birth mothers.

That she became a U.S. citizen, that she joined the U.S. space programme, didn’t diminish the pride that swelled in millions of Indians when they watched news clips of the oft-smiling mission specialist aboard Columbia. And “KC,” as she was known at NASA, didn’t forget her roots. While flying over India, she pointed to New Delhi and said to her fellow astronauts: “I lived near there.”

As the first person of Indian descent to fly in an American space shuttle, she adorned the cover of Indian news magazines, a symbol of unvarnished success. But she deserved far more attention.


It is a blemish on our society that she received hardly a sliver of the limelight bestowed on Bollywood stars. The colour pages of newspapers are reserved for actors and actresses, not one-in-a-billion astronaut.

To fully appreciate her accomplishments is to understand what astronomical odds she faced when, as a schoolgirl, she dreamed of a career in space. “For me, it’s really far-fetched to have thought about it and made it,” she once said. “It’s almost like having won a lottery or something.”

Before setting foot in Punjab Engineering College in the late 1970s, she had to not only excel in school, but also overcome the widespread notion that engineering was a man’s domain. Before applying to NASA, she had to dedicate herself to a decade of study and research, earning a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering.

Some 4,000 people applied to NASA’s astronaut programme in 1994 and only 20 were picked, including the pride of Karnal. Just three years later, she completed her first spaceflight, achieving her long-time dream. Her second flight allowed her to relive the dream.

“Just looking at our planet roll by and the speed at which it goes by and the awe that it inspires; just so many good thoughts come to your mind when you see all that,” she said. “Doing it again is like living a dream, a good dream once again.”

The dream was ours too, a great dream, one that ended far too soon.


Encourage daughters

Kalpana Chawla recently sacrificed her life for a great cause and left the whole country in a state of shock. She was a brave daughter of her motherland who made her country proud. All Indian girls must make Kalpana their inspiration, so that they could also set an example for the whole humanity as well as uplift the status of women which is declining rapidly. It is high time now all the girls should realise their ability and come forward. I request all the parents to encourage their daughters to work for their motherland and make India feel proud.

ARPITA BATTA, Jesus Saviour’s School, Sirhind.

First space heroine

Kalpana Chawla, who lost her precious life not only for India but the whole world, is the first space queen. The Haryana Government must come forward to set up a “Kalpana Research Centre” at Karnal so that her dream of taking India/Indians to top of the world is fulfilled.

S.C. DHALL, Chandigarh.

Technocrat ambassador

India has lost probably its best known “technocrat ambassador” abroad. A simple girl from Karnal to a mission specialist aboard the ill-fated Columbia, Kalpana did wonderfully well in every sphere of life. I take this opportunity to express my deepest sorrow and offer condolences to the family.

SUMEET Gill, e-mail

Name varsity after her

Please lobby for an engineering college or a university named after Kalpana Chawla. Please reject the Haryana govt’s “kind of favour” to name a polytech after her. It is high time for these politicians to understand and honour the real people.


The ‘who-are-you’ factor

Apropos of the editorial “Police highhandedness” (Jan 25), I disagree with the findings that police harassment, detention or torture of ordinary citizens are the byproducts of the faulty police training, low salaries, inhuman working conditions and the police-politician nexus. The fault, dear readers, is not in these matters, but in ourselves.

If one takes a careful look at the Indian law enforcing system, we will find that the “who-are-you?” factor is extremely important. If you are a common man, your F.I.R. will not be written, government officers will not be available, your application will not be looked into and no reporter will write about you. But in case you have even played with children of any political leaders, the situation will be significantly different. In a sense who gets arrested and who does not depends on “who you are?” In other words, the key factor is power and money. That is why our jails are filled with the poor and the powerless.

Despite this, still we feel proud of ourselves that we Indians are equal before law. Alas, it is not so in practice. But to quote George Orwell in a different context, some are simply more equal than the others. Unless a change in our thinking does not come, the torture and subsequent death of the wretched will not be stopped.

P.L. SETHI, Patiala

B.C. Sanyal

Apropos Mulk Raj Anand’s letter on B.C. Sanyal, an important aspect of this doyen is his significant work done in the streamlining the pattern of art education. With the best of teachers (Sailoz Mukherjee, Dhan Raj Bhagat, Harkrishan Lall, P.N. Mago, Dinkar Kaushik, Some Nath Hore, Biren De, Jaya Appasamy) at his behest, B.C. Sanyal was able to evolve the model pattern of art education by assimilating the best from Indian aesthetics and European modernisation.

The National Gallery at Modern Art, New Delhi, and the Government Museum & Art Gallery, Chandigarh, should display his work in an exclusive room in recognition of his national eminence and historical importance.

PREM SINGH, Chandigarh

Mangat Rai

I regret to say that your newspaper has ignored the most distinct achievement of Mr Mangat Rai in the write-up on him. He did not take premature retirement from the post of Secretary, Petroleum. He was the only officer who had the distinction of being a full-term Chief Secretary of two states at different periods, the second one being Jammu & Kashmir. I spent a few evenings with him in 1967 at Srinagar.


Not youngest

In the write-up on the late Mangat Rai it has been mentioned that “he later married Mrs Nayantara Sehgal, the youngest daughter of Mrs Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit”. This is not correct. Mrs Nayantara Sehgal was not the youngest daughter of Mrs Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, but the middle one. She had three daughters. The eldest was Chandra Lekha, the second was Nayantara and the youngest was Rita.


Freedom fighters ignored

We are left with only five to six freedom fighters out of around 1,000 in our district. At the Republic Day function not a single word was uttered in respect of the freedom fighters. Workers of the ruling party, policemen and families of bureaucrats occupied the chairs of VIPs. I request the government not to invite families of freedom fighters to such functions.


Without teachers

BBK DAV College for Women, Amritsar, started a mass communication and journalism course this session. A hefty fee of Rs 11,000 was charged. Students were promised quality training and guidance. There are less than three months to go for the final examination, but the students have been left high and dry. The syllabus is quite vast, but the college has no faculty. The university hasn’t even provided any study material. The university authorities did not even bother to check whether the college had adequate facilities for the course. There is no proper equipment for practical subjects like photography, newspaper production etc. The only lecturer that the students have is a student from the university’s regional campus at Jalandhar.

Students of journalism, BBK DAV College for Women, Amritsar

Non-pensioners’ plight

F.D. interest rates in banks have touched an all time low of 7% with indications of a further decline. The worst sufferers are the PSU employees/high officials without a pension scheme. For their benefit subsidised interest rates, pension against F.D. for life time at higher rates comparable to pensioners can be considered.


Engineering tests

There is need to combine various engineering entrance tests conducted by different institutions and councils into one test but IITs, colleges, the AICTE, the Ministry of HRD and others pay no attention to this. The students along with their parents continue to suffer year after year. All through the months of April to July, they have to run from one centre to the other, pay hefty fees, appear in a dozen of tests, attend numerous counsellings before getting admission to a proper college.

Er JAGVIR GOYAL, Chandigarh


Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
123 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |