Kalpana was a person of varied
interests. She enjoyed nature in all its glory; she was an avid
birdwatcher and was particularly fond of hiking and backpacking. In one
of her several interviews addressing a younger audience, she had said
(words to these effect): "don't go after the fleeting pleasures of life,
go for more permanent things."
She was passionate about music and reading. She would consciously
explore and broaden her horizons in her areas of interest. Her husband,
Jean-Pierre Harrison who himself was a freelance flying instructor
fuelled her interest in different music. Here's an interesting nugget
that throws light on the remarkable person that she was. While she was
well versed with Indian classical music, her husband introduced her to
rock groups like Deep Purple. After the concert, she is supposed to have
commented that it was a "spiritual experience".
Her sense of wonder remained intact and child-like. She is known to
have exclaimed during one of her space odysseys: "Just 90 minutes! Even
though I had known that (that the spacecraft takes 90 minutes to circle
the earth), it was an overpowering sensation to know how small this
place is. How very fragile it is!" In fact, her space odysseys gave
her a unique perspective of the earth and its environment and she always
stressed on the importance of conserving it.
Kalpana Chawla always made interesting observations about her
surroundings, which reflected the depth of her personality. She would
often look out of the spacecraft window and marvel at the earth. She
would rave about how the Great Himalayas and the Ganges looked from out
there. In an interview, she had said: "The coolest thing for me is the
experience of floating, of not feeling any weight." When the spacecraft
would come above India, she would excitedly point out and show them, "I
Despite her fame, she was truly a down to earth person! She had a great
bonding with her classmates from the Tagore school and was highly
respectful of her teachers. Even after becoming a famous astronaut, she
diligently kept in touch with some of her closest friends... to the end
of her life.