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You are here : home > Stories > Great Indian Personalities > Kalpana - The Woman... Of Many Parts

Kalpana - The Woman... Of Many Parts


A spiritual person

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".


Child-like wonder

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 lived there."


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.

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