Death in the Family
On Saturday night, when news about the Columbia disaster reached a group of journalists partying at a resort in suburban Mumbai, there was shock, disbelief, and tears.
Moments later, the music was stilled as one editor called for silence to mourn Kalpana Chawla's death.
As the journalists gathered to watch CNN, some overcome by the images of the debris hurtling to earth left the room hurriedly. Others wept.
"She was a heroine," one usually cynical editor said, sadness sketched all over his face."It takes enormous ability to be an astronaut. You need to know a lot of everything, from biology to astrophysics to aeronautical engineering. In this era of super-specialisation, you have to be an encyclopaedist to be an astronaut. Her achievements are something to be in awe of."
That reaction was replicated in countless cities and towns across the breadth of the nation where Kalpana Chawla was born on Saturday night.
For millions of young Indians she was an inspirational figure, her story conveying so eloquently to them that they could dream and work hard to achieve their dream one day. The way she did when she dreamt of conquering the last frontier known to man, when she was at school in Karnal.
That frontier, which she chose to redefine by her initiative and scholarship, may have claimed her life on February 1, but Kalpana Chawla lives on for all eternity.
Please send your condolences to her bereaved family and the millions who are with them at this sad and tragic time.