The people of Chandigarh, where Kalpana Chawla took roots as a space scientist, on Sunday reacted with shock and grief at the astronaut's tragic demise when the space shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
A pall of gloom descended on the Punjab Engineering College where Kalpana became the first woman to graduate with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1982.
A former head of the Department of Aeronautical Studies, V S Malhotra, said he could not believe his ears when he heard the news.
"Just cannot think of anything. She was in constant touch with me ever since she passed out of the college," said Malhotra, who was head of the department during 1978-1982.
Before the fatal space trip, Kalpana had sent him an e-mail with a motivating message for the students of her alma mater.
"The entire college was looking forward to her promised visit," Malhotra said.