A year after her death, Kalpana Chawla is still inspiring millions.
When rediff.com visited the Indian Institute of Technology and Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi, Kalpana was found to be the source of inspiration for a number of students.
Aged 41, Kalpana died along with her colleagues when space shuttle Columbia exploded over Texas in the US on February 1, 2003.
Kalpana's journey from a middle-class family in Karnal in Haryana to NASA in the US is an amazing story that has propped up the hopes of students struggling to carve out a niche for themselves.
Her photographs may not been seen in hostel rooms or on bulletin boards, but she is certainly in their hearts and minds as someone who motivates in the time of crisis. And each of these students has imbibed at least one aspect of Kalpana's multifaceted personality.
Akshat Shankar, second year B Tech student in IIT-Delhi, says: "She was a very courageous woman. This inspires me most. Despite all odds, she made it to NASA. She is definitely a role model for us." Shankar is studying mathematics and computing in the IIT.
Shankar, who hails from a middle-class family in Lucknow, feels Kalpana represents the aspirations of millions of Indians like him.
"Most of the students who come to IIT, and I think most Indians, are devoid of basic amenities in life. She was also from a middle-class family, just like me. And having faced so much of hardship, she achieved so much in her life," says Shankar.
"I can identify myself with her life and her journey from Karnal to Columbia. That's wonderful. She inspires me to do better in life and dream big," says Shankar.
Kalpana equally inspires Shankar's classmate Vivek Joshi.
Joshi says: "She represented India in the world. She was one of those examples that showed how good and efficient Indians are. We are no less than others."
"She inspires us to be brave," he adds.
He respects Kalpana's efforts in taking some students from her school to visit NASA every year. "We need these type of Indians who do not forget their country after achieving top positions," says Joshi.
Kunal Chandra, second-year Chemical Engineering student at IIT, considers Kalpana as a global citizen.
"She wanted to be a universal citizen. She valued humanity. At the time when we are so stubborn of being a nationalist, we should take a lesson from her life. When we become humanist, the whole world becomes one nation," says Chandra.
"I also admire her as a technocrat. Not all astronauts end up going in missions. She achieved a lot in such young age. She was different from others."
Chandra who was offered the bachelors course in aerospace science in IIT-Mumbai left it to join chemical engineering in IIT-Delhi.
"I was not as confident as Kalpana. I didn't want to take risk because it has very limited opportunities in India," says Chandra.
Farzanul Haque, final year student of electrical engineering in Jamia Millia Islamia, says Kalpana was among few Indian scientists who created history in the recent past.
"We have read about great Indian scientists in our books. But Kalpana Chawla lived in our age. I can feel about her. She inspires us more than any one else," says Haque.
"She is still alive. She is in our memories. Her smiling face in her space suit automatically comes in mind. And she will keep inspiring us always," he says.