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Kalpana's father leads prayers in Houston

By Suman Guha Mozumder in New York
February 03, 2003 12:41 IST
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B L Chawla on Sunday attended a prayer service, at the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Pearland near the Johnson Space Centre, Houston, in memory of his daughter Kalpana and her six colleagues who died in the Columbia crash last week.

Dressed in white shirt and pant, Chawla went up to the podium in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and lit a candle in the presence of Consul General S R Tayal, Pearland Mayor Thomas Reid and around 350 devotees.

He did not speak a word during the 30-minute ceremony christened Atma Shanti Prarthana.

"He just removed his shoes and went up to the podium to light the candle," said Bhaskara Mutyala, a temple official.

"Tragedy was writ large on his face and one could see that Mr Chawla was still in a state of shock," Shyam Kannappan, chair of the Temple Advisory Council, told

Those at the ceremony included Sunita, elder sister of Kalpana, and Girish, a cousin.

"The mood was sombre at the temple this evening... quite understandably," Kannappan said.

"Despite the tragedy, Kalpana's father was composed during the ceremony, although he was absolutely quiet," Dr Vasantha Putecha, a scientist and colleague of Kalpana at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said.

Putecha, who brought the family to the temple, said, "Before going to the temple, he [Chawla] told me that he was not in a mood to speak to anyone."

Chawla left immediately after the ceremony was over.

"Like in the Hindu tradition she [Kalpana] would come on specific days, say on birthdays or on special occasions... she was a sincere devotee," said Mutyala.

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Suman Guha Mozumder in New York