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'Kalpana represented the inner spirit of all Indian Americans'

By Shakti Bhatt
February 04, 2003 05:32 IST
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At 10 am on February 2, a radio program run by Charlotte's Hindu Centre announced the holding of a memorial service to mourn the passing away of Kalpana Chawla.

Dhirubhai Patel, chairman at the Centre, did not expect more than the usual 100 or so members to show up.

But he and many others at the temple were surprised when more than 300 Indians from the surrounding areas turned up.

"I saw a lot of people, who would otherwise never attend our events," said Patel.

"I am glad we had plenty of prasada," he added in a lighter vein.

The prayer meeting in Charlotte was one of several held at temples and at Indian-American cultural centres all across the United States over the weekend.

At the Swaminarayan temple in Flushing, New York, more than 500 people attended the satsang for the seven astronauts, who died in the accident.

"We are saddened not only by Kalpana Chawla's death but also that of the other astronauts who died in the tragedy," said Pramod Patel, a volunteer at the temple.

At most prayer meetings, among other things, various community leaders focused on the courage displayed by Kalpana Chawla.

Kiran Patel, a board member of the Swaminarayan temple in Edison, New Jersey spoke for 30 minutes on the qualities that make a person brave, often citing from the Vedas to make his point, to an audience of 1800-odd.

"The loss is great, not only for India and America, but for the rest of humanity," the head priest Ashok Dave said. "Indians should be proud for what she has done for our community."

Dhirubhai Patel, perhaps, aptly summed up the feelings of those people who came for these prayer meetings.

"Kalpana represented the inner spirit of all Indian Americans. Like the rest of us, she came to this resourceful country to acquire skills and achieve her dreams."

"She lost her life exploring space for the benefit of mankind."

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Shakti Bhatt