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'She wanted a T-shirt to take to space'

By Shakti Bhatt in New York
February 05, 2003 10:51 IST
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Mythili Kumar of the Abhinaya Dance Company in San Jose admits to having a 'really bad memory'. But she will never forget the time when Kalpana Chawla called her in 1997 before she left on her first space mission.

Chawla wanted Kumar to send her a T-shirt from Abhinaya -- where she attended Bharatnatyam classes once a week since 1991 before she moved to Houston, Texas in 1994.

Chawla took the T-shirt on her space mission.

When she returned, Chawla sent the T-shirt back to Kumar -- after signing it and writing the words 'Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram'.

"I was so proud of the shirt," said Kumar, one of the oldest dance instructors in the area. "I immediately framed it, and it has been on my wall since then."

After she received her Ph D from the Colorado University in Denver, Chawla and her husband moved to Sunnyvale, California. While she did some work for NASA, he was a flying instructor at the West Valley Flying Club in Palo Alto.

"She loved dancing, but I think it was more about keeping in touch with Indian culture," said Kumar.

"She was a very regular, conscientious and sincere student," she said adding that Chawla did the beginner's course.

Chawla also took part in a dance production in 1993.

"Even though she did not have a major part to play, she was quite excited. It meant a lot to her," said Kumar.

The Company held another show last Sunday and when they heard of the shuttle catastrophe, its members lit a candle in honor of Chawla and her colleagues.

"The day she was accepted into the program in Texas, she was obviously really happy," said Kumar.

"But when she came to see me, she told me that she was very sad that she will not be doing Bharatnatyam anymore."

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Shakti Bhatt in New York