There are many female role models who have inspired young girls to dream big. But among them, Kalpana Chawla is definitely one of the most popular icons. After all, Kalpana was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space.
But unfortunately, on February 1, 2003, the world lost Chawla after Space Shuttle Columbia flight STS-107 disintegrated during its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. This accident killed Kalpana among 6 other crew members.
Now almost after 17 years of her death, Kalpana’s father, Banarasi Lal Chawla, has opened up about her moving story. Kalpana’s life journey has been an inspiration to millions of girls across the world. Recently giving us a peek into her childhood, Kalpana’s father shared with News18,
“Kalpana was about three or four years old when she first saw a plane. She had been playing on the rooftop when she saw a plane flying above our house. She seemed so excited. I took her to the flying club near our house where a pilot agreed to take us for a ride. Kalpana’s joys knew no bounds. She had always wanted to fly.”
He further shared how Kalpana had a hobby of making paper planes since her childhood:
“When Kalpana was in school, her teachers would tell us that she spends her free time making paper planes and flying them. That had always been her hobby. That eventually led her to become an astronaut.”
After she completed her schooling, Kalpana joined Punjab Engineering College to study Aeronautical Engineering. Sadly, she was told that there wasn’t much scope for it in India. But even that didn’t shake her undying courageous spirit:
“When Kalpana went to Chandigarh, the professors of the college initially tried to dissuade her from taking up the course. They told her that there was no scope for this subject in India. But she was adamant.”
Further adding how Kalpana wasn’t a “materialistic” person, he further added:
“She earned well while working at NASA. But she never cared for materialistic things. She would spend all her money on helping underprivileged kids with education. She would reach out to students who were unable to complete their education due to financial constraints and help them out as far as she could.”
Being a champion of children’s education, Kalpana had helped almost 14 Indian kids to go to NASA. Her father says that she had one dream: No child, especially girls, should be deprived of an education.
In the end, Mr. Chawla gave a word of advice for every parent of a daughter:
“Just listen to your daughters, listen to what they have to say. They want to study, let them. Support them. Make sure they have all that they need to simply focus on their education.”