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Home > News > Report

Sunita's parents plan a space surprise

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York | December 06, 2006 18:20 IST

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Deepak and Bonnie Pandya, Sunita Williams' parents, are both excited and proud that their daughter, the youngest of their three children, is finally going to realise her dream.

Though they are understandably worried that she is going to be in space for six months, the Pandyas were confident that their 'Suni,' as Williams is called in intimate circles, will do well.

"You know what � once after she went to the US Naval Academy, they asked the parents of students to come over and talk to them about the progress of their children in the whole class," Deepak Pandya said.

"We, along with other patents, were sitting in a room and then, all of a sudden, we heard the announcement that a girl from Massachusetts named Sunita Pandya was being honored for highest endurance. Right from childhood she has this quality of endurance," Pandya told rediff India Abroad over the phone from Hawaii, where he is based temporarily while writing a research paper.

"I have full confidence in her, but like every parent I am concerned about her because these are most challenging and dangerous missions. We have to trust in God," he said. "I am worried but I am not afraid."

Her 74-year-old father said 'Suni' had been a very spiritual person since childhood. For example, he recalled, once while the family were at a beach when Sunita was six years old, she made sand castles and after she was done with that she wrote the word Ram in Hindi on them. "Even today I do not understand how she got that word. Of course, she had heard from me about Ram and she saw me write the word, but she did not know how to write in Hindi. It beats me even today," he said. But that spirituality gave her strength, he said.

Her mother Bonnie, a homemaker, said from her Boston home, "Of course, I do not want to say I am worried about her because I am sure everything will be all right for her. At the back of my mind I have this hope that nothing should go wrong for Sunita. Other than that, I am just happy she is going to achieve her goal and happy that she will be up there for six months," she said.

Both parents said Sunita was determined and had dealt with many challenges, including during the Gulf War. Her father cited a time when she, then a high schooler, had gone with her parents to watch the Boston Marathon. Seeing all the people running, she decided she ought to run too. And she did.

Her sneakers were not right for the run so she ran the remaining 21 miles barefoot, he said.

Her extended family, some of whom have come from India, will be at the Johnson Space Center December 7 when Williams boards the Discovery.

Her parents and well-wishers are planning surprise gifts for the star of the family. Bonnie Pandya has got little postcards with the message Bon Voyage Suni, with personal messages on the back from family and friends.

"She will get all these wishes once she is up there. She does not know about it as yet. She will be happy when she see all these," the mother said, adding that another shipment that is to reach Williams in February would include a locket with the picture � and a bit of fur -- of her beloved dog Gorby.

"She will love it," says Bonnie.

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