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Sunita Williams to visit India in September
Suman Guha Mozumder in New York | August 03, 2007 14:48 IST
Astronaut [Images] Sunita Williams will embark on a thanksgiving journey to India as she visits the country in September, her first travel abroad after her return from an arduous six-month-long sojourn in space.
During the week-long trip beginning September 19 Williams, who will head straight for Ahmedabad from the US, will visit towns around the financial capital of Gujarat where her father Deepak Pandya was born and spent his childhood and where residents prayed for her continuously during her space odyssey.
"You see, during her time in space there were thousands of school children in villages and towns who prayed for her success and her safe return. Suni wants to thank them all and talk to them about space," her father Deepak Pandya said.
Williams had been to India thrice before, the last time being 2003 when she went to visit the hometown of Kalpana Chawala in Haryana along with the perished astronaut's family members, carrying the last remains the first Indian-American astronaut who she was very close to.
"Suni says she is very excited about visiting India after her return from space," Pandya said.
During her three or four days of stay in Ahmedabad, Williams will also take time off to go Jhulasan, a town about 20 miles from Ahmedabad where her father went to school and also to Saurashtra where her grandmother lived and still has a lot of relatives from her father's side.
The Ahmedabad stay is going to be packed with a variety of programs, including release of two books, one written by Suni's late uncle on spirituality and another on herself written by writer/journalist Chandrakant Mehta who came to the US during her return to earth and had extensive meetings with her father and other family members on her life and achievements.
"You see, Suni is not a political person and her main intention is to be able to meet with children and to inspire them and educate them about space travel and the challenges of life in general and how one can cope up with them," Falguni Pandya, her cousin, who is also going to India along with Deepak Pandya, said. "She is really looking forward to this visit," she added.
Besides visiting Ahmedabad and its suburbs, Williams will also address the 58th International Astronautical Congress during September 24-28, 2007, in Hyderabad on behalf of NASA [Images], which is sending a small delegation to the event. Williams, who has been invited by ISRO to give the talk, however, will not be present through the entire duration of the conference because of other engagements.
More than 2,500 delegates including eminent leaders, professionals and industrialists engaged in space science, technology and applications from all over the world would be participating in IAC 2007 in Hyderabad.
Family members said that Williams has a number of engagements in New Delhi that includes meeting various people as well as institutions. "I am told Suni might be meeting with Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] as well as other dignitaries," Pandya said.
The visit is being coordinated by the American Embassy in New Delhi as well as Pandya's nephew Dinesh Rawal, who is a Congress Party politician in Ahmedabad and a functionary of the Ahmedabad Board of Education.
Before returning to the US from her weeklong trip to India, Williams will visit Karnal in Haryana, the native of Kalpana Chawala who she was friends with. "I think I am going to enjoy the time up there, particularly reflecting about the lessons from her. She was such a wonderful person," Williams told this correspondent before going to space last year.