Here is a story about me and my passion for space exploration. This blog is on a personal note.
In October 1961, when I was 12 and studying in Std V, my mother one morning asked me to accompany her to the junction of Warden Road and Pedder Road at the Mahalakshmi Temple junction and I agreed.
I did not know why I was going there, but she told me it would be a surprise which would interest me even at that age. When we got to the spot I remember there were huge crowds including several kids. We all lined up on the pavement and kept looking towards Hajiali. I kept asking my mother several questions, but she there would be a surprise awaiting me.
The moment of surprise arrived. From a distant I could hear a siren which grew louder and louder steadily. I could see that the siren came from a police vehicle, A few minutes later a convey arrived consisting of several cars and motorcycles. One chubby-faced person smiled and waved to everyone enthusiastically triggering a loud applause from the crowd which had been waiting patiently. Everyone waved back at him and clapped with excitement including me without knowing who on earth was he!
The motorcade then moved on to Pedder Road and finally disappeared out of sight. The crowd then began to slowly disperse.
I was curious. Whom did I wave at a few minutes ago? My mother told me that he was the first man in space----the celebrated Yuri Gagarin. I was really excited and I really believe that it was at that very moment that I was launched into a space era!!!!!!! Space exploration has since excited and thrilled me.Mother is responsibile!!!!!!
On April 12,1961, when Gagarin made his history I was a student of Walsingham House School, which turned into a girls' all of a sudden. The principal announced during the assembly that man had conquered space and he was Yuri Gagarin. We felt excited.
A few years later my father went to Moscow as a guest on Air India's inaugural flight. When he returned he opened his suitcase and what did he bring for me-----a bronze emblem of Gagarin and a few other things connected with him. Each morning after my prayers, I make it a point now to place the Gagarin emblem on my forehead for a few minutes!!!!
The year Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon July 20, 1969--, my father did a birthday caricature of me cycling on the lunar surface---a card which I have proudly displayed in my glass case containing rocket models including the mighty and awesome Saturn V which took Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins to the moon.
My parents as you see have played a key role in making me a space buff which perhaps ultimately led to India's first mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1 being launched on my birthday which is on October 22.
Incidentally, at the very spot where I stood and waved to Gagarin that October morning at the Mahalakshmi temple junction, I saw Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins when they came to Mumbai on October 25,1969. Terrific coincidence.
We are about to start celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight by Gagarin. On Monday, March 14, 2011 there is a Gagarin exhibition at the Russian consulate located at Napean Sea Road. I wonder if it will be open to the public.
Today I joined an organisation called Planet Gagarin Karpov which is devoted to the first man in space. It is making a film about him which is slated for release on April 12,2011---the 50th anniv of the historical flight. I have downloaded the trailer and it seems promising. Now I am looking forward to seeing the main film and I do hope I get a dvd.
As we celebrate the anniversary of this mission, there are two other important space-related events which are also celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year. These are the 15 minute sub orbital flight by Alan Shepherd who became the first American in space on May 15 1961, almost a month after Gagarin's accomplishment and the famous speech by John F.Kennedy on May 25,1961, declaring that America will be sending a man to the moon.
Not much is being said about the American events, not even in the Nasa website surprisingly.
It is a sheer coincidence that space historian John Logsdon whom I met in Hyderabad during the International Astronautical Congress in September 2007, has just published a book called ``John F. Kennedy and The Race To The Moon.'' ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' has ordered this book from Strand Book Stall and it has been told on Monday that it will be here in six weeks.
So folks there goes my story about me and space.