Sunita is like Shah Rukh in Swades, says US official

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Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi, Oct 1 (IANS) One could not help comparing American-Indian astronaut Sunita Williams with Shah Rukh Khan, who played the role of a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engineer who came back to India to ignite the minds of people in the Hindi movie "Swades".

The metaphor may sound somewhat remote, but a senior US embassy official Monday drew a comparison between the two stars in a programme where Williams interacted with around 150 school students.

"Sunita Williams is from NASA and Shah Rukh Kahn in the film 'Swades' was a NASA engineer. He came to India to serve people while his colleagues were waiting for him back in the United States," said Adnan Siddiqi, cultural affairs officer of the US embassy.
"Like Shah Rukh in the movie, Sunita (currently in India) is interacting with people and encouraging students. She is sharing her knowledge of space with students of different states," he said.

Speaking about her Indian roots and the response she got in India, Siddiqi said: "The amount of media coverage in Gujarat, Hyderabad and now in Delhi, says how special she is. She is a real hero."

Williams has been interacting with students in Gujarat, Hyderabad and Delhi, and has been encouraging them to do well in space science.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sep 21 called her a "role model for Indian children and a source of inspiration for Indian women".

"India feels proud of her achievement even though she is a citizen of the United States of America," the prime minister said to her over the telephone.

Interacting with school students at the American Centre in the capital, Williams Monday said: "There is a lot to know and explore about the universe. Now you should dream of going to the moon, Mars and into space. I want to see your smiling faces from the moon."

Dressed in a blue jump suit, hair band and brown shoes, the astronaut encouraged students to take up careers in science.

"I was not a good student in school, and college life was difficult. However, every one has to bring something different to the table and prove it."

She showed videos of how she brushed her teeth, combed hair, had food, did exercise and swam around the International Space Station (ISS).

"In space you have to run after your food to catch it. Everything is floating. Food and daily life events were a real fun there," she said showing how she and her colleagues were chasing a dollop of orange juice inside the space station.

Williams, 42, arrived in India on Sep 20. She first went to Gujarat, the home state of her father. She also attended the International Astronautical Congress in Hyderabad Sep 24-28. She will be in New Delhi till Oct 4.

She has set a world record among women astronauts by staying 195 days in space.

Speaking about her health in space and soon after she returned to earth, Williams said: "In the zero gravity condition of space, the spine elongates and in my case I was taller by one inch. We used to work out for two hours every day.

"When I landed on earth, I was feeling happy but due to gravitational force my legs were trembling. I was feeling like throwing up. But after two days of rehabilitation, I was perfectly fine."

When asked about the delay in her landing, she said: "I am grateful to all those who prayed for me in India and send the positive energy. But, on the back of my mind, we were aware of the amount of fuel left and time in hand to land on earth," she said.