Saturday, July 28, 2007

Landing Mrs. Daisy

It was June 23rd, 2007 & I was glued to my TV-set at the wee hours of that morning... Space shuttle, Atlantis (carrying Sunita Williams), was to land! An event of great pride, achievement & historic importance to science, technology & womankind, per se!

Having the TV on wasn't enough for me... I hated it when the news channels went in for commercial breaks or for other news telecasts! What could be more important than Atlantis at this hour! So, I was constantly checking the NASA website & other related news-sites for any updates. I was hungry for information & nothing seemed to quench. Mom had pestered me to have dinner & sleep early as I was to wake up at 5:30 a.m. the next morning, but I didn't care. Food & sleep were nowhere on my priority list at that time... In fact, nothing else was. They were landing Sunita & that's all that mattered!!!

It was getting exciting by the minute & by now I had 10 windows open on my desktop all giving the latest updates regarding Atlantis' progress. I so wanted it to be a success. Kalpana's earlier Columbia disaster was haunting me & I was making effort to get rid of those thoughts as I optimistically watched & surfed on...

I was all sucked up into a frenzy, that I had no control over.
Just then the g-talk window popped up with Daisy (name changed) saying "Hi". She was online & initiated the chat.

Daisy has been a very close friend of mine for nearly 10 years now... I've been a confidant of sorts for her... We've been with each other thru' our ups & downs. Two years back she got married to a handsome guy working & settled in the US. It was an arranged marriage & Daisy left for the foreign land with her partner. She was both, excited & apprehensive at the same time. After all, she had quit her job and was leaving her family for an unknown land to be with this new person in her life.
A strange kind of glow of maturity shone on her face then... She had grown overnight!

Women, I feel, have this uncanny ability of growing fast to adapt to changing situations. Men are more lethargic and take longer. She had realized that now she had a family of her own, a new relationship to nurture, greater responsibilities & commitments to fulfil... She's slipped into her new role pretty well and is comfortable with it now. She has a few months' old daughter today & they symbolize a neat, happy, well-settled family :)

Well, I was a bit irritated then, as I was in no mood to discuss the typical "how u're doing" stuff... Greater events, I thought, were occuring which I didn't wanna miss. I was in no mood of telling her that my job sucked & I was contemplating quitting or that I had a football match to play within the next few hours. But then, at times courtesy & decency have made me do things against my will & I blame my upbringing for that ;)

"Hey, what's happening? U up so late?", she enquired...
"Oh, nothing... Just time-pass", I replied, knowing she does not share my interest for astronomy & space.
"U know, Suzy might be going around with this guy...", she said.
Girls need no 'preface'. They can delve into the middle of a conversation even with their very first sentence!
"Oh, I see", I replied. I was more interested in 'Suni' than Suzy's love-interests.
Then she sent me a link to her daughter's photos. They were cute, I must admit. (No courtesy here :))
"She's damn cute", I replied, ALT-TAB'ing to check some photos of Atlantis too...
"And what about me, u think I've grown too fat?", she asked.
Girls have this perpetual doubt that they are looking fat. And "no" is an answer they take with great skepticism!
Now I hadn't seen her photo before closing the link, but then have an idea of what a new mother-of-few-months-old would look like. So I replied diplomatically, "Isn't pregnancy-flab supposed to stay on the mother for sometime, but where's yours?"
"Liar!" was her reply.

By now, I had devoured most news-updates regarding Atlantis & nothing new was coming up on the net. So Daisy's statement "I wanna discuss something, that's bothering me" caught my attention.
"U have my complete attention", I said, a bit dishonestly.
"I feel like coming to India & taking up a job", she said.
"What!!!" was my reaction.
"U see, I couldn't work last year & this year I've not appeared in the random-selection list for the H1-B visa quota. That means, I can't work for yet another year! And the year later, there are no guarantees either...", she explained.

"First two attempts to land Atlantis were unsuccessful due to bad weather" read a news-site.

"I mean i feel i am wasting my skill sitting at home... I can gain experience n' money. I just want to work for a year in India & get back", she continued...
I was a bit blanked out by the pace at which she was throwing ideas at me. I was busy analysing the impact of her actions, more than analysing her situation.

From the time NASA had decided to launch the Atlantis for a trip to the ISS, it has been a roller coaster ride for the authorities, crew as well as the people down on Earth. Now, Atlantis was all set to return along with astronaut Sunita Williams.

"U see, I quit my job, left my family & country to be here", she started rationalizing...

Initially just after the space shuttle docked to the space station, the crew and the authorities at NASA found that there was a little damage to the thermal blanket that protects a space shuttle during the re-entry.

"But now I'd also feel guilty if my daughter gets neglected if I work. She needs me", Daisy went on.
"Child is the couple's responsibility, not just mother's", I told her. "Keep the whole guilt-business out of this... These are decisions & choices that all modern day couples & mothers have to make... All can be worked out with understanding & cooperation... These r genuine issues & can be worked out rationally... Just have patience...", I tried to calm her.

"Also, I'm really missing home", admitted Daisy.

"I have been spending a little more time than usual looking out of the window (of the space station). I got another overwhelming feeling of wanting to land.", said Sunita.

By now I was equally enthralled by Suni & Daisy. Both had set on a mission, both were still in orbit & both wanted to land so desperately.

"My hubby sulked the last time I introduced this topic", Daisy kept narrating.

The weather was still not clear for Atlantis to land.

"But can't u search for a job while staying in US itself?
Maybe something like an onsite contract project that Indian companies would anyways want to hire on B1/L1 visas...", I asked.

The landing would be done at the Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, California in case of poor weather conditions around the landing-strip at the Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, Florida, said the latest update.

"It's not that easy looking for that kind of job, whilst being here", she said... "Everything is so uncertain & murky. I wish it was clearer... Or maybe, I could drag this way for a year & then see...", she went on...

Norm Knight, Flight Director said, "Obviously, I would like clear skies, unlimited visibility and little wind, but unfortunately those are not the cards we’re typically dealt. Atlantis has enough supplies to stay in space until Sunday if necessary." He said this at the Johnson Space Center.

"But u could at least give it a try..." I coerced...

"Hmmm... I think i'll give it a try. Hope something works out. Chalo, me logging off now", she said.
"It definitely will. Good bye & take care.", I reassured her.

After enormous hurdles and hours in the sky trying to safely land the Atlantis, the astronauts finally managed to do so at the Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, California at 0119 IST. Sunita ‘Suni’ Williams and shuttle commander Rick Sturckow were amongst the seven astronauts who landed safely.

Finally, the moment of glory that I was so desperately waiting for. I was so proud, relieved and happy.

But something was missing... It didn't feel complete.
Suni had landed, but Daisy's still in orbit. She's helpless at times, but she's fighting on... Optimist that the weather will clear soon & things will fall in place...

I'll do all that's in my power for her & will look forward & follow-up with the same frenzy for the 'landing' of Mrs. Daisy.

Acknowledgments -
Painting illustration - Ali Spagnola


Rachit Awasthi said...

Mrs.Daisy sounds to me like a woman who's bravely taking on big challenges that all of us bachelors will have to deal with soon enough too. I can only wish everything good for Mrs.Daisy. She's built tough from what you describe!

I enjoyed your interspering of the two themes ... fun to read!

Sagar Bhanagay said...

I've tried to depict the challenges faced by every girl who marries a guy settled in the US & lands there on an H4 visa. It ain't easy adjusting, especially if she's used to working (job n' all) in her home country. The 1 yr. gaps for applying for H1 can seem excruciatingly longer if she misses on the opportunity for that year. Some take on studies, some take on odd jobs, some pursue short courses/hobbies... Things get tougher when motherhood follows. A lot of courage on her part & support from family are crucial...

Me said...

Hey... loved this entry! And very true too. Life here is very different from what folks in India think. So when girls come here, they are up for a dissapointment. Not just that they cannot get a work permit easily, but even those who are stay-at-home types find it tough to adjust to do-it-all-yourself especially because there is so much domestic help in India. And then when kids come, its a different marathon altogether... anyways, nice shot at a very complex topic,

Sagar Bhanagay said...

Yes, very true!

Sandeep Khadilkar said...

Hey Saggy ,
Was very intresting to read and especially the art with which u have woven both the themes ... ahhh perfect .... this would be of gr8 help to me to convience girls that US is not a gr8 place to live ... Kuwait rocks ...!!!

Sagar Bhanagay said...

Yeah, aunty (your mom) would be very happy if I would be of any help in getting u married, Sando! ;). Kindly attach a copy of this blog along with your horoscope for all your prospective would-be's who r adamant about a US green-card-holder ;).

Sharvari said...

This one came after a long time...but definitely worth the wait. I liked the way you've drawn parallels between the 2 stories. Hope Daisy 'lands' as successfully!

Sagar Bhanagay said...

:). The more closer I look, the greater the heroism I find in the simplest of folks...

The Shaolin said...

interesting narration! No comments on landing, but about Daisy... I believe the way we are brought up, it's always been the Mom's responsibility to look after the upbringing. That was way it has been, and will remain so for foreseeable future. And females are always at the 'adjusting' end of the compromise (in the beginning ;) )

Sagar Bhanagay said...

That sadly is true. And "in the beginning" seems truer ;)

Sagar Bhanagay said...

Daisy's finally landed & Daisy, I'm so happy for u :)

Preeti Edul said...

It makes for a nice read Sagar. I had no clue you wrote so well ;-) Your warmth and concern for Mrs. Daisy comes out quite nicely.

Sagar Bhanagay said...

Thanks Preeti :-). U are amongst the few who know the true identity of Mrs. Daisy ;-).