October 23, 2008 1:08:43 am
Among the scores of families of ISRO scientists who woke up early on Wednesday, prayed and waited for the successful lift-off of Chandrayaan I, was one in Chaugori Mohalla, a tiny, traditional Muslim neighbourhood in UP’s Amroha.
Khushboo Mirza is just one of the 12 engineers of the Check-Out Division of Chandrayaan I which carried out the thermal, vacuum and assembling checks on each component of the satellite. But the story of the 23-year-old is inspiration for a village which once looked at her journey in shock and disbelief.
When her father died when she was seven, her mother, Farhat, broke norms to run the family’s petrol pump to keep her children in school. Her brother, Khushtar, a 2005 BTech from Jamia Millia Islamia, shelved his career ambitions to take charge later. To get out of the claustrophobic bylanes of Amroha, Khushboo applied for B Tech at Aligarh Muslim University. A volleyball player, she qualified through the sports quota. When she graduated, she landed a lucrative job with Adobe but gave it up to join ISRO two years ago.
With traditional censures from the sleepy village getting louder, Farhat accompanied her daughter to ISRO training programmes across the country. And in an area where the women wear burqas, she let her daughter don a pair of jeans. “In the absence of her father, and given that she had to travel so much, a lot of people said a lot of unkind things. But I told my daughter to work hard and let her be. She wanted to wear jeans, not a burqa, and I let her,” Farhat says.
“I wanted to make my contribution to Indian science,” Khushboo told The Indian Express from Sriharikota, Chandrayaan’s launch site. “I think I have made a start.”
“When Khushboo was born, there was no water in the pipes. We had to get water for the delivery from a well which is since closed,” recalls a relative. Now, the family has installed a generator so that Khushboo’s younger sister, Mahak, a student of engineering at Moradabad Institute of Technology, can surf the internet unhindered.
This morning, the village started its day watching Chandrayaan’s launch. Residents now describe the area, which still has a water problem and an erratic power supply, as “Khushboo Mirza’s village.”
Mohammad Atif, a class VIII student who Khushboo coaches in her free time, spent the entire day at Khushboo’s house. He says he “wants to be just like her.”
“She has accomplished the dreams of her father and brother who could not practise engineering,” says Farhat. For her brother Khushtar, her success means something else too. “For all those who paint all Muslim youth with the same brush (of terrorism and fundamentalism), this is a positive message,” he says.
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