The essay 'Space and sky' (1984) which I had mentioned yesterday was actually a sequel to another article I had written a week earlier, the twin concerns of which were the steady progress of television and space research in India. And here's an interesting extract:
13 April 1984
It was a memorable evening on April 5, with millions watching the live television chat between the Prime Minister and the first Indian in space.
This program brought out the best aspects of television, as did the subsequent sequences with Rakesh Sharma and his Russian colleagues abroad Salyut-7...
* * *
In historic contexts like this one (Salyut-7, of course, is a landmark in India's history, if not Russia's), the central character had a glorious chance to say something significant which will be quoted by the world or by the country for a long time to come.
Who in the world in the next thousand years will fail to note Neil Armstrong's classic remark as he set foot on the moon's surface? -- "It's a small step for a man, but a giant leap for mankind."
And which Indian in the next hundred years will fail to associate Rakesh Sharma with Iqbal's national song: "Saaray Jahaan Say Achcha"?
One must thank Indira Gandhi for having prompted Sharma's quoteworthy words, with her eager question: "How does India look from out there?"
The Prime Minister's face glowed with unsuppressed curiosity as she put the question, and the spaceman's answer "Better than any other place!" did sound authentic and true.
I had always thought that undivided India looked absolutely beautiful on the world map, like a lovely dancer or a charming village belle striking a statuesque pose!
We don't know whether Neil Armstrong's first words on the moon were rehearsed in advance or not. But millions of us on this part of the earth can assert that Sharma's catchy comment from space was spontaneous.