Thanks to Rahul Gandhi’s help

When sprinter Antony Felix, 12, of Paraicode near here received a pair of sports shoes from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as he had promised the boy a sports kit during his recent electioneering in Kanniyakumari district, it received a lot of media attention. Now, without much media glare, Mr. Rahul has fulfilled another promise he had made to a class 5 girl student from Marthandam.

When, Mr. Rahul had addressed the students of St. Joseph’s Matriculation Higher Secondary School at Mulagumoodu near Nagercoil during his visit on March 1, he had told the students that a boy who he had met at Paraicode had sought his help for visiting a facility of Indian Space Research Organisation. “I’ve promised him,” Mr. Rahul said amidst cheers from the students.

Teacher Beulet Jeril Subha of a nearby school, who was there along with her students, hesitantly approached Mr. Rahul with a request. “My daughter Jifa J. Bridly, a class 5 student, is now watching you live on television from our home at Marthandam. She wants to become an astronaut, and her dream is to visit a facility of Indian Space Research Organisation. Could you please help her?,” Ms. Beulet asked.

Much to her surprise, the young leader asked his Personal Assistant to collect all information about the girl. The girl received a call from the Personal Assistant within a few days with an assurance that she would soon visit the ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.

“Meanwhile, Mr. Rahul had written a letter to ISRO Chairman K. Sivan seeking permission for Jifa’s visit to Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and the permission was granted. We subsequently received a call from Vikram Sarabhai Space Research Centre asking us to tell them about our convenient date of visit after clearing COVID-19 tests. Once we got the COVID-19 test certificate, we were invited to visit the facility on March 22,” Jayachandran, father of Jifa, who runs an electrical shop at Kalingarajapuram near Marthandam told The Hindu.

The parents along with Jify were taken around the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, with the only condition that they should not take any photographs as photography is strictly prohibited in the high security complex.

“I saw the PSLV and GSLV there … As I entered the room where late President and ‘Missile Man’ A.P.J. Abdul Kalam used to work, I felt blessed. After this visit, I’ve decided that my ultimate destination is space,” says Ms. Jifa, who thanked her science teacher Gracelin for inculcating the interest in her.

Jify has told her father that like Kalpana Chawla, she would join the Aeronautical Engineering programme of Punjab Engineering College before moving to the United States for higher studies and to serve ISRO ultimately.

“Kalpana Chawla is my role model. It was Ms. Gracelin who introduced Kalpana Chawla to me,” says Ms. Jifa.

About Mr. Rahul Gandhi, she said: “He is so simple… Though I did not get an opportunity to speak to him, he was kind enough to get me permission for visiting an ISRO facility. Only because of him, I have realized my dream, which is the first step towards my destination,” the girl says.

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