MUMBAI: The first Indian astronaut to fly into space, Rakesh Sharma, on Friday admitted that after his landmark 'Saare Jahan Se Achcha Hindustan Hamara' reply to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, he immediately realized that he had tripped up.
Sharma was replying to a student's question at the IIT-B Techfest on whether his response to her question 'How does India look from the space?' was deliberate or impromptu. The astronaut promptly said, "Why do you think it was not impromptu or original? "When answering to Mrs Gandhi's question, I must admit that I was having a great time in space. Fortunately, I couldn't see her and could only hear the audio channel. Perhaps that emboldened me to give, in my opinion, a rather smart answer to her question. Which I regretted immediately, when I heard her giggle and I said Oh my God! I have tripped up. You can't talk like that to a prime minister. But I do believe that India is Saare Jahan Se Achcha, not only visually but for what it stands for and our journey despite so much conflict and history. I think we still have our head above the water."
"When I was in school, it was our de facto number two national anthem. We sang it all the time. If you follow the words, I believe it describes the idea that is India accurately." said Sharma, who was one of the speakers at IIT-B's Techfest.
On whether China's launch of manned space mission is a setback for India, he said, "It is not a setback but a question of priorities. China had its priority clear. Isro announced a manned space programme, but we have not seen much progress. In India, what is lacking is the vision."
While speaking on 'Should India invest in manned space programme', Sharma slammed the government for not having a vision. "We need a different kind of fire, a vision, and I am sorry to say that it is lacking at the top echelons. Isro needs to send manned space programmes as robots cannot explore. It needs to be done before all resources are utilized. We need plans for international collaboration than competition," he said.
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen will deliver the G L Mehta Memorial Lecture on Saturday at the Techfest.