Written By: Erin Evangeline
As a good friend of Gurdeep Pandher, it was my pleasure to read his book Among the Stars. It is certainly not every day that I find out one of my friends has written a book, and after knowing Gurdeep for over a year I decided that it was about time I read his book.
As a songwriter and blogger by hobby, I hold great respect for anyone who can write more than me – especially those who write well and who are writing in their second language – as is the case with Gurdeep. I would not have been a very good friend if I didn’t take the time to enjoy the work of art that he put so much time and effort into. Writing a book is a huge accomplishment and after working in the college library last year I became very sad at the thought of how many books go unread. Now, I must admit that I am guilty of seldom reading. However, the curiousity of reading a friend’s book was just the added motivation that I needed to get back on track – thank you Gurdeep!
Among the Stars! follows the life and dreams of Kalpana Chawla, one of the seven crew members aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle when it perished on February 1, 2003. I am not particularly interested in space exploration and nor had I followed the news when the incident happened. Accordingly, I had never heard of Kalpana Chawla prior to picking up the book and honestly didn’t expect to like it. But within a few pages, Gurdeep words had drawn me in.
Not only is the author determined to tell you the inspiring story of Kalpana’s life – but he starts with her very roots – the struggles that her grandparents endured due to the partition of India into India and Pakistan in 1947. Hear, I thought “Wow! I’ve picked up a book about a role model astronaut and I’m even getting a history lesson”. Having travelled to India, I found the first chapter on Kalpana’s family very important because it set the stage for what her family had been through by the time she was born and therefore what expectations might await her. This first chapter also had a familiarity to it – it felt like travelling back to India again and see the world through the many faces I met who probably endured similar struggles as Kalpana’s family. It also was my chance to get accustomed to Gurdeep’s style of writing and to get used to his alternative sentence structure/ occasional mishap in phrasing which I actually didn’t mind because it added an authenticity to it – a way of explaining things in a round about manner that I only ever heard while in India.
The first chapter brought tears to my eyes which caught me off guard. Why was I crying in a book about an astronaut when I’m not even interested in astronauts? How could I feel so connected to someone I never even knew existed. This is when my respect for Gurdeep’s writing really started to grow. He knew what he was doing. He wasn’t trying to write some intellectual fact-based autobiography on a famous person. No. He was paying tribute to Kalpana and healing the heart of a broken family, nation, and world by honouring her in the deepest way possible – by writing a book that showed her soul and what it was really made of. He didn’t stop there either. After taking the readers through her life and accomplishments and the tragedy itself, he went on to tell the story of the rest of the crew. “Kalpana’s story would be incomplete without [them]”, he says.
No detail is left out in Gurdeep’s book. Every emotion is explained, and even the small moments are highlighted. Kalpana’s legacy is built piece by piece with all of his research. You can tell from the way he writes that much of his research was through direct contact with the subject matter’s friends, family, teachers, and colleagues. In writing this book, Gurdeep has truly retraced the steps of Kalpana Chawla’s life and dreams. It was a pleasure to read his book and an even greater pleasure to reflect on it afterwards by writing this review. For anyone who has lost faith in their dreams, read this book. For anyone who wishes the world was more united, read this book. For anyone who likes to know what a person’s soul is made of, read this book. And especially, for those of you, like me, who didn’t pay attention to the news on February 1, 2003 you should read this book. It will make you wish you could have known what great minds and hearts the world lost on that day.
I am gratefull to Gurdeep Pandher for taking the time to write this book in Kalpana’s honour. I cried many times throughout the book and felt that somewhere up in the stars Kalpana was looking down on me with a courageous smile that said “keep going towards your dreams, even if you don’t know what they are”. Kalpana knew what her dreams were from the very beginning. Contrary to her, I never have. But reading this book has made me less afraid of taking the time to find them. Rest in peace Kalpana and please keep writing Gurdeep Pandher! You both make the world a better place!
Erin Evangeline’s blog site is located at