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Rousing welcome awaits Sunita

Williams, who has set a record for the longest stay in space by a woman, will be in Ahmedabad on a week-long visit.

india Updated: Sep 18, 2007 23:24 IST

There is an air of expectancy and mood of elation in the family of Vithal Pandya, whose niece, Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams arrives in Ahmedabad on Thursday to a big welcome.

Williams, who this year set a record for the longest stay in space by a woman, will be in Ahmedabad on a week-long visit. Government and voluntary organisations, educational institutes and others have planned a series of functions to welcome her.

"Sunita loves Gujarat," Pandya said, adding that the family was looking forward to have her in Ahmedabad and she was visiting after a decade.

However, given the hectic schedule of public functions she would have to attend, Williams may not find time to savour the street food of the walled city that she relished during her last visit.

On Friday, she will attend a prayer at the historic Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi and garland a statue of her cousin Haren Pandya, a former Gujarat home minister who was murdered in Ahmedabad in 2003.

She will then proceed to her ancestral home in Jhulasan village in Mehsana district in north Gujarat. Later, she will attend a felicitation function by the Vishwa Gujarat Samaj, a worldwide association of Gujaratis.

Williams will also have interactions with students at the Gujarat University in Ahmedabad on Saturday - something she has been looking forward to for a while.

Later in the evening, she will participate in an hour-long programme of the Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and interact with the state's industrialists and corporate leaders.

"We are curious to know about her achievements and how she could accomplish them," Parul Jaykrishna of GCCI told IANS on Tuesday.

Gujarat Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma will host a function in Williams' honour at the Raj Bhawan on Sunday.

Next day, she will be the guest at a number of functions organised in her honour by several voluntary organisations, though details were not immediately available.

A visit to the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) is also on the cards, according to the institute sources.

The Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA) has organised a meeting to felicitate the astronaut September 25.

After wrapping up the Ahmedabad visit, she will go to Hyderabad to attend the 58th International Astronautical Congress where she will interact with Indian scientists and share her experience of space journey and space walks.

Williams' visit is organised by the National Federation of Indian-American Associations (NFIAA), a Washington-based organisation.