Mumbai: Sunita Williams, who has spent a total of 322 days in space on two missions, charmed young girls in Mumbai on Wednesday during an interaction at the Indian Council of Social Welfare's women's hostel in Chembur.
Ms Williams spoke to a gathering of school and college students who were jostling for space to get a view of her on stage.
"I appreciate the work that is going on to help women in this area, in particular, and across India to be a productive part of society. I am glad to see women in the workforce nice and strong. Here in India, women have a greater percentage of being in the workforce than in the United States so that really says something about the efforts you are making for creating those opportunities for women," the astronaut said.
The Siddhivinayak Temple Trust presented Ms Williams with prasad and a shawl. "I think it is funny that we always bring up Lord Ganesh because I took a Ganesh to space. A part of that is just to identify myself with the youth here. These are things that you guys do," she said.
Ms Williams also said she was impressed to see the efforts being made to promote women in areas like she is in. In a lighter vein, she added, "I had really long hair like some of the ladies here before I went to space but then I cut it off because you don't like to have hair floating up there."
She appealed to Indian children to take more interest in space exploration. "I am really looking forward to India's participation in the space programme. It is amazing when you come to India and see all the interactive, imaginative and motivated kids who wanted to become a part of it. I am here to hopefully encourage the young kids here in India to get into the space programme," she said.
The astronaut signed off in Marathi, the local language, by saying, "Mi Parath Yenar" meaning "I will come back".