NASA Scientist Wearing A Bindi As She Announces Perseverance Rover’s Mars Touchdown Inspires Indian Women To Embrace Their Culture
If you have been wondering why ‘Lady With The Bindi’ is trending on Twitter since a couple of days, it’s not because Stieg Larsson is penning another book with an Indian protagonist this time. It is because NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars and the scientist spearheading the mission was an Indian American woman, Dr Swati Mohan, who was wearing a tiny bindi as she announced its touchdown. Dr Mohan led the Mars 2020 mission team, virtually guiding, navigating, and controlling the operations of the spacecraft carrying the rover from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Her pictures from the control room instilled desi netizens with immense pride and left them teary-eyed. However, it was her humble bindi that caused a stir on social media with people applauding her for her simplicity and sticking to her Indian roots, even as she reached for Mars.
The lead engineer at NASA and flight controller of Mars mission, Dr Swati Mohan migrated to the US when she was just a year old. The bindi is a significant part of the culture for Indian women, and Dr. Mohan she has probably donned the bindi for a while now, and didn’t exclude it even at her work place. Twitter was flooded with praises for her exemplary feat, simultaneously admiring her for embracing her Indian culture. A user wrote, “Congrats to #MARS2020 team, led by #SwatiMohan, 4 making sure spacecraft carrying #PerseveranceRover was oriented in rt direction. She provided commentary from mission control at it’s entry, descent at 12,000 mph & slowing it 4 soft landing [sic].” Another user wrote, “- Love how my Twitter feed loves space wins – Striking how much more diverse NASA is than the yrs of white-guys-in-a-certain-age-group – That’s Dr. Swati Mohan, sporting a bindi no less – esp resonant cuz memories still linger of racist/anti-immigrant “dotbusters” #Perseverance.”
No more the Hidden Figure in Space , ‘Lady with the Bindi’ Dr Swati has made 🇮🇳 proud & inspired women across 🌎 to reach for ✨ 🌙 & Mars! pic.twitter.com/AFZYZzqyrA
— Lakshmi M Puri (@lakshmiunwomen) February 19, 2021
Dr Mohan unapologetically rocking the bindi and being appreciated for it made a number of women of Indian descent reminisce about how they used to get bullied and mocked for the same when they were young. A user commented, “I wore a bindi in elementary school until I was old enough to notice and feel self conscious about people’s comments. Admittedly, I still hesitate to post childhood pictures because of it. Swati Mohan’s made me smile.” A mom expressed she has had apprehensions about letting her child wear a bindi to school, before she saw Dr Mohan setting a great example by endorsing diversity. She wrote, “My 12 year old wear bindi(pottu) every day to school, sometimes I think, should I stop her. In case if it create distances between classmates. But she became an example to kids like my one who are strong in their identity.”
My 12 year old wear bindi(pottu) every day to school, sometimes I think, should I stop her. In case if it create distances between classmates. But she became an example to kids like my one who are strong in their identity.
— kals shara (@sharakals) February 18, 2021
A lot of Indian immigrant women are targeted with racists slurs and comments for wearing bindi and other such accents of cultural significance. But looks like nothing could stop the young scientist to give up on her culture. She makes a strong case for clasping onto your roots and celebrating your culture, regardless of where you are. She inspired a million women to show off where they come from rather than being embarrassed by it. PS., she also dyed her hair blue and weaved it in a braid and placed stars on it for the landing day. As a user wrote, she is a “beauty with ‘brains, bindi and braids’,” indeed!
Dr Mohan has encouraged women everywhere to be proud of their culture, and not to mention, take up a career in space and reach for the stars and beyond. Bindi or no bindi; she made India proud and we are here for it.