-Written By Dr. Parijat De
(Reading Time: 25 min Approx)
Rajiv was feeling the thrill in all his nerves and sinews. He looked at his watch for one more time. It was fifteen minutes past five in the afternoon. So, in about two hours’ time, on this 17th day of November, 2052, he will board the VSAPJ-52 spacecraft alone that will take him far beyond the earth’s gravitational field, beyond the solar system, beyond the Milky Way galaxy into the vast, all-encompassing firmament, into the huge expanses of the entirely unknown universes which scientists call multiverse, or simply, multiple universes.
In 2049, mankind finally succeeded in building that spacecraft which can travel to any part of the universe, take any direction, any angle, go straight up or head straight down. It doesn’t have to bother for fuel as the scientists found ways to supply fuel to the spacecraft perennially, generated from its very own components. This was the trickiest part of the build-up to the spacecraft. With an accurate admixture of chemicals and minute placement of diodes, triodes, xenon, krypton and about nine other compounds developed and manufactured in laboratories in the USA, Russia, Germany, the UK, Japan, China and India, this could be achieved after a humongous effort.
It took a long time, from 2037 to the end quarter of 2045. But the scientists across the countries collaborated closely, shared every day’s progress and worked tirelessly, often burning their midnight oil. Such a sincere attempt by the top scientists of the world finally paid off. Materials were assembled, complex circuits were built and tested again and again. The manufacture of the spacecraft was finally completed in June 2050. The spacecraft could also collect fuel from its surroundings or, if need be, could shrink its requirement to such an extent that it could travel in the space for close to a thousand of earth years.
Maneuvering the spacecraft was made so easy! It was just like driving a car! Why? It even had steering! Speed control, though, was through buttons mounted on the steering. This was purposely done so that the astronaut finds it easy to guide the craft at any angle. The cabin was fitted with electronic gizmos of all kinds which Rajiv had to learn over a period of nearly two years. He could also speak through a microphone like a device that was integral to his astronaut’s dress. He could also move about in the cabin to which was attached to a small but elegantly designed toilet. For food, Rajiv had only fruits to eat and, of course, only the best fruits plucked from the orchards of Kashmir, Shimla and some other places of India’s neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Myanmar.
These fruits were injected with a certain chemical that was invented by the scientists in a collaborative laboratory near Zurich. This made the fruit stacked in the spacecraft capable of keeping Rajiv alive for any conceivable number of years. One grape was sufficient to keep Rajiv full for 28 days, one apple for 74 days and a big sized mango for more than six months! This was possible for a big sized mango had enough of juices in it which could take in a relatively large amount of that chemical (though actually it was only 6.8 milligrams) compared to the other fruit.
Rajiv, however, couldn’t care less for the fruit. He was beside himself with joy. He alone, the first astronaut with such a gigantic mission, will travel in the universe, or maybe in the multiverse, for any number of years till he met with success. While driving the craft he could take photographs, record sound or the minutest signal from any distant corner of the outer space and relay them back to the earth whenever he chose to. But he was instructed not to send many and relay only select packages which he felt was important for the mission. The scientists back home will then analyse and examine them from all angles before sending instructions back to Rajiv as to which direction he had to steer the craft. And, ultimately, if Rajiv comes across, or can talk to, any celestial being in the outer space, that will have to be immediately flashed back to the control room where the scientists will huddle together to witness the scene – conversation with the first life form found beyond man’s abode.
This was Rajiv’s mission. To find and try to talk to any celestial life if that existed in any satellite, any planet, any asteroid or comet. The mission was christened ‘Mission Kalpana’, in remembrance of Kalpana Chawla, the famed woman astronaut from India who made the supreme sacrifice while aboard the space shuttle Columbia in a space mission from NASA while reentering the earth over the skies of Texas, USA on February 1, 2003. To add to it, as the English word for ‘Kalpana’ is the dream, as a name, it perfectly fitted the bill. The spacecraft was named VSAPJ – 52 with short forms of the names of two greatest space and rocket scientists of India – Vikram Sarabhai & APJ Abdul Kalam. Will the mission be successful?
The scientists were hopeful. Rajiv was personally told by Dr. Herman Klopp, the middle-aged German scientist from Kaiserslautern who headed the international team of 369 scientists, that he was of the firm belief that Rajiv will talk to not one but at least three different celestial beings in three different nooks of the multiverse. What could be more thrilling in a man’s life? Shivers ran down Rajiv’s spine. He was raring to go!
The first encouraging sign could be traced yesterday. By Rajiv’s estimate, it was September 23 of 2068. A deep blue and violet coloured spectrum or some sort of light source was hitting the spacecraft every now and then. Rajiv could see it on his screen too. He started veering the aircraft in that direction and drove at a reduced speed. Yes, it was getting brighter! And, then? Then all that Rajiv heard was a big thud! Or, was it a Big Bang! Rajiv lost his consciousness in no time!
When he regained consciousness Rajiv found himself seated in a beautiful room that bore the stamp of choice in every item that adorned the floor, walls or the ceiling. Through one large transparent window, he could see the spacecraft docked to a ship like a behemoth that was any day bigger than the three largest aircraft carriers have taken together. Rajiv was wondering if the craft suffered any damage when, suddenly, he heard footsteps, the sound of which was more muted than of a man with shoes on but certainly more audible than that of a tiger on the prowl.
The creature that entered took Rajiv by surprise. When it stepped in it was about nine feet tall, but while walking down to the nearest sofa, meant for the host, the height diminished to less than two feet and then again it regained its original stature! It had two legs which resembled those of an antelope while its two arms were as supple yet as strong as those of Roger Federer. A number of boxes, full of gadgets with intricate circuits, made up his body. It wore no dress but some cloud-like waves of pale colours surrounded the body structure and were continuously shifting positions. But the greatest surprise was still to come! From between two gadgets that made up its face came out words in chaste English with the accent of the people from the West Indies Island.
“How do you do, Mr. Rajiv? You weren’t hurt I suppose.” And lo! The voice was tantalizingly dulcet!
Rajiv sprang to his feet, bowed a little and after a few words exchanging pleasantries he started the conversation because that was what he was told by his two psychological mentors during training – one from Syria and the other, a lady, from Slovakia.
“Where are we? In which corner of the universe?”, Rajiv asked. The owner of that baritone voice replied softly, “You’re not far away from your home, Mr. Rajiv. You are in Andromeda, the closest galaxy to your Milky Way.”
“How many of you live here? Since when are you here?”, Rajiv spoke exactly like a caged parrot which was adept at rote learning.
“We are only about a million. We believe in a small population. We’ve been living here through eternity. I don’t exactly know from when we are here.” It seemed the celestial being was enjoying the tete-a-tete with Rajiv.
“Do you know of the earth? Human beings like us? And lots of other creations like birds, animals, reptiles, worms, and insects?”. Rajiv was not ready to lose a single moment.
“We know everything. In fact, we observe your planet every day and keep track of what is happening. About two hundred crores of the human population perished out of hunger, some devastated by natural calamities like drought, tsunami, flood, and typhoons”.
Rajiv was taken aback! “Did it happen in the last sixteen years when I was in the craft?”, he yelled.
“Yes, but what is unfortunate is that there is much more to come. We all have innate capabilities to foresee the future.”
“You said you observe us closely. But then why don’t you help us?”
“Who says we don’t? When the dinosaurs were threatening the earth in the Jurassic age we just sent a couple of meteoroids in projectile form. That destroyed them and saved the earth.”
“Were you alive at that time?”, Rajiv, for the first time, went beyond the prescribed syllabus.
The extra-terrestrial evaded it like Gavaskar used to duck Malcolm Marshall’s bouncers.
Rajiv came back to the assigned track. “Do you monitor all human activities on earth?”
This time that objects from the outer space laughed aloud. “We keep track of everything that you do. Nothing that is happening in the earth goes unnoticed by us. We laugh in our sleeves when you indulge in braggadocio, saying you’ve done this, you’ve done that.”
“Really?”, Rajiv was skeptical. “Can you tell me how I came here?”
To this, that multiverse being begun replying in a grave tone, sometimes with some staccato utterances. He said much more than what Rajiv knew about the space mission pithily. Rajiv was simply dumbfounded!
“You are fools!” said that extra-terrestrial object mockingly. “You think you have achieved a lot and developed a lot many things. The fact remains that you could not achieve even ten percent of what you were capable of. How can you play to your potential? You are always at loggerheads with each other. Russia can’t stand America. Japan considers China as its enemy. England, France, and Germany think they are the big brothers in Europe. You are always fighting among yourselves. How can you progress at a rapid pace?”
“That, unfortunately, is very true,” Rajiv admitted candidly.
“And that has an impact on your social life too. You are always competing, always running a race. You do not know how to befriend each other. You are mean-minded, envious, jealous. You live within the periphery of your own nuclear family only. You do not help each other. That’s why you cannot live in harmony. That’s why you have no peace of mind while we, because we live only for others, live in eternal bliss.” That unknown life form finally stopped.
Rajiv changed gear. “What do you think of our future? What is going to happen to our planet earth?”
The creature inhaled a deep breath. “I am sorry to say, Mr. Rajiv that unless you check yourself, unless you rein in your greed unless you reverse the gear without any further delay, you are going to destroy yourself in less than a hundred years.”
“By Jove! Is it that near?”
“It may happen even earlier.” This time the being spoke in a thunderous voice. “The way you are denuding the earth, felling trees, killing all other life forms to fulfill such needs of yours which are far beyond your basic needs, you are only going to annihilate yourself. You are digging your own grave, Mr. Rajiv”.
“You are very right”, Rajiv murmured.
“One example will suffice. I understand when fishermen catch fishes in the sea for their living. But why do you have to kill sharks and dolphins in thousands? Doesn’t that affect the food chain? If only you pollute the sea which still can feed the nine hundred crores of your population for at least eight hundred more years, your landmass is going to be entirely submerged into the sea. Can’t you imagine that, that is inevitable?” Rajiv fell silent. He had no answer.
“Don’t ever think that you discovered our place or found it out by your intelligence”, the multiverse denizen continued. “In fact, it is we who decided to bring you here. We all feel so bad to see your degradation which can only lead to a catastrophe, to your final perdition. We thought we would lovingly suggest to you to mend your ways, Mr. Rajiv. Tell your fellow beings on going back to the earth that we are concerned, really concerned for your well-being.”
A subtle hint was dropped that it was time for Rajiv to take leave of that new world. Rajiv got up. The extra-terrestrial was gracious enough to go out to see him off. They walked side by side till the point where VSAPJ-52 was docked. Suddenly the inhabitant of that light-years-away-world embraced Rajiv, albeit very lightly. Before Rajiv entered into the cockpit it looked at him and spoke these words with genuine love in his voice, “Head straight back to the earth. You needn’t worry at all about a safe journey back home. Two invisible spacecraft of ours will guide you in your path till you reach the point where the earth’s gravitational force will have started acting. After that, I know you are capable enough to help yourself reach your landing base in Florida.”
Just when Rajiv was about to shut the cockpit door tight, it spoke out again, “I will divulge one secret to you for I really have come to like you, young man. Tell your scientists that contrary to what they think, intelligent life is there everywhere, on every planet, in every satellite, in every celestial system, in every constellation, in every galaxy. And you will be astonished if I confide further that we all are in constant touch with each other. But man’s intelligence can’t reach them. They too, like us, are watching you all the time.
Make no mistake, every life form in what you call the outer world is worried of man and equally worried of all other living beings that are there on the earth who may have to perish along with you for no fault of theirs. They, the extra-terrestrial objects of innumerable varieties, are, without exception, your well-wishers. My friend, try to be a good human being for you have all the qualities that a creature can be endowed with. Be good, do good to others, love one and all. You will find your existence on the good earth will be so full of happiness! After all, you deserve to live in peace, in eternal bliss.”
The object of the ultimate quest of man was still waving its hand when Rajiv’s spacecraft roared back to life.