‘Sometimes while sitting in a void all alone
I feel like I am not of this world or any zone
Why I’m here I have to find out soon
But how? And nobody’s helping the ugly moon
I am confident of his presence all around
But need to explore the proofs in the ground
The soul is searching everywhere so deep
But couldn’t find a space even to weep’
Prakriti Singh (2006)
The space is so deep, dark and a mysterious world. Being an earthy thing, we can only observe it as a wide blanket of darkness spread all over our heads touching the ground from every corner. Tiny sparkling lights which we call stars spread all over it make the mysterious blanket more perplexing.
“See there’s the Milky Way our galaxy” said my father one day to a 10 year old me while we were walking in our lawn after dinner. “What is Milky Way?” I exclaimed in wonder.
“It’s our galaxy.” “What is a Galaxy?” “Where many stars are clustered together.” He politely answered my questions, pointing towards a whitish patch of space within millions of stars. For me everything he said had no logic because I had no idea where I was looking at. All I could understand was that in that deep infinite sky there existed a mysterious cloud that stretched beyond stars.
Suddenly he pointed towards a moving star “See there goes a satellite” I was amazed and confused at the same time. How can a star move? I had never noticed them moving before and what was a satellite. I asked my father all these questions. Again politely he answered, “A satellite is like a plane that fly high in the space. It rotates around earth.” The amazement of the fact increased eagerness in me to know more and more about the space.
From that day onwards I never missed a chance to look at the night sky, to discover what’s new there and to know more about it. There was a chapter about the universe in our science textbooks. Although I read it already many times by myself but each time a new mystery would uncover and yet another would fall upon. So, I eagerly waited for the turn of that chapter to be taught by the teacher in the class. Finally when it was taught, I listened to the teacher attentively and whole heartedly. That day’s evening and night was very special for me. I had learnt many things about the space, about stars, planets, milky way, constellations and satellites and I was eager to discuss everything with my younger sisters.
We three took a walk in our orchard and as the darkness started to materialize, we climbed to our godown’s roof. I asked them to lie down on the cemented terrace facing towards the sky. I started telling them everything that I learnt in the classroom and that my father told me. We then started counting the number of satellites that crossed the sky. We were so involved in the infinity that we lost the track of time. It was already the dinner time, so we had to leave but I wanted to stay there, watching the sky forever.
From that day onwards I created a routine of observing the night sky. Whenever I went to the school library, I would ask the librarian for books related to space and universe. Each photograph and fact mesmerised me and ignited my curiosity to a different level. In the evening I would go to the terrace and would explore the sky. Even I made a star tracking note book in which I drew the star chart, wrote the names of the stars and planets that I identified and traced their positions on the sky at a specific time. I was so into the space that I didn’t care about my home works or academic status. Those days there was no internet, no mobile phones, no computers even we didn’t have a cable connection for our TV. So, my research sphere was limited to the teachers, my parents and books.
After some years, I came to know about astronauts, the space travellers. Kalpana Chawla became famous around that time. I too aspired to become an astronaut like her. I too wanted to explore the limits of space; especially I wanted to see the infinite beauty of space from above the limits of earth. I started reading about her that she too aspired about the space since her childhood like I did. Then some years later, sad news of her demise during a space mission became a hot topic everywhere. I felt extremely sorry about her but the incident never reduced my passion about being a space traveller.
At that age I had just an ambition, I knew what I had to be but there was a major loop hole. I was in a space where there was a least exposure, I had no idea what I needed to do to be an astronaut. Nobody ever told me. I was just in my limited expanse doing whatever my consciousness told me to do, unaware of the competitive world out there. So, until my 10th standard I was totally unaware of the education system and the standards that needed to be qualified to be there in that space shuttle seated on the cockpit and gazing out at the infinite space.
So, when did my eyes opened to the reality?
It was in my 10th standard when during a Yoga class, our then Principal asked each one us about our aims in life and advised each one us about the path that would lead us to our goals. Finally my turn came and I revealed my ambition, after thinking for a while she replied, “That’s very different goal. As much I know for being an astronaut you need to study mathematics.”
That was the moment when the world stopped for me. All my dreams were shattered, my soul was in a deep depression and all my mind’s activities ceased. The day was the saddest because the only subject I hated in the world was ‘Maths’. I was so weak in it that even I used to pass it on points. I didn’t know why but the portion of my mind dealing with the numbers and calculations was in a deep sleep. I cursed all those adults and grown-ups who never told me the path to my dream that I had to improve maths to fly to the space. They never gave me a hint about the scope of mathematics. My ambition, my dream, my existence was at once shattered just because of mathematics. And even the face off with the reality was too late that there was a limited scope for me to improve.
Still I tried my best that year to improve myself in maths. I asked my parents that I wanted to go for extra tuitions in mathematics, I gave most of my time and brain to numbers and calculations. I improved, literally but not to that extent. In boards exam I passed the subject with average score. But for me that was a great improvement. Although I scored brilliant in all other subjects but my heart was there in maths for my dream to know the infinity.
In the senior secondary classes I had an option to choose between maths and biology; unfortunately because of my fear about the competition in the non-medical field, I backed myself and chose the subject in which I was good at. The chapter of my childhood ambition of becoming an astronaut was closed from that moment.
Later in my college days, I came to know about the vast scope for being an astronaut. The dream that I was chasing was actually to know more and more about the space and the universe and what I quit in my high school was the technical side of it. There was and is still a hope for me to visit the space. In my third year of college, some space agency announced and invited interested people for one side Mars travel. I was happiest to the highest level. Even I filled the form and decided to save the money for the expenditure that was to be paid by the selected candidates (which was around 300 million dollars). That was extraordinary I know; my that step reminded me of the movie ‘Up’ in which a couple tries to save money for their whole life to visit their dream place the Angel’s Fall. But because of other emergency expenses they always had to use the savings on those things because of which they never fulfilled their dream.
And here I am still waiting for that opportunity which will take me to the space. I’m not rich economically but I’ve read in the book ‘The Secret’ that the thing which you want desperately will definitely come to you and for which the whole universe will conspire to make sure that you get what you are wishing for. Nothing is impossible in this world.
The way I look at the stars, the milky way, the Orion, that tiny five starred cluster Pleiades, the Ceres of the Orion, the Pole star, the moving satellites, the meteorite showers and everything that the sky have, make me happy and satisfied as if I belong to there, as if my true existence is there. Whenever I feel distressed, I look up at them; they surround me into their calmness and provide me with their cosmic positivity that satisfies my soul. Even I wanted to close my eyes for the last time watching the stars and space only.