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The Onward Journey : 2012
|by Subra Narayan|
Anil was fidgety as he searched for his favorite comic book 'Tintin and the Picaros', which he was absolutely positive that he had packed in his satchel before leaving home for the space station. In another few hours after the technical glitches were taken care of, he along with his mother, would board the Helmholtz space shuttle headed for Mars, where they planned to reside in the zone known as HOM or Heaven on Mars. But right now, he was completely torn as he rummaged through bag after bag searching for the book, which he eventually hoped to auction on MarseBay. 'Blue blistering barnacles', muttered Anil.
His mother was absorbed in a glossy magazine delving into the private lives of redheads and blonde actresses in Bollywood'er, movie making was long deemed impossible in Sunny California and had moved camp to the beaches of Mumbai. Her friendly neighbor Ramona, who was also traveling with them, turned around and asked Vimla if she had read the snippets that morning. Vimla replied rather nonchalantly that she had bruised her hand the day before and so she could not quite decipher the BBC news text beamed onto her left Palm via the Marichip inserted beneath her elbow. Ramona beamed like a ten year old and excitedly told Vimla how an ex-Hollywood actor who also happened to be an ex-Governor was tipped to be the next President of the USA. 'How handsome he is, na' quipped Ramona and blushed. 'Mom, I am totally devastated that I cannot find Tintin anywhere. Did you throw out the book at the last minute?' raged Anil. 'No honey, I would never do such a thing. Besides, you won't have any time for those books anyway. We Martians will have plenty of other things to do besides read comics'. Anil was devastated and beeped his best friend Gokul. As soon as he saw Gokul's smiling face on his Palm, Anil brightened up and bemoaned the loss of his favorite book. Gokul told him not to worry and he would send him a copy in the next Marsmail. Anil said he would stay in touch with Gokul through Persephone.
At that moment, the intercom cackled and a booming voice announced that the shuttle was indefinitely delayed due to severe icy conditions. Wait a minute; thought Anil he had never heard of icy conditions before in Mauritius and the weather seemed perfectly normal when they arrived at the space station. He remembered from his term paper, that for some odd reason, global warming had still not affected the pristine island. Global warming on earth was now the inheritance of the weak and the poor, thanks to the negligence of the rich superpowers. Anil shuddered at the thought of his many friends & their families who chose not to go to Mars or could not afford the pricey one way ticket. However that did not stop illegal immigration and stowaways were more often discovered only at the exit point when it was too late and deportation was impossible as there were no return flights! For a tidy sum, you could have a Marichip inserted into your armpit or elbow using a stolen identity. The Marsfia was everywhere!
Anil went over to the bookstore to see if they carried any Tintin or Asterix comics. Much to his dismay, the lady at the counter said they were sold out and were not expecting any more consignments. With a deep sigh, Anil turned around only to bump into an elderly man, who apologized profusely. He said he had misplaced his trifocals at home and his vision was out of focus. Anil's eyes opened wide'. he must be dreaming, he thought. This was his favorite hero, the famed scientist and environmentalist, Professor Kalam. 'Er, excuse me, but would you happen to be, er..Professor' and before he could finish, Dr. Kalam responded by nodding his head and saying he was indeed the same person, minus his glasses. Anil said he had pored over the Professors' work for his term paper and asked him if he was going to Mars too. 'No no, of course not, I had come over to bid farewell to a good friend of mine who has just been tenured at the University of Marsico for researching into the neurotic disorders of homesick Martians.' Anil said good-bye to the Professor and as he turned around, his eyes glanced upon a book titled, The Home of the Mayans. Anil wondered if the Mayans were inter-galactic travelers who at one time were Martians that landed on Earth. He realized that this year 2012 marked the end of the Mayan calendar, approximately 5100 years since the Kali Yuga began. But his mind was too preoccupied with Tintin anyway and he sauntered toward his seat in the lounge. His mother had disappeared, leaving Ramona to tend to her poodle. Anil wondered who looked sillier, Ramona or the poodle!
Instead he decided to go check the 3-D console that displayed the latest weather conditions on Mars and also had streaming videos of the newest tourist attractions in the Isle of Man. There was an advertisement showing a man holding his pet Marsupial in one hand and drinking SoMars, the elixir of life. On the bottom left of the console he saw pictures of two Pathfinders on display at the Pierre Louvre Marseum'ah that must be Spirit &Opportunity, he thought to himself, the early explorers that landed on Mars. I must plan to visit the Marseum and look for other artifacts; he made a mental note to himself, especially the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer on Spirit that was used to verify the presence of methane, a natural gas. Strange that they then discovered liquid methane on Titan, one of Saturn's moons, he thought. Needless to say, we have polluted the earth sufficient enough that acid rain and downpours of liquid methane would soon become the norm in some parts of the world!
'Hi, Anil', said a familiar voice behind him. Anil turned around to see the cheerful face of Rita, his classmate from 9th grade. 'Hi Rita, haven't seen you in a long time, what are you doing here?' 'Same as you, Anil'. I guess, going to Mars!' 'Oh how wonderful, do you know where you will be staying', asked Anil. Rita replied, 'I am not sure, my dad said he prefers the southern quadrangle, but mom insists on the northeast tetrahedral. She says all her friends are going there and the sunset there is spectacular!' 'I am sure your dad's choice is better, but we are going to stay in the peninsular hexagonal'my mom's friends have all gone there. They all want to hang out on Marsine Drive and look at the Queen's Necklace, those shimmering islets of Marsh Gas spewing out of the rocks. Nostalgia, she claims, is bound to catch up with you no matter which planet you are on.' 'Talking about planets,' she continued, 'did you catch the spectacular Venus transit that occurred last month'. 'Yes, I did.' Anil quipped. He wondered what cosmic spectacles lay in store for him on Mars'.
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