Tuesday, June 01, 2010

An old short story I wrote a long time ago and recently found

The sun rises over the horizon, slowly warming the damp earth and waking her from her slumber. The land is bursting with different shades and combinations of green and brown, speckled with tiny reds, oranges and blues. An entourage of Ambassador cars drives through the Western Ghats as the Nethravathi river meanders along the way. As the river gushes along, the green hills of Kadri reveberates with the cars' purring, startling chattering birds and squabbling monkeys. Along the way a yellow road sign indicates that the Dharamsthala is only a kilometre away. An hour and a half journey is about the come to an end.

The passengers sitting inside the cars are ordinary looking middle-aged men with methodical eyes. They wear starched pressed suits with white shirts and are lost in their own thoughts. They know that they have gone over the facts and figures countless of times, but don't want to leave anything to chance. As the Manjunatheswara temple comes into view, the men sit up and adjust themselves. The cars stop outside the temple gate and the men step out. The temple's grand wall and intricate designs guard and exalt Lord Manjunatha.

The men cross the threshold and make their way across the enormous courtyard seeking the golden lingam. Whispering prayers and footsteps of devotees enhance the serenity of this sacred place. It is a world that defies all logic and laws of what they, as scientists, have adhered to for so many years. Formulas and axioms make sense to them but they also acknowledge a force beyond their scientific comprehensions.

The men take off their shoes and walk up the step toward the priests who are waving incense sticks, chanting and expecting them. The sounds of bells resound with the faith of the devotees. With bowed heads, pressed hands and bare feet, the scientists approach the saffron cladded men, who will sanctify their venture. They solemnly place their offering at the foot of the Lord Manjunatheswara's statue, seeking his divine blessings. With a miniature model of a satellite in its rightful place, the rites begin.

The scientists adhere to age-old traditions and exchange their formal attires for simplicity by removing excess layers of clothes. Thousands of kilometres away, men in a flight control room put on their earphones and talk into their microphones. Men in two different worlds do their own rituals to launch a satellite into space - some with their technology and some with their prayers.

As the priests start the puja and chant in their trance-like baritone voices, simultaneously crisp voices crackle in the air. Ancient vedic text and scientific jargons harmonise in a chorus. Sterilised voices repeat cryptic codes of aerospace. The puja intensifies its pace and a static voice commands a countdown. When the countdown nears to an end, the head priest pours ghee over the ceremonial fire, provoking red, blue and white flames into the heavens. The blaze then changes into an inferno of a rocket as it propels upward like a shooting star. As it goes further up and slowly disappears into the stratosphere, the men fold and raise their hands to a pranam to the celestial being who blessed their venture.

1 comment:

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