Close encounters of the 3rd kind
Flights of fantasies apart (not to forget the various scientific concepts I might have overlooked in the previous fictional account) let me write something about the actual thing. On 27th, I went to office by my car so that I could leave for Nehru planetarium on my own time and also get back conveniently. Despite my efforts, I could set out from office only at 6 (which is the official closing time anyway, but quite early for me). The moment I reached National Highway – 8, I was accosted by a huge traffic jam, spanning 2-3 traffic lights. It seemed to be unusual. Anyway, somehow managed to crawl through and decided to take Rao Tula Ram Marg and then the Moti Bagh crossing. It turned to be another big traffic packed segment. Unusual again, that road is pretty empty usually. To top it all, there was a lot of police around and some turnings had been barricaded for some reason. The Mumbai blasts had happened just a day before. The idea that the whole junta might be going for a view of Mars, also struck me and I abhorred the crowds already. Before Amit points out that I could have taken the ariel route, well, I didn’t want to rob Mars of its attention. Had I done that, all junta would have accumulated to watch *me* flying!
I managed to reach Nehru Planetarium after a 1.5 hr ordeal. The parking rush outside gave me an idea of what to expect inside. A show on Mars was supposed to be shown after which ppl were to proceed to Teen Murti Lawns to view Mars through a telescope. I got inside since I was under the impression that some special arrangements would be there to project something on the dome, on which normally all stars and planets etc are shown during regular shows. That was a mistake. I had gone alone and after waiting for ½ an hour, somehow managed to jostle my way (or rather got jostled) into the dome. Once there, we were shown a powerpoint presentation! The poor folks didn’t even have much of an idea of how to set up the projector! Somehow they managed to get the show started and some senior lady urged everyone to maintain decorum (expected lecture), after which she proceeded to explain something about the celestial event taking place.
She talked about Mars and oppositions and Mars’ retrograde motion. The retrograde motion has also been mentioned by Kalidas in one of his works and by Shakespeare in ‘As you like it’. Interesting facts, but nevertheless time consuming for someone eager to view Mars through the telescope. After the show we were asked to proceed to the lawns for the viewing of Mars. I literally jogged to the lawns to get a good position in queues (if any, though a thing *not* to be expected). When I reached there, the spectacle resembled that of an open air exhibition. Small crowds seemed to be sprouting everywhere, wherever feasible (something like the flash mob concept in US). I trudged to the circumference of a mob and with some difficulty could spot a woman as the centre of it all. Realising that it was a news channels crew and nothing to do with Mars, I tried my hand at several such mobs, before I finally spotted a telescope at the centre of one such mob.
Mars was clearly visible till then by the naked eye. The moment I reached somewhere near the telescope, the clouds descended on the skies and that was the end of everybody’s hopes. A collective sigh could be heard from the crowd (the ones interested in Mars. The ones interested in getting their face on TV were probably already swooning over the female presenters). Within minutes, the same senior lady turned up there, trying to calm the crowds and urging them to fall in queue. Before I knew it, she had actually pushed me in some kind of queue there. Far from the maddening crowd was what I wanted to be, but since I had gone all the way there, and spent all that time I decided to stick around *till* I saw Mars through the telescope.
One could prominently hear a lady in the queue shouting at everyone around her and questioning their right to be where they were. She made an interesting sight, especially since she was the only one shouting irritatingly, much to the amusement of everyone else. No one was reacting to her so far, but finally when she asked a young man to get away from the queue since she could not breathe, she got an interesting retaliation and an argument ensued.
Bitchy Lady: Get away from here, can’t you see that I have kids along with me and that they can’t even breathe because of you ppl standing here?
Young man: Why? Do you think that the air that you are breathing comes from this direction only?
BL: Just get lost. Get away from here.
YM: What’s your problem? We aren’t getting in the queue and we can stand anywhere we want.
BL: Such ill-mannered ppl! You won’t understand. When you get married and have kids, you’ll understand.
YM: Have you? (wonder whatever this meant, it could have several meanings, and one of them or maybe all of them surely pissed off the lady, beyond control)
BL: Get away or I’ll give you a tight slap.
YM: Oh really, just try to.
Somebody Intervening: Please stop it, please move away or a fight will start..
Now the lady cast her attention to all others around her and she spotted me. Suddenly she started questioning me, about since when had I been in the (so called) line. Before I knew it, all eyes were on me and not to forget all lights too, and all cameras too, just watching the action!! It was an amazing feeling, knowing that you might be on camera and having to fight it out for your position in the queue. I gave BL a straight look in the eye that meant ‘Don’t you dare mess with me’ and her husband started in a typical bhaisaaab drawl – ‘Sister, mein aapke haath jodtaa hoon, please line banaeeye’. I told him there’s no need to ‘Haath Jodo’. Had half a mind to tell him to just ‘tame the shrew’ and everything would be ‘as you like it’. Somehow the cameras had had their fill and went away. In the meantime, some ‘eminent’ people came with a group of photographers, just to pose and get their snaps clicked as they put their eye next to the telescope, with the crowd sniggering behind their back at the fact that they were doing this ‘exercise’ when Mars wasn’t visible.
The clouds still blocked everyone’s view. The crowds were urged by the ppl incharge to go home and come the next day. The crowds dispersed somewhat and BL and her family also left thankfully. Suddenly there was lightening and ppl started cheering as if there were some Martians about to land. Someone in the crowd, took a cue and started singing ‘Koi Mil Gaya’. That made the atmosphere a li’l lighter. In a couple of minutes, the clouds moved and now came the last leg of the long journey. The telescopes were focussed and I finally got a dekko at Mars through the telescope. The viewing was pretty disappointing as the magnification of Mars was very little. However I would like to imagine that I saw an intensely red planet with some dark spots on it. After all I did have a close encounter with it. 🙂