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Bhumi

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

This post has been written for Tata Safari’s “I am Exporer” contest conducted by IndiBlogger.

We called it the ice breaker but its official name was Bhumi.

The year is 3547. Earth survived a lot of events; climatic and political but thankfully we survived.

Over the years we humans had raped the planet and it was dying but the differences of opinions were not subsiding and many continued with the destructive ways. Countries that chose a sustainable model of growth suffered initially but the long-term effects were more than fair compensation.

At the end of the 21st century the United States went nearly bankrupt with the increased pay-outs to its people on medical insurance. Many others moved to individualistic model and the state was a pure governance unit.

Major corporations had become dominant and resources were being bought and sold at premium prices. In this melee a group of corporations decided to innovate and also move away from pure profit outlook to the sustainable profit outlook.

They became a conglomerate and survived the test of time.

India and China dominated the platform of new conglomerates and increasingly controlled the companies and resources of the world but the mad rush from the early 21st century was replaced by a collaboration that became a necessity. War and guns were only last ditch option that no one wanted to explore.

Economics was the new currency.

The world then turned over and everyone invested in developing sustainable technologies. Those that did not, paid money and borrowed the technology. Recycling was a law.

One of the problems that recycling brought with it was consumption of excessive amounts of energy and that drove the engine of innovation faster. Cheap and abundant sources of energy and their optimum exploitation drove multiple innovation races. The first was the energy and communications  race and the other was the space and defence research and FMCG and product innovation that also affected the quality of life of masses that benefitted from the commercial applications of the products developed and also the new innovative products that eased up the life of the populace.

This was when peace became an imperative requirement but it also had a side effect. The population went up drastically along with the life expectancy of human beings. Medical breakthroughs extended the life span and thereby increased the pressure on the resources of the planet and lack of living space was biting. The seas were no longer empty. New methods of construction ensured that the seas were tamed and life extended to those newly created living spaces but that too was not enough.

Then came the idea to explore newer worlds to move populations in a gradual manner.

I am Nakul Sachdev, a part of India’s New World Research and Bhumi is the lead interstellar vehicle of the fleet under my command.

The Chinese and Indian governments pooled in resources to explore reports of inhabitable planets for human habitation and each have been investigating and leading explorations to different parts of the universe.

Two years ago we got back a signal from one of our primary scopes on a remote planet in the Andromeda galaxy. The question was not on the resources needed or the availability of technology to travel that distance.

The first question was whether the signal was by the program or by any other intelligent race that was keen on contact and controlling the scope in any manner. Was there a hostile intelligent race out there? Is the atmosphere sustainable for human life?

Space travel has its challenges; radiation, energy required to travel this distance and space debris and asteroids.

To reduce the travel time and ensure safe travel there were a few more probes launched and the results were verified.

The theoretical study by Einstein that was left incomplete but refined over years and perfected helped build new technologies that helped deploy new probes quickly and discover new planets and map galaxies better and faster. Space travel of the scopes was faster than the speed of light which helped achieve the goal of verification faster.

Then began the next phase of building a space port to cut space and time which was a based on a Unified Field theory and the study on wormholes by a physicist called Albert Einstein. The space ports were placed and these ensured that there was minimal energy used in moving the ships and material from one point in space to another by cutting space and time. Though the cutting of space and time took a lot of energy it was still far lower than what would have been expended by a travelling ship.

The United Nations were not decisive but Indian and Chinese authorities decided to take the risk and explore the signals.

Today, 27th January 3547, the Bhumi fleet is fully prepped for its voyage to a new world. The fleet is not new it’s a tried and tested ship and fully protected by a force field and also against a variety of radiations that are unique to space travel.

Time 0700 hours Earth time; all systems were a go and the space bridge was opened. We had planned to use Earth time as a reference point for all purposes of benchmarking.

The space bridge crackled with energy for a full 5 minutes before it stabilized and the first ships went through. For a brief moment there was communication disruption due to an energy surge in the space bridge as the ships went through.

It was a few tense moments when we came out through the other side and the coordinates matched what the scopes had sent. We had sent out test ships before the real human travel began and those unmanned ships signalled back perfectly.

It was a few key strokes by the crew of Bhumi and the original signal was isolated, tracked and mapped on the surface of the planet new planet. In a few moments Bhumi’s auto intelligence unit isolated the other signals of the confirmation probes and mapped and tracked them all.

Communications was restored between the ships of the fleet and the battle ready formation was maintained. All systems were battle ready by 98.5%. The space bridge travel was a brilliant success and a scope was sent back to Earth as a message that the manned ships had reached safely. It was a message in a bottle for the space age.

It was 2 hours before the entire fleet was prepared and ready.

Nakul’s Address

Nakul was chosen for this role of commandeering this fleet after careful consideration. He was a good mix of a soldier, scientist and compassion. This psychological profile was necessary to keep things in check in a hostile and unknown environment of a new planet.

Nakul watched as his communications crew of connected the public address system of all ships of the fleet for Nakul’s speech.

“Citizens of Earth, you are no longer near home and we have responsibility to fulfil to all those we have left behind. We are given the responsibility to find another home away from home. This is a responsibility we have to fulfil as quickly as possible. We have been training these past 2 years for this very moment.

We are to follow the same principles that have sustained and saved our Earth from destruction till date and not make the mistakes of the past in the new homes that we find for our race. We have come prepared for the worst but let us hope for the best.

We shall be on the surface of the planet as soon as we complete the environmental and physical threat assessment. Thank you.”

Nakul looked at the scientific crew chief, Dr. Arumugam and said, “Initiate the mapping of the planet. Release the Advance Mapping Units (AMUs).”

Dr. Arumugam keyed in the commands and 100,000 AMUs were released towards the planet’s surface. Nakul initiated the first documentation file of the master mapping of a new and probably the first human inhabitable planet outside of Earth.

The planet was designated as Bhumi-I.

The advance mapping units were designed after an extinct animal of Earth called the Cheetah. It had a thin full metal frame with a limited artificial intelligence with the basic commands to map the planets soil, water, and animal and plant life. The AMU was sturdy as well as durable and could survive a lot of rough use. The AMUs were powered by a compact hydrogen core that was redesigned to be environmentally clean and easily disposable or reused. The advance mapping units could conduct experiments based on inputs they got from the scientific team.

The mapping crew was now the heart of the expedition. Dr. Arumugam looked at the data being sent back by the AMUs and sorted and analysed by the ships on board supercomputer and said, “Initial data looks good. I am 99.9% sure that humans can easily survive in this planet. Oxygen levels are holding steady and everything looks good for human entry into the atmosphere.”

Nakul was glued to the 3 dimensional rendering of the planet by the super computer. He ordered the release of the next set of 100,000 Advance Mapping Units (AMUs) to take to the air.

He ordered the entire advance mapping units to go into stealth mode for ease of movement and reducing the fear of any local evolution.

The AMUs were launched into the planet in waves to be able to build up the data in a gradual manner and connect it all such that in-depth knowledge about the risks on the surface and the planetary information of soil or animals can help us document and understand and help the human race take the least invasive method of making this planet their new home.

A total of million AMUs were launched and they scouted the air, land, and water and also drilled down deep into the soil of the planet.

900,000 AMUs were still active after 3 months of data collection exercise.

The AMUs mapped the entire planet; land, air and water its flora and fauna and danger areas and also animals and the bacteria that humans could be infected by. There was much more to learn but with the primary assessment it was clear that life on the surface was possible.

100,000 AMUs were lost in drilling and assessing mineral wealth of Bhumi-I. The planet was as big as Jupiter and abundant in many minerals. Documenting those would require a ground force to be deployed to learn about their properties and how they can be used effectively.

Bhumi-I had longer days because it has 2 stars showering its light on it and these stars were studied along with the planet to assess how they will affect human physiology.

Six months had gone by and the mammoth exercise to study the planet was completed.

The fleet now moved towards Bhumi-I. The designated auto habitat builders were launched in areas where there was water availability and also a firm flat land. The next ships took the first group of humans to the surface.

The auto habitat builders were programmed to create a secure compound. A 50 mile radius was marked by sensors and 3D mapping radio towers as eyes and ears for the human settlement. The compound itself was protected under a force field that would stop intruders and also act as a deterrent and warning if anything got too close or tried to force entry.

The humans first exposed a dog and chimp to the air of the new world. They adapted perfectly. The dog and chimp were released with a tracking collar and a small video attached to their collars. It was a test to ensure survival of the fittest and learn. It was a play on the psychological profile on the inhabitants of Bhumi-I.

The 900,000 AMUs were pushed further to document the planet. They were first brought back in for a check and replacement of their hydrogen cores. Another 100,000 sturdier AMUs were deployed for drilling and mining related documentation.

The human settlement was in constant contact with the battle fleet commandeered by Bhumi. All data collected was sent to Bhumi’s supercomputer for storage and further analysis.

Nakul spent the next 6 months on Bhumi and initiated all fail safe protocols and took the shuttle to the human settlement. As the shuttle descended he saw that the planet looked very much like Earth in its infancy. It was green and pristine. He saw herds of animals that resembled wild buffaloes but these would kill the weak from among them and eat. They had stuck to the simpler naming convention until they knew better about these animals.

As Nakul landed and proceeded towards the command centre, he eyed the new terrain tamers. These were powerful beast of machines and he itched to take command and lead an expedition into the wild new planet. He knew the risks and also the excuses that would be given to stop him but the new terrain tamers were mean machines and he had made up his mind to explore the planet with these mean machines to keep him safe.

They too ran on hydrogen cores and had a custom-built suspension for interplanetary exploration. The terrain tamers had 2 variants. One was the Computer model that was merely to explore and had a lot of safety features the other was a called the Knife whose primary goal was to become the point vehicle in mobile infantry.

On seeing the vehicles Nakul remembered his military days. He was an army man at heart who was trained to survive and these terrain tamers were dated in designs but practical but the heart of the machines had changed over the years.

Magnetic suspension was something that helped drive a lot of new vehicular suspension.

Nakul was lost in his thoughts and was startled when Dr. Arumugam hailed him as they stopped in front of the ground command centre. The doctor made it amply clear that this was a hostile but not necessarily an untameable environment.

Nakul looked at all the data and moved toward the reinforced window. “I am going out with a team in a short exploratory expedition. We should be back in another 6 hours.”

Dr. Arumugam was about to protest but knew it was futile. He realised that Nakul was a military trained leader and he would need to show that he is capable of taking risks. The doctor knew that Nakul had spent a year on the ship and had looked at the health data of all the people who were living on Bhumi-I in the past 6 months and the health statistics had actually improved in the group.

Nakul armed with this entire knowledge walked in to the military wing and was handed the military fatigues. The Knife and Computer team was 20 strong and they all fell in line seeing the commander-in-chief of the mission in front of them.

“As you were,” said Nakul. “Chief, I will be joining you on your exploratory venture outside the gates of the settlement. It’s your command.”

The Chief bellowed, “You heard the man. All set to move in 5 minutes.”

The chief expected Nakul to be slower but the way Nakul packed essentials and weapons, he realised he was talking to a soldier with spec ops training. He was pleased that his commander was no slouch.

The team were supported by the radio towers and also the advance mapping units.

A total of 8 vehicles were taken 4 Knifes and 4 Computers were taken.

These explorations were to test the defences and also document and watch new world take shape in front of your eyes.

Each Computer vehicle had all sorts of security features and documented everything. The Computer looked like a veritable tank with reinforced steel and glass and tubeless tires but its primary objective was to act as the eyes of the group and record everything. The Knife was just the same in build quality but built entirely for carrying all sorts of weapons.

The team drove out of the compound and were immediately encountered by an herbivorous animal. It was pure sinew. It looked like a mix of a horse and a kangaroo but had all its balance on a single leg and tail with a face that resembled a horse. The exploratory team were only documenting what they saw beyond that they had their own nickname for the animal; the horesaroo. This was far removed from the scientific name that it was given by Dr. Arumugam’s team.

Nakul took all the sights and animals around. Most animals were known to him because of the mapping exercise but one question kept him disturbed. Was there any other intelligent life on this planet?

The stealth AMUs were mapping all the things but they did not see any intelligent dominant race among the dwellers of the planet.

Most of the animals reminded Nakul of something similar on Earth but some were totally new. A predator that hunted for food was Nakul’s highlight for the day. The hunter was only visible on the thermograph but nothing was seen to the naked eye. All Nakul saw a rustle of leaves at the far end of the opening and then saw a large moose like animal going down in one single swoop. As the hunting animal lost its stealth, all Nakul saw was the hunter’s dimensions. It was almost as big as the terrain tamers but because it was camouflaged it could take down the other animal which was twice its size.

It was a violent and yet poignant scene for Nakul. This reminded him that the new world may be tameable but not necessarily easy to do.

The team moved forward and decided to move towards the frontier settlement station. This was a military installation on the edge of the secure zone. As the team moved forward, the forest and the sky was a cackle of noises. The screen in the terrain tamer started cross referencing the sounds with the database created by the advance mapping units.

To the minds of this military unit, everything reminded them of something on earth but yet the difference was apparent to them that the basic building blocks of this world were far removed from that of Earth and this had to be understood. The new settlers of Bhumi-I were no better than the first Homo Sapiens who had no baseline to compare the creatures that developed here against their own evolution. Nakul noted this flaw in their exercise of mapping the planet as a whole.

The team reached the frontier settlement station without any incidents. Nakul noted that his ideas were implemented the station was built below the ground level and a road was made to open close to the primary human settlement.

All the terrain tamers were parked one behind the other, such that order is followed and all can get out of the station in case of any danger. The frontier station was lined with high explosive to ensure maximum protection and to cave in the event of an attack from outside.

Nakul accessed the mainframe computer and looked at all the new data that was documented. He was at peace as he reaized that he had found a home and now they had to know its inhabitants.

Bhumi-I was home away from home and its untouched beauty had to be kept intact for future generations.

Story Review – Cheers to Love

July 13, 2013 Leave a comment

This story is written by Renu Sethi who blogs at http://day-to-daystories.blogspot.in/.

The story was one of the stories in the book, “Love Stories That Touched My Heart”.

Before I begin tearing apart the story, I find it necessary to clarify that I do know the author and yet my attempt is to be unbiased in my review.

A look at the author’s blog gives you an idea of how easily she identifies with the human stories. I refrain from calling them love or relationship based fiction because man or woman, we hope that we all have a love story that we can narrate, write or reminisce about.

We hope that our real life love story is truly special and takes our breath away.

To be truthful, the story is simple and you could guess the end of it. It did not have the thrill or twist but holds ones attention because of the simplicity of the story. The characters were normal people and they exist in many of our households but yet we do not see beyond the obvious in them.

The actions of the lead characters are romantic in the real sense and the use of words to express how one feels is done away with.

It does make one think about the idea of love in a relationship. More than words being mouthed, it’s the actions that speak louder. This does raise a question about perception. What if the person we are with does not perceive actions louder than words?

The answer to the question of perception could be a lengthy discussion on its own merit but in this story one can sense the love but no words are used to put it into a dialogue.

One of the best parts about the story is the lead male character, Uday. He is drawn as a smart, grounded man with a mind and heart of his own, with the power and strength to stand by his decisions. In simpler words, the lead male character had a good amount of spine. It does make one wonder, are there such men in reality or is it just a fantasy?

The story does highlight drawbacks of giving it all in a relationship. The lead characters were so invested in each other that they never invested in any other activity or friends other than each other. In the long run, it’s a recipe for disaster and loneliness if one person leaves the relationship, either by death or by choice.

It’s always tough to critically review stories with a quotient of sadness in them. The stories could have strands of reality of the writer’s life attached to it. They have to be treated with a respect unlike any other story.

As you reach towards the end of the story, you realize that what may look like a repetitive life to many was treasured by the characters and the story works its way into your head and stays there.

“Cheers to Love” reminded me of a story I had read long ago where the man described the daily routine life activity he had with his wife as a dance. The man made the bed and the woman made coffee every morning.

The imagery in both stories is unforgettable and stays with you long after you have put down the book.

As I finished reading the story, I was left with 2 questions:

Can every man be like Uday?

Can every man like Uday, find a life partner like Sarita?

Lastly, using the son as a narrator may sound simplistic but yet it works because the son’s love story is left open-ended with a possibility of the son learning from his parents’ life story and being a better man.

Smile at a Stranger

July 7, 2013 12 comments

This post is written for That Tuesday Thingy, an *IndiBlogeshwaris* initiative

The imagery and the music of the Time Traveller draws you into a world of simple truths that many of us have forgotten.

Our smiles have been replaced by scowls and we have truly forgotten how to smile at a stranger or walk around with a smile on our faces.

The video is beautifully crafted where there is a balance of human interaction and it also invests in the solitude and pensive nature without physically isolating the man from the world around.

What really struck me were the smiles on the faces of strangers. If Rahul Sharma is the reflection of common people, then his behaviour is the ideal one where he is smiling and interacting with people and when alone, not lonely, he is almost meditative. The santoor that he plays is always when he is alone and it’s not a performance for people.

With each strike of the santoor chords, it’s an attempt to connect to his inner being and lay the foundation of a calm mind.

The light touch on the strings is symbolic of our minds that can produce marvellous music and be creative with the right amount of pressure or break and produce noise and chaos when excessive pressure is applied.

The playing of the santoor alone is withdrawal from the world, not in disgust, but it’s an act used to center ones being and rejuvenate. For others it could be a book, a walk, good music or even restoring an old car.

It’s an act that you do alone, for yourself. It is a meditative act to bring order to the otherwise chaotic mind that travels faster than the fast lives we lead today.

The music video gave a profound message in its simplicity:

  1. Smile for and at yourself
  2. Smile at strangers
  3. Slow down to see clearly
  4. Have a private hobby or activity

In the pace of our lives we do become self-aware and conclude that we have lost ourselves to the pace. The odd part is when we cannot use the knowledge gained by our self-awareness to reclaim our own lives and fall victim to pace of life; something that is entirely under our control.

As individuals and also as a society we want every moment of our lives to be crammed with action irrespective of quality of the action.

We no longer pay attention to the quality of our interaction with ourselves and others and all we remember are the noise and chaos.

The simple joys of life are doing the disappearing act and gadgets and fast food are taking over.

We have to re-learn to live in the present and create memories that bring back the smile to our faces.

On the path of rediscovery, we have to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of a slow waltz and not lose more time regretting the opportunities lost in the past to enjoy those moments.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , , ,

The Act

July 6, 2013 1 comment

He had an epileptic seizure and lay writhing on the floor. One of the terrorists kicked him around. The terrorist was enjoying it while the hostages watched. Some of the hostages had an upsurge of anger while some were worried for the poor soul.

The terrorists were having a jolly laugh.

They never saw him recover, stick a pen into the throat of one of the terrorists and acquire a Glock 17 from the terrorist’s shoulder holster.

He emptied the 17 rounds into the remaining 2 terrorists using the terrorist he stabbed as a shield.

The human shield was an unnecessary precaution. The other hostage takers died laughing and were nowhere near ready to retaliate.

It all ended in few seconds and was a blur for the rest of the hostages.

He let his human shield drop to the ground and the terrorist was writhing, trying to breathe.

He calmly ejected the empty clip and reloaded with a new one from the hostage taker’s bags.

He smiled widely at the writhing terrorist on the floor and exclaimed, “Nice acting, huh!”

He shot the terrorist in cold blood with an evil smile plastered across his face.

All the terrorist could see was the grin as darkness engulfed.

Categories: Fiction Tags: , ,

Love and Peace

July 2, 2013 2 comments

The balaclava clad soldiers moved with purpose into the college campus to control the students protest and get them to disperse. Led by a no-nonsense soldier they went up against a crowd of students.

She was angry at how a peaceful protest was being targeted by the soldiers.

The students clashed with the soldiers and she lashed out her hand and her nails scratched the uncovered portion of the face of the man leading the soldiers and yet he held his stand.

He barked in a voice that rang clear above the loud slogan shouting of students, “Fall back 10 steps. You will not use force. We are here to keep the peace, no force or retaliation of any kind. That is an order.”

The entire line of soldiers barked a terse and loud, “Yes, Sir.”

They took ten steps back and held the line.

She saw the soldier breaking line and moving forward. He came closer to her and she saw what her nails had done to his face as she stared into his eyes; the only exposed part of his face.

There was no violence in them. They held her gaze; calm and composed.

“We are here to keep the peace. You can protest but nothing burns nor does anyone get hurt, else we will be forced to respond.” The soldier had a finality in his voice that ended arguments.

She reacted instinctively by wiping the drop of blood that had collected on the edge of his balaclava and muttered, “Sorry”

It was a picture that became the talk of a nation and the start of a love story.

Categories: Fiction Tags: , , ,

The Late Entrant

June 30, 2013 2 comments

She entered the room in a wheelchair to the surprise of many. All eyes were on her for she could never walk but her eyes were searching for him. He walked up to her and her heart skipped a few beats. He lifted her in his arms and kissed her like they were the only people in the room.

Even the musicians stopped playing and the party came to a standstill.

As they broke off the kiss she caught the eyes of the women in the room; all yearning to be loved.

A prayer escaped her heart for her lover.

Categories: Fiction Tags: , , , ,

The Sniper – Part 6

June 23, 2013 1 comment

Meeta and John

Meeta was lost in thought and sipping on her tea. She never saw the hand come close to take her tea-cup and she was startled and worried.

John – I think you are over-thinking what we do. We are regular guys with a job and someone has to do it so we look at it as a day job much like yours.

Meeta – Why not gather the proof and get them to the court?

John – To what end. The evidence would either be inadmissible or the statements would be retracted. The idea is to send a message that we are on the offensive and we do not care how many terrorists they create and send. We intend to kill them not give them individual cells to live out their lives. Many of them are citizens of this country and if the government decides on capital punishment then there are clemency pleas and threats that an action will derail peace somewhere. This system is simpler. We report to some authorities but we keep them from completing their goals.

We leave the evidence behind to satisfy the news agencies and the cops and it also helps in alienating the family from the world of crime and terrorism to a certain extent.

Meeta – You probably have an answer for human rights violations and this keeps you out of Geneva Conventions.

John – The people who the terrorists kill are also humans with equal rights and in a war of such ideologies, its best to put ones ideologies with one’s country and its people. As for the conventions, those apply for armed forces. We are a black ops covert team that if caught, are disavowed and allowed to rot in prison.

Meeta – So why do it?

John – Personally, it makes me feel like James Bond only without the gadgets and the girls and the cool name. My boss though is much similar to M and quite the irritant.

Meeta – The politicians allow this to happen under their noses and you work with impunity.

John – Politicians don’t know we exist. We report to the ever working bureaucracy. Politicians come and go every five years and most times earlier these days. If some politician tries to get too close and question too hard we take care of the erring politician democratically.

Meeta – Democratically? What on earth does that mean?

John – We leak secrets of the politician to the press and make him untouchable even to his own party. We weaken his caste connection by showing he is just a black sheep. This way the politician is fighting his demons and by the time he gets done with his wars and fire fighting, he has lost his political career and clout.

Meeta – So you are connected and repugnant too?

John – (Smiling) Very much so. So would you like to join me on a stake out and possible interception of terrorist activities in India?

Meeta considers her options and accepts with the knowledge that she will get to see the inner workings of the elusive killers she was tracking but there was a doubt in her mind that was gnawing away; were these people trustworthy and why invite her to watch the way they work? The reason about the positive spin was really not convincing her.

Categories: Fiction Tags: , ,