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Love on the Moon and Other Stories

Hannibal Lecter: And how do we begin to covet…we begin by coveting what we see..

Personally I find this relevant, very relevant in fact in the context of beautiful women. This time when a pretty girl passed by me, in the fleeting stupor of her lingering scent, I asked the good Lord, what I could do to be with her. Pick the stars, steal the rings of Saturn, or bring down the moon…?

“Dear Lord, the all knowing, seldom sharing, tell me, I beg of you, I have not reposed my faith in vain.”

“I think she would really like to have the moon,” I hear the Lord’s booming voice with the sound of tinkling bells in the background.

It is thus through the relevant agencies that I have dispatched Chandrayaan-I to probe the lunar surface, and send me back critical data which I would then strategically employ to woo the damsel. I shall unlock the geological mysteries of the moon, bit by bit, as the seductive powers of lunar data take complete control.

I am hoping this will do the trick, but just in case, I have already planned for Chandrayaan Junior or Chandrayaan-II to probe deeper, longer, and this time take coloured photographs. The sepia toned snaps from Chandravaan-I are quite depressing and I have omitted them from my love armoury. I spend millions of rupees to send this contraption to the moon, and these guys save on the camera.

Time magazine did a story in the most recent edition – ‘Back to the Moon’. As the very unimaginative title suggests, it is about the resurgent moon race. On October 22nd India officially entered the fray as Chandrayaan (moon vehicle or moon craft in Hindi) successfully blasted off into orbit on board the 316-ton Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

There is nice full-page artwork with a few astronauts running towards the surface of the moon. One of them has the Indian tricolour on the arm.

I really hope we will do better in this inter galactic marathon than the Olympics. The moon is the medal. Now that is what I call a prize – not some cheap, made-in-China trinket.

India’s space jaunts have been on for over three decades now. Though so far, we restricted it to more boring, albeit practical things, like ugly communication satellites. Imagine a big cardboard box, shrink-wrapped in cellophane with two large solar panels as appendages floating through dark, serene space. It’s not a great sight.

The latest device is not great when it comes to looks either, but it is an improvement.

The mission has more than its fair share of detractors. Quite obviously, the issue is the money, in a country with chronic poverty and abysmal human development indices, spending money on a lunar mission might not be a bright idea.

As a matter of fact, to the credit of India’s rocket-people, the mission has a shoe-string budget of $80 million. That is not a lot of money. In terms of money alone, it is roughly the budget of a medium-scale development project across a few cities, the kind some aid agencies such as UK’s DFID or USAID indulge in to keep their mandate alive. It certainly does help.

India, we must understand, lives in a fool’s paradise. Because of a certain kind of growth and newly developed economic muscle, it fancies itself as a country nearly on the way to being ‘first world’. With 350-400 million people below the poverty line and literally living in muck, it is no better than sub-Saharan Africa with an IT revolution.

The point is not the money. India is not poor. India’s poor are poor.

The money in question could not have helped to create good governance and honest institutions. But is it morally defensible for a country like India to invest heavily in largely exploratory space missions, with starvation deaths contemporaneous to lift-off? Such expensive hobbies should rightly be the preserve of more prosperous nations.

China has invested huge resources in such missions and is very much in the race, it is a country with its fair share of poverty and deprivation. The nations’ morality is the subject. China for all its glory cannot be an inspiration.

I am ready with the many moon stories. Dear lord, give me strength. It’s working, she is in a trance as I rattle out statistics about the moon’s atmosphere.

I can feel it, I can feel her love. It is a great feeling to be loved. She wants to have a piece of moon rock, and not through some pathetic robotic animal. She wants me to go to the moon and dig out a nice piece with my own bare hands. She loves me, she really does. I am overwhelmed; her warm breath so close to mine.

I am now ready for the moon. This solitary manned mission is costing, well, a lot of money. We are at the launch site and I am bobbing along towards the space shuttle in my cool astronaut suit, with the Indian tricolour on one arm and her name on the other.

She hugs me awkwardly and I climb on to the space shuttle ladder. The Aerosmith number, ‘I don’t want to miss a thing’ is playing in my head. At the final step, I turn back, pull down the visor and wave goodbye. There she is. The light brown eyes, the lovely black hair billowing, the blue sky behind her.

Hannibal Lecter: He covets. That is his nature.