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The Mysterious Stars
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The Mysterious Stars
A short story about Akash's quest for knowing about the heavens and his enlightenment.
[859 words]
Literary Fiction
Somdev Mukherjee
[March 2004]
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The Mysterious Stars
Somdev Mukherjee

        It was an autumn evening in the hill town of Darjeeling. The sun had just set behind the hills. The sapphire-blue sky of autumn with rafts of tiny white clouds, tinged with the vermillion dye of twilight, floating by , and the dark green velvety hills formed, what many a poet may describe as, the canvas of nature-filled to every detail, nook and corner in a riot of heavenly hues.
        Akash looked up at the sky from the courtyard of his home. The full moon, pristine white and ageless,greeted him with a smile as darkness fell. Then one by one the stars came out. Akash’s granddaughter, little Alka, came to him and looked at the star-studded heavens in utter amazement. With a curious expression on her face and shining eyes she began to recite her nursery rhyme-
        “Twinkle twinkle little stars
          how I wonder what you are,
          up above the sky so high…”
          * * *
         Akash remembered his own childhood days. He went several decades back in time and recalled his earliest memory, when the mysterious heavens had beckoned him and he had keenly yearned for knowing about the wonderful stars and the laws of nature.
          He remembered when his grandfather had pointed to the pole star,calling it Dhruba,an ardent devotee of the great lord Vasudeva. Then again, he remembered, how his father had said it to him, “…that Dhruba was a devotee of lord Vishnu, and the Moon god was blessed by lord Shiva, are there in our mythology. But today science has other things to say.”
            Thereafter, his father related the fascinating story of the stars and the planets and of space exploration while curious Akash listened eagerly. “Man may soon land on the moon, such has been the progress of science and technology in our world today,”said his father while drawing an end to his story.
             On yet another occasion, he recalled that he had pointed to the celestial river of light or Akash Ganga and had enquired to his mother about the cluster of stars forming the band. He had learnt from her how young Nachiketa of the legends had joyfully accepted the curse of death given by his father and had departed from the world. He had traveled to the next world-in the realm of the dead by following the Milky Way or the Akash Ganga and had brought back to this world the realization to transcend the limits of mortality. Tears had rolled down his cheeks as he listened to the touching tale of the virtuous child and his rightousness.
              The indomitable desire to unravel the mysteries underlying the heavens-the stars,planets, galaxies and the universe which inspired him to enquire about the marvellous heavens throughout his childhood compelled him to take up astronomy and its related sciences for research as a young man. Akash had always been an intelligent and hardworking student and had keen insight into things and every concept at his fingertips. Hence he could easily fulfill his aim.
               Akash’s researches abroad proved to be fruitful. He discovered much about the mysteries behind the formation of nebulas, of the origin of cosmic rays, giant stars and black holes. Often he would spend night after night inspecting the data collected by optical and radio telescopes at Canada. He would also be busy during the day performing complicated calculations in supercomputers.His publication on how black holes trap light and curve space and how the possibilityof traveling in time arises from this concept set ripples in the world of science and became a breakthrough achievement in the field of Astronomy.
          The love for the heavens was primary to Akash.His marriage to Asha,the birth of his son Ashoke,and all the happy moments of making up a family were secondary to him.Still,he had managed to keep his family happy.
           * * *
          Amidst tamarisk trees Akash noticed the glimmer of a ‘sky lamp’looking towards the heavens.People light these lamps during this time of the year in memory of their ancestors presumed to be dwelling in the heavens.Remembering his relatives and friends who were very near,dear and close to him but had passed away he sighed and quoted softly from Tagore-
       “You leave your memory as a flame to my lovely lamp of separation.”
          The stars twinkled again as a thin mist,which had veiled the skies for a while,cleared out.Akash thought about the myths and mysteries regarding the heavens and also about the scientific discoveries made about them which have only led to further queries.Through the ages people have wondered about extraterrestrials(ET’s),space travel in the future and space wars.Some have wondered about the future of the universe and the fate of the heavenly bodies while others have imagined the heavenly bodies to be divine beings looking down upon the earth influencing the fates of mortal beings.From times immemorial have mankind wondered about the heavens and will continue to do so forever,he had finally realized.
           “Till eternity shall men be filled with awe and wonder at beholding the stars which are truly, ‘poetry of heaven’”-he remarked rather philosophically.
           Little Alka could not understand his words.She continued reciting-
              “…like a diamond in the sky”.



"The idea behind the story is excellent. It appealed to me even more as I myself, like Akash, dream of doing research in astronomy. The inputs from Tagore's works was a good idea. However, I would have liked more vivid description of Akash's stay in Canada. Anyway, I enjoyed reading it. My best wishes to the writer." -- Ushashi Chakraborty, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.


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© 1999 Somdev Mukherjee
March 2004

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