Updated: Jun 7, 2021
“Badrinath Pandey is selected as the leader of our next project, Mission Venus". Announced the chief of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in a huge gathering of bespectacled scientists, politicians, media persons and the executive members of the organization.
With a broad smile Badrinath waved a victory sign to the huge gathering. Congratulations rained henceforth. Cameras flashed capturing him from every angle. Reporters gathered around him with microphones to record his statements. Badrinath talked gently to the media, but was unable to conceal his ear to ear smile.
Champagne corks popped throughout the celebration. People cheered lifting their glasses to the toast for the evening. With jaunty steps, Badrinath walked around the hall exchanging pleasantries with the high and mighty. Envious eyes tried to excoriate him with filthy glances unable to gulp down his success. Juniors followed him throughout the lounge craving for his attention. Badrinath enjoyed every moment of the evening beaming with pride.
Floating in ecstasy, Badrinath came back to his nest almost at midnight riding in a blue limousine. The chauffeur in a white uniform opened the door of the car with a gentle bow. A slightly drunk Badrinath stepped out of the car and looked around. His neighborhood was draped in darkness, but his residence was shining brightly with decorative mini bulbs. Whole house seemed waiting eagerly to welcome him. His wife blew the conch shell, least bothering about their sleeping neighbors, and showered flowers on her husband with utmost devotion.
Everyone wagged him a thumping welcome except his computer engineer son, Raghav, who was sitting with a laptop in a corner of the living room, wearing a wicked grin. Quickly, avoiding a tussle, Badrinath began narrating about the eventful evening to his wife and daughters, who were listening to him with acute attention.
“But why on earth should ISRO select you for this mission, when you even do not know how to send a SMS from your mobile?” Raghav commented sarcastically.
These types of comments from Raghav always irritated Badrinath. Raghav never missed a chance to make fun of his father.
Badrinath was hurt due to his behaviour, but thought not to indulge himself in unnecessary arguments with his narcissist son, instead made his way towards the bathroom. A cool shower was what he needed most at that hour.
He couldn’t get a wink throughout the night. Slipping out of his quilt silently, he went near the window and looked passionately at the dark sky. The moon and stars appeared more close to him. He felt like talking to them all through the night. Very soon he would be going very near to them. Unable to conceal his excitement he danced quietly crooning an old Hindi song, without disturbing his wife who was sleeping unaware of her husband’s activities.
The days that followed were full of excitement and happenings. He had to shift to a quarter inside the campus of the space research organization, and had to stay there till his mission was accomplished.
His mornings seemed to have lost their glory, as he was waked up every day before 5 o’clock, as guided by his physical instructor for exercises and yoga sessions. He was also put on strict diet. They said, he must be completely fit and sturdy before going for this mission.
Badrinath, craved for the piping hot parathas stuffed with potatoes and lavish spread of butter, which his wife used to serve him with curd and pickles. The cups of milk-tea too vanished. His dietitian allowed him only green tea, that too two cups a day.
Every time he drooled reminiscing of his past, he would admonish himself saying that, to achieve something great he must shun these petty things.
With utmost determination he followed his physical instructor and dietitian’s advise. At night he would make video calls to his wife and daughters and would give detailed descriptions of the day. He would avoid his son most of the time so that he had not to face his unpredictable queries for which he never had any satisfactory answer.
Badrinath was quite sure that he would learn all the technicalities, which were needed to make the mission a successful one. Though everything was quite critical, but like an obedient child he went on learning things, which a while ago was beyond his intellect.
Days rolled on. Badrinath felt as if he went back to his youthful days. His bulging stomach was long gone. He used to run five kilometers every day, and then spent his morning hours in exercises and yoga. Followed the days chart and obediently ate what the dietitian advised for him. Studied sincerely till late at night like a school going boy. Learnt with diligence all the electronic technologies and computer applications, not to appear dam fool before anybody anywhere in this world. No more he wanted to be ridiculed by his own children. He basked in his new found world like never before. Every day sessions with his team of astronauts and technical instructors made him aware of the problems and obstacles they might face during their mission. Though at first he was a bit apprehensive of the success of his assignment, but with passing days he grew more confident and focused. His other team mates were young men belonging to different regions of India, almost in their early thirties. But that never deter him from doing his part. He was in no way physically weak, or less in intelligence. His determination showed that his decade’s long experience mattered. By accomplishing this mission he wanted to prove before his son, that he could seamlessly handle all the electronic gadgets that the young generations boast about.
The D- day arrived. Badrinath made a video call to his family the night before. It was full of emotional talks. His wife wiped her tears with the edge of her saree. Even Raghav sent him a colorful well wishing message on WhatsApp. With misty eyes Badrinath bid a goodbye to his family.
Dressed in space suits Badrinath and his team boarded the spacecraft amidst applause and cheers from the ISRO members. The spacecraft was about to be launched in the wee hours of the morning to avoid the weather disturbances. Everyone was ready in the ground with their jobs. The crews were all in good humor and shape. They were cracking jokes with each other while looking at the details before the launching of the spacecraft.
Badrinath took charge of the situation. Within minutes he would be in the space among the twinkling stars and planets and meteors. Excitement rose to its peak as the time of departure closed on. With a big jolt the spaceship rose to the sky. Everybody was perfectly belted in respective seats, viewing the sky through the window glass. After sometime they crossed the realm of the earth atmosphere and entered the space. The launch was successful. People on the board congratulated each other. Badrinath felt relieved. Now there were so many things to do inside the spaceship. They had to go through all the readings that the computer was showing. They were hovering on a dark space gazing at the distant light of the stars and other celestial objects. Their spaceship would take 3 months to reach their destination. They had stored enough foods for the team of five to sustain till the end of the mission.
Badrinath wanted some time of his own to watch the stars and planets flying around their spacecraft. He grumbled at himself for not bringing his ‘Sony camera’, that he carried everywhere with pride, along with him. He wanted to click some pictures of stars and planets, and display them as mementos on the showcase of his living room.
At times he felt that his spacecraft will collide with a shooting star or a meteor. But skill fully it would pass away and Badrinath would get back his breath. The excitement was beyond imagination. The crew members would turn wise take rest or eat.
Badrinath always remained alert as he was the leader of the team. He used to go through all the messages sent by the ground operators of ISRO, and would watch attentively the computer readings.
One day as three members were taking a nap, and he and one other member were observing the functioning of the spacecraft, suddenly they came near a meteor like object, which never appeared in their readings before. The spacecraft started shaking severely. Badrinath at once took his seat and asked the other person to wake up all the crew members. The spacecraft was shaking beyond control. Badrinath was unable to stay upright on his position. And then a booming noise reverberated around him.
“Hey, wake up. Why are you babbling in such a strange way?" Badrinath’s wife shouted at him shaking his shoulder.
“Oh! I don’t believe this...you followed me to the space also. Why are you distracting me by pulling my space suit at this dangerous situation?” Badrinath mumbled with angst.
“Hey are you dreaming? Every day I tell you not to sleep with those headphones. Don’t know what you listen to every night. Now get up quickly and bring some vegetables and fish from the market.” She retorted back and went to the kitchen.
Badrinath got up with a jolt. There was no spacecraft, no meteors or stars moving around. He was in his bed in pajamas and ganji, drenched in sweat. Sun glowing like embers in the sky.
With a bitter face he came out of his bedroom. The desk of Municipal Office Kolkata, with stacked files appeared before his eyes.
With an unhappy face he looked at the sky from his tiny balcony.
“What is your problem if I try to live my dream at least in my dream? Before accomplishing my assignment you sent your brawling messenger to wake me up!” He grumbled.
“Mummy says, you won’t get good fish in the market, if you go late.” Said his youngest daughter and hurriedly left the balcony without waiting for his reply.
Giving a stern look towards the kitchen he entered his bathroom to wash his sweaty face.
A teacher by profession Moushumi Bhattacharjee is an avid reader and a passionate writer who loves to jot down every experience of life that fascinates her. Many of her poems, stories and articles have been published in e-papers, magazines and newspapers.