I was one of the happiest men on the 21st July 2012 when my fiancé gifted me the book First Man. The book was much awaited by me and I finally got it as my birthday present. First Man is about Neil Armstrong, it’s his chronicle from being a boy in school to being the first ever man to step foot on the moon.
My fetish for the moon and space travel has always been living in me since I first visited the Nehru Planetarium in Mumbai when I was eight or nine. I don’t remember any of it now but I remember to have bought books only seeing their cover if there was a rocket or the moon on it. Professionally I am nothing close to what it takes to be a space traveler but otherwise I could sit for hours together and have a healthy conversation with one.
This is a weird story that I am writing today. It wouldn’t speak of what’s been already spoken, perhaps. But I would eccentrically talk about something that I never realized for the last 29 years of my obsession with space and astronauts. Although I am still to finish three fourth of the book that I have begun reading; I am already a little disengaged from the heroes Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. And if you are curious I will tell you why.
They were two to fly to the Moon, I was told this in school. On 16th of July 1969 Apollo 11 left for the earth’s natural satellite. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin were heroes then and now and the first time I heard the name of their third comrade was when I was answering my mother’s question about the first men on the moon. She was the first person to tell me that there were not two but three men and the third being Michael Collins.
For about forty-three years together the world has associated Armstrong and Aldrin with the moon whenever they look at it. But whoever wondered what happened with Michael Collins who stayed off the limelight. Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine at work when we spoke about walking on the moon and he mentioned how the two of them must have experienced. Then I mentioned the third member and he said, “Of course him too!”
The truth. Michael Collins never stepped foot on the moon. He never stood on the moon being photographed. As cruel it would sound, he never even stepped out of the spacecraft.
I am very eager to read if anything about this is mentioned in the book that is written as a biography for Neil Armstrong. But I am even more ardent to speak about this man who was this close to experience the out-of-this-world feeling but didn’t. My anxiety is to know what it takes to think and be like Michael Collins on the 21st of July 1969 when the first landing foot on the Moon was recorded in the history of mankind.
Collins was the commander of the spacecraft, Columbia. The Apollo 11 mission to the moon was specifically designed only for 2 astronauts. Collins had to leave the 2 men after entering the lunar orbit, as his spacecraft was not designed for landing on the surface of the moon. Michael Collins was regarded to be one of the world’s most experienced aviators then, which is why he was selected for the Apollo 11 mission.
The Apollo 11 consisted of lunar lander named Eagle, and an orbiting mothership named Columbia. Both of these were discharged into space on a giant Saturn V rocket on 16 July 1969. Neil Armstrong was the commander of the Apollo 11 mission with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins his associates. The three men cruised towards the moon for three days inside the space shuttle Columbia. It was Collins’ job to get back his fellow astronauts to Columbia after the lunar lander jets off from the surface of the Moon.
As it had never been fired on the Moon’s surface, Michael Collins was very apprehensive about the reliability of the ascent engine of Eagle that took Armstrong and Aldrin to the Moon. His greatest fear was if the engine fails to ignite, his two mates would be stranded on the Moon forever to die when they run out of oxygen. Although Collins would be in the lunar orbit but as Columbia was not designed to land on the surface there was no way he could be of any help to the two men. Collins swept over the lunar surface waiting for his fellow astronauts to take off from the Moon’s surface. The Lunar Module was separated from the Command Module on the 20th July 1969. “Keep talking to me, guys,” said the nervous Collins as the duo cruised away from Columbia.
Apollo 11 is recalled as a flawless technological triumph but the three astronauts believed there was a real chance for a disaster to occur. “My secret terror for the last six months has been leaving them on the Moon and returning to Earth alone; now I am within minutes of finding out the truth of the matter,” he said. While the two moon landers were together finishing their mission on the surface of the moon and the whole planet earth praying for their safety there was one man who was left alone in the entire cosmos.
As Eagle was off sight from Columbia that was now orbiting behind the Moon, Michael Collins became planet Earth’s most far-off unaccompanied lonely traveler. Technically he was separated from the rest of humanity by approximately 4,00,000 kilometers of emptiness. On the other side, the Moon blocked all radio transmissions possible. He was out of sight, out of touch and out of any contact from any existing being anywhere.
Michael Collins was the unsung hero of the Apollo 11 mission. Charles Lindbergh one of the greatest aviators of America once wrote to Collins after his return, that his part of the mission was of great profundity, he has experienced an aloneness unknown to man before.
Collins answered a few questions at the NASA press release after the mission. Below are my favourite questions stated to him by a reporter asking, “Circling the lonely moon by yourself, the loneliest person in the universe, weren’t you lonely?”
“Far from feeling lonely or abandoned, I feel very much a part of what is taking place on the lunar surface. This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two. I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.”
When asked what was his strongest memory of Apollo 11 he said, “Looking back at Earth from a great distance. I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified facade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment. The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied. Small, shiny, serene, blue and white, fragile.”
“I am now truly alone and absolutely alone from any known life. I am it,” he wrote in his capsule in Columbia on the 21st July 1969.
No content of this article may be copied or duplicated without the writer’s consent. Copyright © 2012 Gaurav Chavan. All Rights Reserved.
For some reason I was always intimidated by whirlwinds. The weather phenomena where a vortex is formed in the air and it circled a place so vigorously to take everything with it wherever it swirled. I often spotted one near my home. And I always paused to stare how it moved around. I remember running around scared thinking the whirlwind was following me when I used to return from my tuitions in the afternoons.I thought it was an unnatural occurrence, it went from place to place and something invisible, and imperceptible emerged from it.
Anyways, I tell you a story today but make sure you don’t have a disturbance around you and it’s the weather you don’t feel like doing anything. It’s an afternoon, raining outside and you are too lethargic to do anything productive. You would want to just sit in bed staring at the wall or the ceiling fan and keep your thoughts flowing in. Or rest on your elbows at the window frame and look outside at the trees, birds, clouds and the rain. The air is moist and cool, you can smell mud at occasions and you are half sleepy. During the monsoons this happens with me so often.
I was fifteen then when I first wrote this story. I remember to have printed each page, madea hard cover book and titled it ‘Scattered Emotions’. It’s been a long time and I do not remember who has the book now. It is there somewhere I am sure, in some form, lost in time. Thirteen years later I am writing the story again. And I distinctly remember everything about it. I distinctly remember every fear.
I am not a fiction writer. I don’t even read much fiction. I think there are a plenty of extra ordinary things that happen in life that delude us to not be life like. Every thing that the mind cannot understand brings fear. In a nutshell, the whole existence of fear is not anywhere outside. It is very well rooted somewhere within.
The analysis of any fear mustconsider the complete fear as a whole. If you leave any parts of it, no matter how insignificant they appear it will lead to an incomplete understanding. The primordial notion of fear has been the greatest apprehension of humanity and every other fear is a ramification of this primordial fear.
The characters of the story are real. Their dispositions are real. The locales described are real. The occurrences and proceedings are real. Everything is just rearranged. The story I tell you have happened somewhere, scattered in time.
Due to layout constraints the entire book couldn’t be uploaded here. If interested, please ask me to email you the PDF. Write to me at email@example.com
Our Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Today, the total world population sums up to 7 billion humans existing on earth and at once. There are 196 countries divided into about 21 major religions. There is a segment that does not believe in god and then there are agnostics. What does all this say? It says that there are 7 billion dissimilar and distinct minds functioning at once and nearly half of them exist oblivious to the existence of the other half.
Now why is the word ‘oblivious’ significant here.
Oblivion is a state of being, of staying unaware of what is happening around you. It is a state of being forgotten. When this unawareness becomes more compelling, you tend to develop a fence around your understanding. And this is a subconscious process. You do not know that you are being oblivious to your surroundings. In a state of oblivion there is propensity for being self-absorbed. And that is the beginning disharmony.
Imagine yourself living in oblivion in your own house. You do not pay attention to what your siblings are doing. You have no idea how your parents are dealing with situations. Your consciousness is limited to your subjective world. You are determined to live regardless. Surprisingly even this is a pure state of harmony. Nobody is causing any harm to anyone. Everyone is respecting, though unknowingly respecting the other’s space. The entire structure of being is in tune. But is this the perennial reality? Perhaps yes, but certainly not the perpetual truth. There are 7 billion people in the world and each one is different from the other in a distinct manner. There are men, women, children, psychopaths, terrorists, doctors, murderers, philanthropists, students, politicians, thieves, teachers and so on. Each one has an own set of beliefs. Each one defies the others’ way of life at a respective moment of time. Each one considers the own subjective world as the only, exclusive and eternal domain.
Last week there was an earthquake in Italy and only Italians were worried as rest of the world was oblivious to it. An 8-year-old Palestinian boy threw stones at the Israeli army during clashes at a protest against the Jewish settlement of Qadomem and rest of the world was oblivious to it. US pop singer Lady Gaga has been deemed satanic by a conservative Muslim group in Indonesia and rest of the world was oblivious to it. Two men lit themselves to fire in Tibet showing that self immolation protests have reached the capital city of Lhasa and yet again, the rest of the world was oblivious to it.
Tanks and artilleries were used against civilians during the recent Houla massacre that killed 108 people dead in Syria. And this is the news of May 2012. Do you think this is known in some parts of Asia and Africa and America? If not, why do you think it isn’t? Heard of the ‘intervention fatigue’, France’s decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan before 2014? How do you think it matters to anybody elsewhere in the world?
I am flustered how everything works and why it works the way it works. I want to understand the dynamics of this isolated understanding of every independent individual. Everyone is thinking differently. Every single thought in each of the 7 billion minds is functioning towards a respective plan, which is in no way pertinent to any almost identical mind. There must be a time, when all this distinguishable, contrastive, conflicting minds think alike and there is consciousness.
Now pay careful attention to what I am saying hereon. I want to remind you of a plane crash disaster happened back about 14 years from now. I distinctly remember that day when I was fifteen and schooling. On September 2, 1998, a Swiss Air flight 111 on route to Geneva from New York crashed into the Atlantic Ocean sometime midnight. 215 passengers and 14 crewmembers were killed in one of the biggest crash in history.
Pay attention to some hypothetical details I would want to form about the happenings within the aircraft before the crash.
Of the 215 passengers on board, I believe 80% must have never seen the other passenger ever before in their lives. Which makes them strangers. There were people of different nationalities, different sects, different faiths, different ideas, different sexual preferences, and different colours and of different gods. And yet they meet at one occasion. But yet again, look close; they are still in oblivion of the other passengers around, which is quite natural. Hijacking of 9/11 hasn’t happened yet and thus no one around is suspicious about any distinct face.
There is boy onboard who is going back home, perhaps alone. He is thinking about the new Close Combat III video game released sometime in 1998 bought by his dad for him. There is an American doctor on board traveling for the World Aids Conference organized by the WHO and he is in his own set of thoughts and ideas. There is a honeymoon couple going to Switzerland to spend a week near the Lake Geneva and I need not be speaking about their thoughts here. There is an unconventional man who does not like the couple’s surface intimacy. There is a Saudi prince onboard, there is a priest, there is a pregnant woman, and there is a reformed convict going back home to see his family. Here, I am dramatizing on just a few of the 215 passengers of the then world population of 5.9 billion.
Each passenger is living in his own world of thoughts and in oblivion to the other 214 passengers. If thought bubbles were visible, there were 229 hot air balloons sticking to one another and mind you, not one blending into another, due to space constraints in the aircraft. Consciousness exists but on a very subjective level. Just then in flash of a moment, with the aircraft’s auto throttle on, the plane violently jerks and there is a speed drop of 0.05 mach to 0.010 mach.
What do you think is the scenario right this moment in the flight? There are 215 individual thought process disconnections, not including the 14 crewmembers considering they are habitual to such circumstantial events. Each of the passengers is now turning left and right to see what happened and there is nothing evidently visible. After a few seconds, everyone settles down. Out of the numerous conscious thoughts each one had, there is one more addition. Will the flight land safely is what each one has begun to think.
In a few minutes there is another rough bump. This one takes away the hydraulic, pneumatic and mechanical power systems within the aircraft. There is a torque fluctuation, occurred probably due to abrupt changes in engine power. The engine fails and the aircraft has lost its velocity. All the 229 people are functioning with just one single thought. Death.
Once again, if thought bubbles were visible, now there is just one huge air balloon triggered with just one thought connecting all the 229 people. The energy of this thought is of a fierce magnitude. It’s humungous. Everyone is thinking the same as the other. Everyone is preparing for the dark sea venture. I am sorry it would be rude to use any figure of speech for events like death. Here is the beginning of a consciousness in togetherness. A consciousness co creation; but towards the end.
There is this moment when everyone has just one common thought. We have such moments in crucial cricket finishes, during examination results and so on. That is the highest peak of energy of a thought if it’s flowing in the same direction as the community is. That is how revolutions happen. This is when Che Guevara’s statement of ‘Revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall’ makes sense. That is how the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ happened. That is how Osama Bin Laden made 9/11 possible. That is how he was tagged the most wanted face of terrorism. That is how India arose for the first war of independence. That is how the Thousand Days war begun in Colombia. That is how the Black September in Jordon happened. That is how the Singing Revolution took place in Latvia and Estonia. These are some events in the history of time, happening at specific times. And this is how we are now witnessing a change in everything around. A transformation is happening. And it is happening in the consciousness in time. And now you experience something, when you acknowledge that small little happening elsewhere which may make a difference into your life somewhere else.
What do you see when you look around today? It’s an honest question to you readers. Do you see an uprising in every aspect of living? Do you see revolutions around and within? Do you see change? Do you see truth and reality differently? Do you see wise people around you more than the learned? Do you see a transformation? Do you see acknowledgement? Do you see a difference in the mental ability of children today than yourself as a kid? Do you see oneness? Do you experience events that happen defying the calculations of physics? Why do you think people have started taking up Yoga and dedicated themselves in learning art of living? Why do you think the Hippie subculture evolved in the 1960’s and slowly spread worldwide? Why do you think we have this subculture evolving again where we have travelers around the world stopping for meditation, music festivals and exploring geography?
Everything you see is nothing but the repercussions of consciousness. It is only in this state of being, this state of mind when you simply witness everything. It is never about doing, it is never about oblivion, it is about being conscious. And when you are conscious about your own being, you are conscious about the universe around you and in this very consciousness you do things and those things, no matter how small they are, change the dynamics of a generic working. It’s a chronic pattern that is tweaked for a change. And this change could be good or bad. It always depends on the measure of population who wants what. Thus I think I can add more when I say that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in some part of the world can set off a tornado in some another part, in the consciousness on time.
Albert Einstein gave the world E=mc². He introduced matter as energy. Everything you see around is energy. The computer mouse you are using right now is energy. And it is the same energy in the vastness of the sky or in the depth of the ocean. Your existence is energy. Your consciousness is the highest form of energy. And when you experience that level of consciousness, you have opened yourself to a whole new dimension of perception, reasoning and knowledge.
It is said that during the times of Ram in the Tretayuga, everything was predictable and linear. Every working had a structure towards the output. Nothing happened by chance. There were no accidents. Everything was in harmony with the other. There was nothing for a good luck or fortune. Everything was just a being. But this design too was changed with lust and greed by the introduction of Ravana that broke the pattern. I believe that the end of Ravana was not the beginning of a good time, but a start of the concept of a bad time.
The time today is nothing but the after effect of the evolution of a new energy pattern then. A slightest disturbance in one part of the world can trigger a chain of events that create a hurricane in another part of the world. The butterfly effect and the chaos theory have been significant in the development and formation of our understanding. The 4.5 billion year old Earth and its 7 billion human inhabitants scattered around the 196 countries that are further divided into about 21 major religions, atheists and agnostics are very exquisitely designed and interconnected within the system of the universe. Everything that is altered in one specific way in this intricate non-linear dynamical system is going to have consequences for each one of us in many unprecedented, strange and unknown ways.
“As the human body, so is the cosmic body. As is the human mind, so is the cosmic mind. As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm. As is the atom, so is the universe.” - Upanishads
My grandmother used to show me the moon in the nights when it would be visible and feasible to her to lift me up as a two year old and stand at the wooden frame window. I do not know how I remember this but have heard that my eyes got bigger staring at the moon. But it is quite natural for kids to look at everything and anything wherever they are pointed. The curiosity to know, to see, to learn, to mock, to win over has always been an adventure being kids.
Today I am twenty-eight and I still stare at the moon. I still take time off to sit by the window and try to look at the stars above. Staying in a brightly lit city it often becomes difficult to see the darkness of the sky and stars are never much seeable. The pollution on a numerous occasions is the biggest obstacle to see the rare and beautiful phenomena of meteor showers that occur in the sky.
Have you seen shooting stars? And how exactly do you feel when you see them? Or let’s make it singular. Have you seen a shooting star? And how do you feel when you see one? Exciting? Happiness? Or is it just another event? I am sure it’s not or at least I believe it isn’t. The other day, I saw a shooting star. In fact I saw 3 of them. And I was completely awestruck. Yes I am twenty-eight and still the happenings in the sky fascinate me.
But the one thing that intrigues me is to know what people feel and do when they experience such events. Like I have heard of people making a wish when they see a falling star. They shut their eyes and make a wish. They make a wish, they pray and thank the heaven. I admit I am one of them. But I wonder, where this all started. Why do we make a wish on this occasion of a falling star?
Have heard a lot of stories and beliefs. Every culture has theory, a notion to every happening. Some say shooting stars are falling angels. These angels are in queue to take over the human souls that are exiting the earth. Some also believe they are falling demons and it is a bad omen to see a shooting star. Some cultures believe it is divine and that is the moment to make a wish come true. I have read this somewhere, that in the ancient times it was believed that the gods in the heaven above sometimes look downwards at the earth to see how it is doing. And while they do, some stars slip away from above like how we sit near an open lake and chuck pebbles in the water. So this very moment when a star falls, it is considered that the gods are looking down at us and it is the right moment to look up at them and make a wish.
This story has fascinated me to much extremes. I don’t know the authenticity of this belief and I really don’t care. To me it’s a beautiful belief to know that sometimes the busy gods up in the heaven do look at us to see how we are doing. Be it an infrequent circumstance but the angels do fall to the earth. Perhaps it’s just a myth, a superstition or an old wives’ tale but it still inculcates a fragile feeble encouraging affirming belief that goodness can prevail.
At a point of time, we all believe in miracles. The believers call it a miracle, the non-believers call it a co-incidence. The ones like me call it synchronicity. And it really doesn’t matter as long as we have that one instance, one tiny moment, when people close their eyes, shut themselves from the negativity, disconnect themselves from the world around and create one positive vibe, one magnificent energy, one optimistic deed to the world outside or to self inside.
When in time I have my son questioning me about shooting stars, I would be telling him to close his eyes and pray for the people. It would be too difficult to explain him those are not stars but gigantic boulders called meteors that fall with fierce rays of light into the earth’s atmosphere across then night sky.
The science of physics will always enchant the mind but the science of faith will always give mankind the hope it needs.
I remember those times when you barely could walk or talk. It was so amazing to take you around and to show off my little sister to people.
You grew older and some of your teeth started showing up. It was so much fun to lift you in my arms and play with you by keeping my fingers under you teeth and ask you to bite me. And you used to try so hard! And all that happened is, your cheeks blooming out and eyes shrinking in.
You were my total entertainment box. I ask you to dance, and you used shake a leg. I ask you to whistle and you used to try with spitting on my face. I still remember your curly hair in where tiny hairclips got lost.
In your growing up, you always have tailed me. I know you won’t say yes to this! But you always were behind me like my shadow. You picked up things from me. Mocked me, do things the way I did it. And I had discovered my first ever fan in you.
You were my complete bundle of joy. It was fun to shout on you and make you do things in fear. It was wonderful to shout at you deliberately and wait for the moment you were about to cry. And then used to hug you tight till you calmed down.
We fought almost incessantly. In every way one could think of. From pulling hair to throwing stuff at each other, we did it all. I had to be the sober one making sure that you wouldn’t get hurt. But you were always in your rage. Remember chucking a nice big pointed spinning top on my head?
It used to be so irritating to watch you stand two and half inches away from the television. One call, two calls, three calls and you never used to move. Someone had to whack you on your behind to have your attention.
I remember the taplis I honoured you with when you used to bend so down on the book to write. Trust me, your nose almost used to kiss the chicken scratch handwriting you had. And I still repent buying you the box of chocolates for your birthday than a cursive writing book.
Didn’t realize when you started primary schooling wearing the blue uniform and red ribbons. It was a huge task to identify you amongst 300 similar looking girls like you when I used to come fetch you on a borrowed bicycle. It was so pleasing to see that big smile from you when you used to see me waiting for you at your school gate. But I realised it later, that the smile was when I was accompanied by the bicycle. I remember a couple of times when I used to come fetch you without one, and you used to make a face like I was taking you to a barber to shave off your head.
For every little thing I used to make you cry for, you used to dial 375**75. That was dad’s office number, about twelve years back. For everything I used to say to you, if it was unpleasing enough to not make you smile, you used to run to the bedroom and dial him with complaints.
Your secondary schooling was another story to remember. Taking you to school for your admissions and then standing in queues to get your school books, getting them home and sitting whole night to cover and name them. I never used to let you write your name by yourself on those books. In fact most of the time dad used to do that for us.
You had an uncanny craving for medicines. Especially balms. From finger aches to stomach aches, you have used a balm in every possible manner. Your abnormal affinity towards medicines was so much that you used to eat Cadbury’s gems like you were taking tabs.
Beautiful memories of you growing. Makes me nothing but nostalgic. Especially today, when I look back to those days when I used to spend hours teaching you to read a watch. And today you being into the engineering side of life. Makes me proud. Like always.
Funny how time flies so fast. Funny how we grow so quick that everything past seems like passed yesterday. Right from you getting sports medals at home for your sprinting legs to your chicken pox, jaundice and hospitalization, remember it all. You had a super quality to get people behind you. You were such a frequent missing person in our apartment. Had to shout out loud your name in every direction. And all the Nehas in the building but you would answer.
You are 21. Grown and almost matured. Have all the sense of responsibility and cognizance of a good human being. Something that is hard work for me is perhaps just work for you. You are already there at my pedestal where I worship the hard working species of mankind. You are beautiful in every sense of the word. You are so important to me that the most wonderful moment of my life is worthless without you in it. You are my support, my listener, my critic and my biggest fan ever. You complement me, you compliment me. Life is and will be so bloody lame without your touché my dearest sister.
Not hoping to be together forever, but we will be together forever and ever. I love you. A very happy birthday to you!
This letter was written to my sister Neha a few years back for her 21st birthday. I found it while cleaning my computer hard drive after so long.