Dare To Dream
It was a momentous day. Bindi and Chandu were on the stage, addressing a press conference. Shutterbugs, mics, people, all around! Similar thoughts were playing in both their minds. Had they ever dreamt that they would be here? Like this! What had they dreamt about? Wandering in the space; stepping on to the Moon, or the Mars, or may be even Jupiter? The years seemed to be rolling by, one after the other, like the fleecy, white clouds in the sky.
“Arrey maa, don’t take away the potato and the onion from there, please; they are my Jupiter and Mars,” cried Bindi as she ran towards home. Chandu followed her in equal distress.
“Stop all this nonsense, Bindi. Laddu kaka is coming home for lunch today and the vegetables I have cooked, would fall short. I don’t know why he can’t inform us a bit in advance. Arranging a meal in such a short notice is such a big problem.” Maina, Bindi’s mother, muttered as she walked into the house. Bindi and Chandu were crestfallen, seeing their Jupiter and Mars gone from the solar system. They stood near the model of the solar system that hung from a mango tree with multicoloured strings, in the small backyard of their thatched house. The Sun, the Earth, its planets, other stars, all were made from different objects, such as stones covered with cloth, ball covered with crumpled coloured paper, etc. etc. The Sun, a big football, torn from its seams and hence discarded, was covered with a bright yellowish orange paper. Bindi, with Chandu’s help, had made the solar system, to the best of her capabilities and knowledge. She turned to go into the house to find replacements for Jupiter and Mars, to fill up the gaps left by her mother.
Twelve years old Bindi lived with her ten years old brother Chandu, in a small village. Their parents lived hand to mouth, and barely managed to feed the four ever-hungry stomachs. Their father Nanku was a cobbler and mother Maina would go and do odd jobs in the households of the privileged families in the village. Being so-called untouchables, Bindi and Chandu were not allowed to study in the village school. Both sister and brother would go there everyday to sweep and clean the school, though. When the school would start they would keep sitting outside classrooms, listening to the teachers intently, and would try to grasp and retain as much as they could. Over a few years, both could read and write and had a good basic knowledge of the subjects taught there. There both of them, among other regular students, got exposed to the subject of Geography. They were thrilled to know and understand about the Earth that they lived on, and the vast Universe that they were a part of. Their hunger for knowledge grew unrestrained, and they craved for more. The Geography teacher saw that hunger in their eyes one day, when he had come out after class. He saw these two craning their necks to see the drawings related to the universe that he had drawn on the black board. Next day, he gave them a few books to read. Bindi and Chandu could not believe their eyes. It barely took them three days to gobble up everything that was there in the books. Now, every night when the sister and brother would lie down on the ground to sleep in the open, their eyes would be transfixed on the sky, trying to see all that they had gathered from the books. Till late night the two would be talking to each other, about the stars, the planets, the Milky Way, the Pole Star, and everything else that they could identify. Their quest to know more kept on increasing in leaps and bounds and that was satiated continuously by the Geography teacher of the school.
One day, a small team from The Astronomical Society Of India visited the village school to make the children aware of the Universe and its wonders. They showed a film on Kalpana Chawla, an American astronaut, and the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. Bindi and Chandu sat glued to the ground outside the class, watching the film.They could not take their eyes off the screen that showed the spacecraft, carrying the wonder lady to the space. That someone could go to space, had never entered their minds. Henceforth, at night, they would try to visualise themselves flying up to the sky. Now their only dream was to go to the space!
Dr. Arun Banerjee, a world-renowned scientist in the field of Astrophysics, was the key person who had floated the idea of taking this science to the masses. He was instrumental in going to big cities as well as small towns and villages, to various schools, showing them different films on Astrophysics. He was passionate about his subject and wanted as many students as possible to be really interested and knowledgeable about it. He had come to the school where the film on Kalpana Chawla was shown, and he had seen the wonder and the hunger for the subject written all over on the faces of the brother-sister duo. He called them to the rest house where he was staying, and spoke to them for quite some time. In no time he could guage their eagerness to learn and the passion for their dream. He then asked them if they were ready to accompany him to Delhi, where he stayed, for studies that he would sponsor. Bindi and Chandu looked at each other, wide-eyed, trying to grasp the meaning of what they had heard. Dr. Banerjee told them that he would like to visit their home in the evening, to talk to their parents.
Dr. Banerjee managed to convince Nanku and Maina that, seeing the passion for learning in their children, he was keen to give them an opportunity to fully attain their potential. While talking with them his eyes suddenly fell on something dangling in the small backyard. He got up and reached for it, to see the solar system made by Bindi and Chandu. With an appreciative smile he stood next to it, and admired the model. Bindi and Chandu were more than eager to answer all his questions. By now Dr. Banerjee had completely made up his mind, that he would take these two children under his wings. He soon left their place, with an assurance that they would hear from him soon. In less than a week, Bindi and Chandu were sitting in a train headed for Delhi, accompanied by a person Dr. Banerjee had specially sent. In Delhi, after working on them for a few months, Dr. Banerjee made both of them sit for the Open School Exam and they both fared exceedingly well. Their brilliance amazed Dr. Banerjee. And then onwards there was no looking back. Both the siblings left no stone unturned in acquiring every bit of knowledge that came their way, and soon they were shining like stars. Though they won scholarships and went to the best of the universities for their studies, they at times had to endure the jeers and sneers of their fellow students on their vernacular background, unsavvy looks and not-so-cool lifestyle. It definitely was not easy to take it all in their stride, but their dream helped them through. Now they were here at NASA, being cheered and felicitated for being the youngest ever, to go to the space.The siblings had done it together! Both of them, together, had made the trip to space.
Much as the siblings had tried, through all these years, they could not get their parents to take a flight. How ironical it was that the ones who always dreamt of flying in space had parents who could never bring themselves up to even sit in an aircraft. Nanku was terrified of flying and Maina never wanted to do anything without him, so their parents could not be present there to share the glory. The siblings took the flight to New Delhi, the following day. They went to Dr. Banerjee’s house to see him. Dr. Banerjee, who unfortunately was bed-ridden due to an accident, was overjoyed to see them. He felt immensely proud and received them with open arms. Copious tears of joy fell from all three pairs of eyes.
Shortly they were reaching their village. They felt a bit awkward to see their pictures on large hoardings, on the way home. The siblings, who some years ago were not allowed to study with the others, were now heroes. They reached home. Nanku and Maina would not leave them for a moment. They wanted to hear it all, from them. Hours passed by. It was time to sleep. Bindi and Chandu could not get a wink. Lying on their beds they kept gazing at the star-studded sky, as transfixed as ever. This was where they had dared to dream, and how! What set them apart from the other dreamers was probably that these two saw only the dream; its magnitude was of no consequence to them.