This story was written by Prof. Ganapathy when a 13-year-old student (Std. IX – B) in 1964 in India
It was on the 2nd of January 2064 A.D. that my father, an official of the Interplanetary Police Service got his transfer orders posting him from the Moon to Earth. I was not quite pleased about this for having been born and bred on the Moon, I did not want to go to an inferior planet. And then, I had to continue my education on Earth of all the places. As we had been asked to proceed to Earth at once, we went in our private rocket. We reached Earth in about an hour. I was then reminded that about one hundred years ago, the Americans had landed their first rocket on the Moon, and the journey then had taken three and a half days. What a colossal waste of time in those days!
My father’s headquarters on Earth was at a place called Mathiras. Our first problem in Mathiras was to get me a seat in one of the interplanetary schools. We found that Santa Badena which a hundred years ago was known as St. Bede’s, was one of the best schools. My father therefore conveyed a telepathic message to the Head of the institution. He replied that getting admission into St. Badena was one of the most difficult jobs, and this had been so for over a hundred years.
It was at that time, i.e. 100 years ago, he went on to say, that the then St. Bede’s had hit the headlines when in the glorious period of two short months they had won the inter-school Hockey Cups, the Senior Championship Cup for Athletics, lost the Junior Cricket Championship, and broken four long-standing records in Athletics. I at once made up my mind to get admission to St. Badena, for there was no other school in Mathiras with a honorary tradition like hers. I was asked to sit for an entrance examination test along with other applicants from Venus, Mars and Jupiter.
The next day I landed at the school cosmodrome in my own rocket. I felt a bit strange in this place, for the Earth you know is not as modernised as the Moon. I was then conducted by an unsmiling robot towards a glass dome, which had many gadgets. Later, when I became a pupil of St. Badena, I discovered to my surprise while pursuing some old records and photographs, that robot bore a very striking resemblance to one of the school peons, who way back in 1964 had ushered all new-comers to the Principal’s office.
Very soon, the entrance examination was under way. An unseen hand pushed a button. My body began to quiver and a telepathic question was asked. I replied that A2 – B 2 = (A+B) (A–B). Another button was pushed and I found myself getting the same sensation that I felt some few seconds ago. I said that now the sea was 3 miles away, but a hundred years ago, it was 300 yards away. The unseen hand pushed a third button and some pieces of metal fell down. A bizarre voice said that this was the final question. I had to make a replica of a robot. I found myself dripping with perspiration as I underwent this practical test. But my efforts were successful. A few more buttons were pressed, and then I heard a whirring sound. It was the electronic computer at work assessing my work. A few seconds later an announcement came over the TV saying that I had passed the test. My father congratulated me on being one of the two successful candidates from the Moon. From that day onwards I used to go to school daily in my own rocket, which travelled at a safe speed of only 10,000 miles per hour…. my father’s was a much more powerful one, and he said that it would not be safe for me to travel in his much faster rocket.
At St. Badena, we were taught by machines and the pictures appeared on the TV. During the intervals, my friends and I (some were Martians and some were Venusians) used to go to the school museum. There we saw photographs and other relics over a hundred years old. We were quite amused at the appearance and the dresses of the teachers and the pupils of those years. An old school magazine called “The Bedean” attracted my attention.
It was dated November 1964. How funny the photographs and articles in the mag appeared. The fellows that must have been living in the pre-historic age, I thought. Suddenly, I woke up and faced the cold reality that after all I was still only in 1964. And there is but little hope that I will live to see this dream realised.
Notes from the Author – Oct 21st, 2020
It all started with my searching for my school magazine to show my brother-in-law’s 13-year-old grandson articles I had written 60 years ago to encourage him. Among the articles was one I had written in 1964 about a visit to the Earth from the Moon. Reading the last sentence, “there is little hope that I will live to see this dream realised”, I am now optimistic that in my lifetime I will see the commencement of colonisation on the Moon (considering that my grandparents (all four) lived to their mid-eighties, when the average life expectancy was 52 and my parents to their eighties and nineties when the life expectancy was 58, I have good telomeres in my genes! ).
In the sixties in India all bright students were expected to become doctors or engineers. When I was in XIth grade my elder brother passed away in a road traffic accident and at that minute I decided to become a doctor. When I was in the 4th year in the medical college, my eldest brother also met with a fatal accident. This resulted in my becoming a Neurosurgeon. It appears that my fascination for the Moon has been lying dormant. I would show my first grandchild the Moon from the terrace of our house and I literally brainwashed him, repeating ad nauseum, that he should plan to visit the Moon. He is in the XIth grade now and is planning to study transportation and design engineering along with astrophysics to design transportation on the Moon!!
When NASA and Nokia announced plans to set up mobile towers on the lunar surface to facilitate communication within the Moon and to Earth, I was reminded of my first encounter with the telephone. It was 1958. My father was a senior Government of India officer working in Vijaywada a Tier I small city in South India. We were one of the “privileged elite” to have a telephone at home. The waiting time to get a telephone connection then was 2 years. On lifting the receiver, the operator would ask for the number (a 4-digit number). Trunk calls to other cities had to be booked and would materialise in about 8-10 hours. My father was empowered to book “lightning” calls to Delhi, which would materialise within 30 minutes. Very few could do this. My father had to talk so loudly I would wonder why an instrument was required! And 50% discount was given after 8pm.
Today my youngest grandchild gets annoyed when his video call drops for 1-2 seconds once in a month!!! I deem it a privilege to belong to the “Baby Boomer” generation to have lived in the second half of the 20th century and in the first three decades of the 21st century to see humankind evolve. Belonging to the BC (Before Computers not before Corona!) Era, I firmly believe that technology is a means to an end and not the end by itself. Yes, it is wonderful to learn from my grandchildren the intricacies of the iPhone 12, but believe me, the millennials and Gen Z have no idea of what they have missed.
Thanks to my meeting Prof Thais Russomano in Rio several years ago my interest in Space has been rekindled. The article I wrote 56 years ago shows that the interest has always been lying dormant!! Thank you InnovaSpace for resurrecting this contribution made in 1964.