My Moon Is Made Of Green Cheese, Not Titanium

It has not been a particularly good fortnight for people of my vintage, brought up to regard the moon- that “silver deity of secret night”, as the poetess Lady Mary Montagu put it- as an object of mystery and romance cloaked in an impenetrable celestial halo. It has been the staple of Hindi films of my era- remember Mukesh’s “Chand sa mukhra…..” or that haunting duet of Raj Kumar and Meena Kumari : “Chalo didldar chalo, chand ke paar chalo…”? Ours was also the moon that belonged to everyone, the Hindu wives at Karva Chauth and the Muslim brothers and sisters at Id. No more, unfortunately, for now it has been stripped of all its mystery and wonder and has been appropriated by the scientists, engineers, salivating capitalists, and of course, Mr. Modi.

I distinctly remember when this planetary disrobing began, forty-four years ago on a night in 1969. I was then in the St. Xavier’s College hostel on Park Street, Calcutta. A few of us had gathered in the house of a friend, Karan Deva, on Camac Street, to listen to the live commentary of the first manned mission to the moon, and to Neil Armstrong’s historic words ” A small step for man……”, which would have got him into a lot of trouble in today’s Woke world for being sexist and disregarding the other sixteen genders. The journey that began with that small step has more or less culminated, for me at least, with the landing of Chandrayan and the Vikram Rover on the south pole of the moon on the 24th of August. Some vestiges of the mystery still remained, however, as I watched the space craft hovering over its landing spot, but even that disappeared the moment Mr. Modi made his inappropriate appearance on the TV screen. That was a lunar eclipse, if ever there was one.

The poets, songsters, lovers and dreamers will now have to go back home and seek some new source of inspiration, for the moon now belongs to the politicians, rabid nationalists and the venture capitalists counting their dollars. Its days are numbered. In a few years it will be carved out among whoever constitute the G-20 or G-420 then, its innards shall be mined and extracted to cater to the relentless greed of a species which by then would have fouled its own nest irretrievably and made it unlivable. Those who destroyed our own planet will be the ones who will leave and build their condos on already identified spots like Alphonsus, Lunar maria, Mare Tranquillitas, and, not to to forget, our very own Jawahar Sthal and Shiv Shakti. And that Biblical prophecy- “The meek shall inherit the Earth”- will finally come true, for the rich will abandon it and the meek shall have no other choice but to continue to languish here.

The revelations of Chandrayan so far are a mixed bag. Bangaloreans have much cause to rejoice, for the Rover evidently has had to negotiate its way through a myriad craters, something which the residents of this town do twice every day: they will feel at home on the lunar surface. Our tipplers from Kerala and Punjab are also a relieved lot: Chandrayan has reported that the moon has plenty of ice and water, so our Bacchanalians need to carry only the Blender’s Pride and Uncle Chipps on their inter stellar journey. Our faithful wives should also be a happy lot: it appears that the moon’s surface has no water of its own, all the water there consists of the millions of liters offered to the moon by devout wives for millennia at the Hindu festival of Karva Chauth. It’s good to know that their waters have not been wasted, but will now be recycled by their husbands in conjunction with the daughter of the grape. The bad news. of course, is that admiring Romeos and Lotharios will now have to find some other simile to describe the objects of their affections: the Rover has established that the moon’s surface is not, as hitherto thought, as smooth as Meena Kumari’s cheeks, but is more like Om Puri’s virile, pock marked kisser. As someone said, however, you win some, you lose some.

And talking of winning, here’s an idea for Niti Aayog (which appears to have run out of them for quite some time now): the government should hand over ISRO to our leading industrialist and the 23rd richest man on earth (give or take a few ranks, depending on whether you put your trust in SEBI or Paranjoy Guha Thakurta). After all, this gentleman already controls all other modes of transport with his airports, sea-ports, terminals and highways; we shall only be squaring the circle by giving him space travel also. And who better than him to exploit all that titanium, magnesium, silicon and aluminium so abundant on the moon, what with his experience of denuding our forests of these minerals for the last ten years? The moon venture will be an off-shore venture, of course, and no one, it appears, is as adept at locating off-shore funding as him. I suspect that he may even have an insider on the moon to help him out- the Man on the Moon, who, as every child knows, has been there for thousands of years: we’ve all seen him on certain nights, and it’s high time we used his insider knowledge to bolster our Vishwaguru status.

Super moon at Puranikoti. Photo by Sidharth Shukla

I watched the Super Moon in my village, Puranikoti, with my family on Wednesday last, with more than a tinge of sadness. It was there above the tall, dark deodars, a massive white bone china plate, a medallion on the ebony breast of the night sky, its benign glow bathing my world with the infinite beauty of nature. I was sad, because some things should be beyond science and the avarice of man. My moon continues to be one made of childhood memories and green cheese.

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