Author's note: This is a work of pure fiction. Any resemblance to any persons, place or thing, living or dead, is but a matter of pure coincidence.
There is such a wealth of tribal folklore in India that has been collected assiduously by both colonial and post-colonial ethnologists and anthropologists that this collection of myths, folklore and fables would easily fill the largest library in the world. If these are impossible to collect and publish in one place then perhaps we may be able to data-mine some aspects of the cosmology present in such folklore and give it some representation nevertheless. One way to do this it to think that our tribal folks in their stories, fables and folklore imagined a universe that was significantly different from ours. What was the nature of this universe? I have read some of these, and since the original stories are to a great extent published and already available for reading, my attempt here is to build on that reading and create a tribal science fiction.
An Exploratory Story
There was once a man named Bhikkhu. Bhikkhu lived in a forested village and thus had plenty of space in which to roam, play his flute, graze and tend his goats, or to lie idle on the wet grass, gazing at a setting sun, followed by the rising moon, and then the stars. This he did for some twenty-five years of his life.
And then one day, as he was lazing on his wet grassy-bed, gazing at a distant star, he was reminded of a story his old grandmother had told him long ago about one of the constellations that were very visible to him right now. She had said that all good men of his tribe who have died had become stars of that constellation. That leads, Bhikkhu thought, to the simple conclusion, that other groups of stars were then also ancestors and friends who had of other tribes, who had either died separately or together. She had said further that on some nights of the year, these star-men descended to the earth to ask after their respective clans’ welfare and brought for them gifts.
However, she did add that these star men looked a little different from their tribe. And that depended on which clans they belonged to when they were alive. If their totem was the Kusum flower, or the palm tree, or the tiger, or the leopard, or the lion, or the jackal, or the deer, or the Mahua flower, or the Jamun tree, then their bodies were altered suitably after their death and before they became stars. However, dead or alive, they remained kinsmen and attached to their respective clans and therefore posed no threat at all to the people they met on their infrequent visits.
Bhikhu's mind then turned again to looking at the stars. He suddenly saw a very bright shooting star, and what is that he wondered as he heard a heavy object thud, with a loud splash, in a nearby pond that he knew so well. On this moonlit night the water of the pond looked very inviting for a quick dip and a bath, however, Bhikkhu, naturally, had other questions on his mind, as he did hear that thud and splash, such sounds as he had, never before, in twenty-five years of his living memory, he had ever heard. So he proceeded a little closer to the pond to investigate the source of that sound.
The waters of the pond had a slight ripple, but no more was indicated, as to what might have fallen in it all so suddenly. Then he gradually leant forward and took some of the pond-water and drank it out of impulse, perhaps a sudden thirst generated by this sudden event. Gradually as his eyes focused enough to be able to see the pond water more clearly in the bright moonlight he saw an amazing thing. He saw a number of very strange fish swimming in the pond water as it was visible to him at that point in the night. so without further thought and out of plain curiosity and without remembering anything of his grandmother's tale Bhikkhu reached forward and literally took one of these fish in his hand. it came easily and without any struggle whatsoever and neither was it huffing and puffing like fish usually do if they leave water. The first curious thing Bhikkhu noted was that the fish had very fishy whiskers.
Next that it lacked gills. What sort of a fish is this, thought Bhikkhu? And I wonder if I can eat this one. He continued looking at it for some further spell of time. No fishy stench emanated from it, like it does from any other fish. And the fish as he soon noticed was not quite dead either. Next he looked more closely at the pond water in the bright moonlight. There were approximately three types of fish, according to colour - the pink ones, the blue ones and the red ones.
A thought suddenly came to his mind that the pink ones were good fish, the blue ones, he would have to be careful with, and, the red ones, as their colour suggested, were best left far and well alone. Presently he had a pink fish in his hand and he continued to look at its visage in the moon light. It was certainly very large, as fishes go, and must weigh at least a few kilograms. Aside of its whiskers it sported two feelers, like those of snails, at the very front of its head. Its eyes, Bhikkhu thought, were by far, the most interesting part.
They were glowing a little greenish, in the dark, and seemed to look right into his and through his eyes right into his mind. And then, again, was Bhikkhu reminded of his grandmother's story about clan ancestors descending from the stars. Was this fish one of them? The thought arose. If so, thought Bhikkhu, what am I now supposed to do? Grandmother had died a long time ago.
Could it be her, right here, looking into his eyes? How am I to deal with this ancestor? Shall I take it back to the village? These entire questions flooded his mind so that Bhikkhu stepped back from the pond and looked to his restive goats, the stars above, and then began a mid-night trek back to his village, with this strange fish in-hand.
It was now nearly midnight and Bhikkhu was greeted only by the raucous barking of the dogs of his village. Hedi, Hedi! He said to quieten the dogs, and then slowly found his way around the narrow footpaths, herded his goats into the goats’ enclosure in his compound, and then rattled the latch on his door to wake up his wife. His wife, also a village-woman called Dhenki, woke-up, and opened the door complaining at once of his late coming and as to what was the potential reason.
Bhikkhu said nothing at all and lowered his head, fish in hand, and entered the very large hut. Inside the dying embers of the cooking-hearth illuminated his forty square foot hut. His wife said that his dinner was ready. He laid down his wooden staff and his hatchet, flute and some fruits and roots he had collected during the day, on a mud-shelf by the fireside and then turned to speak with Dhenki.
However, before that he accepted a glass of very sweet and cold water which his wife had proffered him, seeing him sweating and panting from his daylong exertions. She did not, even as Bhikkhu began drinking that glass, notice what he held in his hand, owing to the fact that the dying embers of the hearth did not generate enough luminosity for the purpose.
After Bhikkhu had drunk his fill, he started talking.
"It is strange what happened today."
"What indeed, did happen".
Bhikkhu extended his hand and proffered the very large pink fish he had picked up and carried from the pond to his wife.
"Why, that's just a fish. Do you want me to cut it and cook it up?"
"Oh, No! Not, at all!"
"Why, on earth?"
"Precisely", said Bhikkhu, "This fish is not from the earth at all"
"I see! Then, where, kindly, can it possibly be from?"
"Well, you see. It is a long story..."
"As it usually is…", said Dhenki, released a yawn, and started putting together the dinner, warming it, squatting near the hearth, lighting a kerosene lamp, and waiting for Bhikhu's latest story, to roll on. "You see dear Dhenki", continued Bhikkhu, "as usual I was lying next to the pond where we graze our goats every day. And then suddenly there was a loud noise like something falling into the pond. And then when I went to the pond to investigate what it was that fell into it, I saw a number of differently coloured fish swimming in it. You know very well that our mountain fish do not grow to this size", here he paused to let his story thus far sink in.
"So what if they usually don't. Maybe the gods are kind to us this year?"
"Gods? Kind? This Year?"
"Yes. I mean this strange looking fish could have grown to this size and colour purely from natural reasons. Remember what huge mushrooms we had for dinner a few years ago. Our mountain mushrooms, usually, do not grow to that size".
"Yes dear, I see your point. But for the life of me, I cannot help imagining that this fish is something else. Here, take it in your hand and see."
Presently, Dhenki takes the fish in her hands and examines it by the dying embers of the hearth and beside the kerosene lamp.
"Yes, this pink colour is a little funny...and why has it got the feelers of a snail? I would, most certainly, refuse to eat anything like this, cooked or uncooked."
Patiently, Bhikkhu, added, "No, dear...nobody is suggesting, at all, that you eat it...indeed it is one of our ancestors, in the sky, come back."
"You are not here referring to your Grandmother's tale???"
"Yes, indeed, I am."
"But that is what your Grandmother said, not mine."
"Yes, but that does not discredit what my Grandmother also said!"
"Fine, then...Let me have your theory in a more comprehensible form."
"It is like this, Dhenki Dear. My grandmother believed very firmly that our totemic ancestors come to visit us once in awhile and bring gifts for us. However, they do not look like us. Now study this fish. It has no gills, it does, however, have feelers, it is hours since I took it out of the water and yet it is alive and breathing in some way that we do not understand.
Also, I shall here mention, that, and using my grand-mother's parameters, if this is a totemic ancestor of ours, that is my tribe, then it would communicate only with me. Now, when, I first held this fish, in my hand, a great serenity descended upon me.
Not a trace of any fear at all remained, which I felt, at once, as I heard a very-loud splash of something falling into the pond; that even you have heard of by now. Then I stepped closer to the pool of water, and by the even insufficient moonlight at this time of the year, I could see these luminous fish swimming in the water. They were this pink, red and blue in colour.
I left the blue and red ones alone, as they looked dangerous, and took this pink one in my hand, which now lies before you. At once the universe swirled in my mind. I was reminded that we are not alone in this forest abode of ours, and, that, it is not our tribe alone that inhabits it, nor, indeed our neighboring tribes, but also spirits of this world and the next. Very soon I felt a gentle presence next to me..." said Bhikkhu.
"And, who do you think that was?" prodded Dhenki
Bhikkhu said, "That smelt just like my Grand-uncle! His sweat, his peculiar dirt and his very identifiable grime."
Dhenki, yawned, and looked at him, not one bit convinced, “You wouldn’t have meant that Sheku Chacha of yours who was so well known for his slothful behaviour?"
"Yes, Yes", cried Bhikkhu, "It is that selfsame Chacha. Oh, how I loved him, when I was but a little boy. It is true he did not achieve much as a shifting cultivator, nor hunter. However, he and I, spent much time together sitting next to that same pond and throwing stones into it. He used to regale me with such fantastic stories as would make your mind spin"
Dhenki, bored at this point, with mention of the spirit world, and a no good relative of her husband's, thought giving a turn to the conversation, a good idea, and thus, prodded Bhikhu's, at this point emotional narrative, towards the phantasmagoric.
Dhenki, “So. Do go on and tell me one of your Sheku Chacha's stories which you thought were so fantastic."
"Oh. You would like to hear, would you, now?"
"Yes, yes! Please go on. Do tell me", pleaded Dhenki.
The hearth fire sputtered a bit and some of the logs in it cracked-open, with a thunderous noise, sending up a shower of sparkers, which is quite common in tribal hilly locales and on such a cold night as our Dhenki and Bhikkhu were engaged in this very historic of conversations, according to the tribal calendar.
"Oh, there were once two huge snakes...”, started Bhikkhu, " All the Jungle was in absolute terror of them. But that was for no one particular reason, as every bird and bee, even a mosquito, lowly as it may seem, is our ancestor, re-born, this way or that. But that was at the very beginning of this Earth"
The hearth fire sputtered a bit again.
Dhenki asked, "And then what?"
Bhikkhu, "And so the terror of these two brother snakes spread far and wide even as they depleted steadily the living and non-living creatures of that forest. They spared none, men, Women, Children, trees, plants, the grass...they ate them all-up...they destroyed all crops...ate up all the fruits and vegetables...drank-up all the water from the streams...and at the very last...they reached for the skies.. to eat up the stars..."
Dhenki, "And then?"
Bhikkhu, "and then, I think I shall have a drink of water, before proceeding any further".
So saying Bhikkhu reached for the earthenware pot and scooped him a cup after cup of cold water until he quenched his thirst. Having done that he restarted the tale.
"And when the snake brothers reached up to the stars they quite forgot that the stars are but our ancestors, even theirs, and it is not simply possible to gobble-up dead ancestors"
"Aha", said Dhenki, a little perked-up by the silver lining in Bhikhu's until now very sorrowful narrative.
"Phir kya hua", said Dhenki.
"Phir, Kya. Un dono ki gaand phat gayee."
"Gand phat gaye?'.
"Hahn. Tycho Brahe se pucho naa! ki exploding star to swallow karne se kaya hota hai?"
"Ye, Tyco Brahe Kon Hai?"
"Are hai na ek, Behn. tum kai ko tension leta?"
"tension..kai ka tension..bol na bhai?"
"dekh behn..abhi apun ko shaan-patti nai dene ka, kya...batta na handi main kya tha?"
"sach bolti re...panee tha.."
"Aisa pani...wah..bhai aisa pani...bhai, aisa pani to bohot ddeen se nahi piya that...thoda sa aur de na...."
"pani naheen...handiya tha re...aur apnee tribal society hai hee saali egalitarian....tho apun be thoda sa lagaleyala hai, kya..."
"Handiya..sach boli tu...akhi...akhi..."
"Han...akhi Bhandup "
"Han akhi bhandup main apun ko koirala ke naam se jante"
"Just as I am Protime Bedi", said Dhenki.
Here the forest fires finally sputter and die down altogether until the morning.
The night has been filled with dogs barking whining and what not. Forest noises. Toads mating calls, Jhingur Chik-Mik,. An uneasy night. a good one for ancestors to descend. however - the sun shines slowly, coming up slow almost as if it is afraid to get a parking ticket, mist all around, the goats paw the ground restless-ly inside tribal huts, stinking with their piss and shit, waiting to have a go at the soft-grass of the morning-dew, where only midnight hares and hogs roam, which makes a good-chew. The morning, unlike Alaska, is never white in the Indies. Slowly Bhikkhu gathers himself reaches for his Lota and heads for the forest, with his Lungi upturned, for his morning ablutions. A slow half-hour later, when he has glanced at all the familiar plants around him, as most villagers of his hamlet have favoured locations, and has studied the dung-beetles at their best, he decides to wind-up his freshening process and heads back to his village for his many daily responsibilities. He has to hack wood and hew water. Wash his clothes. Fill up a few earthenware pots with water, bring them back to the hut, and then and only then, and after his breakfast has been served, would he depart for the hills again in the company of his goats, and so to look into the matter of the ancestor-fish, in the daylight glare.
Thus on this appointed day in February, Bhikkhu counts his goats, which number twenty in all, and then waves his stick to goad them to move on. The herd of goats then bleats their cognizance and move into the general directions of the forest. Today, Bhikkhu is determined to visit Chando Pahar, where he had been the previous night, near the pond, and from where he had picked-up the ancestor-fish. It is indeed a long, but pleasant walk, as the morning sun is coming up, and the goats chew a little grass but generally cooperate with Bhikkhu so that he is able to reach Chando Pahar and the pond before too long. Along the way he has thought variously that his people have always believed in spirits like the one that is the keeper of all the tigers. He is usually a man who has been killed by a tiger and has then turned into a spirit. he roams about the forest, very fierce in countenance, and all tigers owe him allegiance. Thus was the fish that breathes out of the water a spirit incarnate. If so then what indeed was it an embodiment of? What are her properties? These all were very perplexing but to Bhikkhu, very urgent questions as he arrives by the pond.
Here is surprise is doubled. The colour of the water, which until yesterday had been very clean, and whereas the pond-water had been potable, today is had become mucky, green, filled with algae and all sorts of sloshing and squirming type of pond-life. The red, blue and other fish he had seen yesterday were to be seen nowhere. They couldn’t possibly have walked away in the span of a night? So what indeed had happened, Bhikkhu wondered.
His chain of thoughts ran something like this. I have seen plants grow. They start from the smallest of pollen then turn into seeds, slowly the infant sapling burgeons, and then after a very long time indeed the plant takes shape, much later it becomes the size of tree it should be. All trees do not grow to the same colour, shape, size, nor, indeed, do their flowers look or smell the same. Take the difference between the Mahua Tree and the Jamun Tree. Thus if the fish were to grow into something, what indeed, would that be? Logic suggested that they would grow into something resembling fish. However, as he, and Dhenki, had already seen, this fish was anatomically similar but qualitatively very different as it could breathe on land as well. Then he remembered his grandmothers tale and come to a conclusion in a flash - Star Men. The immediate question that then arose, to Bhikhu's mind, was - what on earth would they look like? How would or how could a fish transform into a human for them to be called Star-Men? How would he at all recognize them?
His mind drifts this way and that. Clay figurines. He had seen his Grandmother making many of these when he was a child. Some of these had human forms but not entirely so. Some of these he could not even recognize as properly human. Which of these? Which of these indeed, could he possibly, recollect, in totality, or, at least in part, as far as their features are concerned? How would such a recollection be significant at all to his present enterprise? And, then, from where does derive the images of the gods of his people, Bhikkhu thought.
Surely, there is, another story, there, Bhikkhu thought. Imagination, his grandmother had told him, is at the source of all human creative expressions like agriculture, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing, laying the flute, drawing pictures with Atta (or flour), wall-paintings with vegetable colours and dyes, and ultimately fashioning figures out of clay. Bhikkhu was skilled in other matters too. He could fashion a lowland plough in a jiffy, make bows and arrows with metal heads etc. Clay figures however were not in his area of expertise. Yet, seeing is believing, and knowing. Thus, the question, that rankles his mind stays where it is - what would be the shape of the humanoids that would emerge from the fish, he had seen the previous night? Like a flash of light, the answer emerges, from his mind, too - like humans! So that answers it, he thought.
His next thought, very logically, turned to his hearth, house and housewife Dhenki, in the context of the fish-ancestor he had brought home the previous night, and in keeping with the pond-fishoids, he must also, by now, have transformed into a lost and previously forgotten human relative. And With that thought, and as it was still mid-morning, Bhikkhu shouted a command to his goats to wander not-too-far, and bolted back homewards. As he approached the village, yet afar, he could detect a strange, almost fishy-smell in the air. He thought, but then all creatures carry one sort of body odour or another. Thus, arriving home, he found a very aged and very bearded old man sitting on one of his charpoys, smoking a Bidi. Bhikkhu had suspected that he would be a star-man and hence hastened to touch his feet and offer his profuse Salaam, for starters. Then he shouted to Dhenki to prepare some tea and serves some sweetmeats to boot. It is then that the bearded old man took cognizance of Bhikhu's presence and shifted his eyes from gazing at the landscape around the village to Bhikkhu. Thus spake the old man:
The old man said, "My name is Bhringaraj. I come from the very distant star Pradyot and I am your great-great-great-grandfather." Bhikhu's life, until then, went by like a flash through his mind's eye. At last my suspicions are proved correct. The truth-value of my grandmother's tale at last is also vindicated, he thought. More such thoughts came and went and at last Bhikkhu regained his senses enough to be looking at his ancestor, thus appeared, and began to formulate some elements of a potential conversation with him. "Dear Bhringaraj Ji. We are indeed honoured that you should have thought of coming down to our humble abode from such a distant place. Do tell us what brings you here?" said Bhikkhu. Bhringaraj took a long, humoured and kind look at his descendant and quite without laughing at all said, "Dear Great-great-great Grandson. What has your Grandmother or Mother named you?"
"Uduchi. Bhikhandas Uduchi", said Bhikkhu. "Oh, Good.", said the old man, “Then we are still sticking with our totems.", and continued, "Do you have any brothers and sisters?" "yes, seventeen", said Bhikkhu, "Ten brothers, and six sisters." 'Pray, tell me their names.", said the old man. Said Bhikkhu, "Well there is Asvagandha, she is a sister, Isabgol, he is a brother, Khair, he is a brother, Neem, She is a sister, Jayaphal, She is a sister, Chiraita, also a sister, Harra and Behera, both no good brothers, Dalchini, a sister, Lavang, a brother, Mirchi, a very good sister, Sonth, a very nice-smelling brother, Hing, also a very nice smelling-brother; Dhaniya, Pudina, Jamun, Mahua, Bel, Barhar, Katahal and Amaltas, all very good brothers. So dear ancestor, come from the distant planet Pradyot, these are the names." "Ah. But their number exceeds." "Yes. We use the Sexigesimal system of counting, or didn't you know? it is the latest and quite a craze. What numbering system, dear great-great-great-grandfather, did you all use in your time?”
“Oh, the quinquennial or some such system, see with this confounded constantly expanding universe of ours our space-time experience is tending towards an orange like structure and we are currently occupied with the mathematics of this problem and have had to conjure quite an another number system. You see, even on the distant planet Pradyot where all your ancestors now live, we still follow the totemic system and have hence this underdevelopment number system named as the Alphalpha system. The archivist of our quite another sort of archive, which if you are interested, I shall seek to explain later-on, insists that it is the ancient Greeleeks, rather than the ancient Indians who formulated the first concepts of the cosmos. the debate between him, and he is ancestor to another tribe of the Nilgiris, the Bda, and us from Bemba, rages -on, even as we work in this fantastic library of ours, on this Alphalpha system of numbers. at one level, dear great-great-great-grandson, I feel the utter futility of this debate since if our ultimate human ancestors all descended upon the earth at the same time, then who is to say who was first and who was last in defining the behaviour of the universe as behaving this way or that? Rather childish, then, this proposition, of who came first and who last? Nevertheless, our latest researches show that the human that is the earthly human-brain compartmentalizes categorizes and hierarchizes every bit of data we take in through our sensory organs. This, as we are only now discovering, in this unusual library of ours, run by Mikkhu, the librarian of the Bda Tribe of the Nilgiris, may not be the best way to store sensory-data. There must be another system whereby we may bypass these futile categories and singularity may be introduced into human memory. Which is to say that we ought to be able to remember everything and all at once so as to confront the multivariate problems facing your planet all at once. Look at where the categorized-thinking data is leading us. While we mend one component another runs astray, and so on!”
"Well, then, dear great-great-great grandfather, what is so distant as your planet Pradyot may not necessarily have the answer to this problem all by itself as the saying goes all that glitters is not necessarily a star! Please try to use our latest sexigesimal system and see how the mathematics of the space-time curvature or singularity problem is affected by our system?" "What an absurd idea, this system of yours. It is not even precise to what we are trying to count, namely your brothers and sisters, how on Pradyot will it solve the space-time singularity problem? And what about the multivariated-ness of a given problem. Only if the variables may be numbered and quantified may we measure their variability from the standard? Isn't it?"
Bhikkhu, " Look here great-great-great-Grandfather. Let us agree to disagree until Lunch." Bhikkhu calls to his wife, Dhenki, and asks her politely, to bring lunch for the three of them. Dhenki is shy of the descended and absolutely very senior Father-in-law, demurs to lunch with them, and instead would lunch in her kitchen, brings to the duo, two Thalees filled with hot steaming rice, some hot steaming Dal, some spicy mixed vegetables and two largish cups of very spicy mutton that she has been preparing as the ancestor and her husband have been discussing the nature and state of knowledge-processing in this planet and that.
Bhikkhu, "Dear great-great-great- grandfather. Let us lunch and then, first, i would like to hear how this library of yours on Pradyot works." "Ya. That's O.K.", says great-great-great Grandfather Bhringaraj as he digs into what has been served without further ado. Gradually the lunch is over and they both decide to take a brief siesta on the many cots which are available in Bhikkhu's homestead. As sleep takes over Grandfather and Grandson, the nearby hills and valleys, his wife Dhenki, and his goats are regaled with a bewildering variety and intensity of snores, which presented as it is in duo is no less than a modern-day sonata of sorts, perhaps even an Opera, such as Don Pasquale.
At about four in the evening the slumbers of grandfather and grandson are broken rudely by two he-goats quarreling and they are thus awoken to their incomplete narratives of libraries of other sorts on the planet Pradyot.
Bhringaraj, "You see, grandson, on Pradyot, we have gone beyond the print and the electronic versions of libraries. It is all oral for the reader to catch exactly what is being said in a work. thus we have archived all the works ever written on this planet and many others and Mikkhu's greatness lies in that he has had these very large number of works converted into their verbal or auditory form. Thus it is that in our library we sit and listen to works rather than read them sensu stricto."
Bhikhandas Uduchi, "Aha. So along with totem here, there is oral tradition there!"
Bhringaraj, "Yes, yes, My Boy! Totem here and Oral Tradition There! That is how the universe moves. How long would you be reading books for I ask you? What would you do when your eyes are no good for that purpose? Would you then chose illiteracy?"
Bhikkhu, "No. Most certainly not. OK. Then tell me Grandpa, what other features does this interplanetary library of yours have?"
Bhringaraj, "For instance, grandson, we have an infinite number of books, standard and as I just explained the entirely phonetic ones."
Bhikkhu, "And all the ancestors of Indian Tribes are on your Planet Pradyot?"
Bhringaraj, "That is Right?"
Bhikkhu, "So how many ancestors in all, eh Grandpa?"
Bhringaraj, "36, 000000000 at a moderate estimate"
Bhikkhu, "My goodness me! 36, 000000000. That by far outnumbers the total population of our whole planet"
Bhringaraj, "So what of it? Consider that modern humans have been on the Indian Subcontinent only 60000 years, give each generation a life-span of about a hundred years, divide 60000 by 100 to give you the number of generations, and multiply it by 60,000000, which is the current tribal population of India."
Bhikkhu, "That is right. About thirty-Six Trillion"
Bhringaraj, "Yes. That is thirty-six trillions of ancestors and not anything else, so how many books do you think our interplanetary library needs to have?"
Bhikkhu, "Well if an average ancestor would read about 100 books a year, for starters, we would have to multiply 36 trillion by a hundred to give us a basic library."
Bhringaraj, "Ok. So now we are getting somewhere. But how much is 36 trillion multiplied by a hundred? Cor Blimey mate, in our simple day to day tribal life in India we have never had to deal with such astronomical figures before!!! When did you say dinner would be served, and what indeed are we having for dinner, may we have some tea right now? Do call the good woman of your house?"
Bhikkhu, "Hold it. Granddad." And then he calls-out to Dhenki who acknowledges it demurely from the kitchen and let's him know that dinner is ready and is on its way. Bhikkhu then asks Bhringaraj, "Tell me Granddad. Do you have Handiya on Pradyot?"
Bhringaraj's eyes light-up at the mention of Handiya like a starry-starry-night.
Bhringaraj, "No, no, Dear Grandson. We are not allowed Handiya at all on Pradyot. They say, you have had enough of it on Earth, so please spend all your time here reading and writing." "Are you suggesting that some of that may be available with you?" Bhringaraj here looks at his Grandson with a very benevolent and pleading look. "Sure thing, Granddad, Plenty of it. Just give me a minute."
Presently, night has already fallen and thus Bhikhandas Uduchi removes himself from the cot where he has been sitting in front of his ancestral paternal grandfather, and moves into another dark or rather dimly-lit part of his hut, and rummages. Finally, he removes a heap of clothes and finds an earthen-pitcher full of about five liters of Handiya and lugs it back to where his grandfather is still seated and drawing on a freshly lit Bidi. His eyes light-up as he sees his most worthy grandson bringing a more than generous helping of Handiya. Bhikkhu also places on the ground a small cloth carpet, sets down two small glasses, some chutney and fried grams, chillies, salt, and invites his grandparent to come sit with him on the floor. Presently, Bhringaraj moves his limbs and sits down cross-legged with great difficulty, Oohs and Aahs a lot, and says that on a cold night like this Handiya is the only cure for such aches and pains which he has due to his advanced age. Happy he is, though, and nevertheless. Slowly, the duo, sip away, or rather knock back, the Handiya poured gently from the pitcher into the two glasses, and soon enough their tongues loosen, and Dhenki's latest culinary marvel sends its pleasant tidings through the aromas wafting forth from the kitchen.
Bhikkhu, "So Grandpa. Tell me."
Bhringaraj, "Heh heh heh."
Bhikkhu, "No. No. Don’t be shy."
Bhringaraj, "Can't you wait a few more minutes. The cold is just about leaving my body, grandson."
And then, and in the meanwhile, in a near palaeobotany lab sat someone deeply absorbed, with a sample she had just placed under her petrological microscope, and which was derived from these same hills. When she had finished using the microscope and after having examined the sample of a fossil tree derived from these hills for the twining of the various minerals, she suddenly but surely gasped, "Golly. This is Jurassic."
Then and only then did she look out of her lab window and caught an early morning sort of glimpse of the fog and cloud-capped peaks of these same hills, and smiled wanly.
Smiley Abraham had just hit a major discovery of sorts. A sense of gentle equanimity descended as she reached laughingly for her coffee-mug.
And took a thought-break.