By Ratnottama Sengupta

So much of sci-fi uses science as a starting point and then uses fiction to fill up the gaps in our present knowledge. We use what we know today to imagine a different tomorrow –- a better tomorrow — for the world. Still, sooner rather than later, sci-fi that looks out-dated as science fiction becomes a scientific fact. Don’t we all know that Sage Valmiki wrote in Ramayana of the Pushpak Vimana ( mythical flying chariots in Hindu lore) and the giant bird Jatayu that clashed in mid-space aeons before the Wright Brothers wrote their names into aviation history or before the Central Science Laboratory in UK estimated that worldwide, the cost of bird-strikes to airlines had soared to US$ 1.2 billion annually!

But why does this possibility of fiction becoming a fact excite me? Admittedly because of my association with Me and I, which my father, well-known author and scriptwriter Nabendu Ghosh, had written for his two grandsons, and was translated by my son Devottam Sengupta for his grandpa’s birth centenary. Published by Hachette India, the novel breaks the barriers of space and time. Let me quote from the synopsis to give readers a glimpse of this. “They all had the same question for Mukul: ‘Why didn’t you recognise us? And why did you look so dark?’ Mukul was perplexed. The day had started as any other Sunday morning would, with him going out to meet his aunt, his friends and his mentor Noni Kaku of the Telescope. But when everyone, including his own parents insisted that he was lying about his whereabouts, Mukul had to look around for this imposter. And he found Lukum, who had travelled light years to meet his intergalactic ‘twin.’ Little did Mukul know that he had set out on the longest Sunday of his life…”

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Mohsin Hamid recommends books that feature alien life-forms: The Telegraph

Mohsin hamidIf it’s a pre-9/11 sensibility you’re hankering for, that bygone era when Arab-seeming tribes of natural-resource controlling jihadists could still be cast as heroes in an American bestseller, look no further than Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965). For advice, check out Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (1979-1992), in which you will be informed that the secret to flying is throwing yourself at the ground and missing. To transcend gender, crack open Ursula K LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). To enter a family (while leaving, or at least twisting, the space-time continuum), seek out Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962).