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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Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone was the first novel that I read. I can see you roll your eyes. But wait, there is more. Two years later, in 2009, I got my first novel published: Tehelka

ChetanThe summer of 2007 was an unusually warm one in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, but the heat didn’t deter the flurry of guests who came to our house on that stuffy afternoon to congratulate me. The IIT-JEE results had just been declared and I had secured an all-India rank of 993. It was the second best rank in the city, and had attracted quite a few journalists as well who had come to interview me. By evening, there was a heap of sweets and congratulatory cards on the table, and my parents were tearfully happy. One of my neighbours presented me with Chetan Bhagat’s first book from his personal library, saying, “Now that you are going to an IIT, it is important to know what not to do there,” intriguing me so much with the subtitle of the book that by the end of the day’s euphoria, I had jumped headlong into its 300-odd pages.