This is no drama
Nor just a fancy panorama
And if you’ve heard of Akbarnama
Or Dozakhnama
You’ll know what I mean
When I ask you to read my TRAVE-nama!

My Trave-nama isn’t just an account of my travels into lands that stay forever in your memory. There have been many such travels and I have indeed written of many such excursions and treks and hikes. But this one that I sit down to write of today is more than what surreal can ever be… more than what imagination can dream of being… and more than what even virtual reality can mean.

It began with a funny change that I experienced in myself.

Gods have halos but found I was suddenly stuck with a stubborn compass that was always in the thin air but moved every time I moved. It was sensitive… and quite perceptive. I say this because it began to tell me how and at what speed I must move.

...this is how my TRAVE-nama begins! With a compass-halo!!

…this is how my TRAVE-nama begins! With a compass-halo!!

‘Crawl,’ it ordered imperiously… and I crawled. I was helpless. I was finding the entire experience strange and ridiculous and quite intimidating. So bringing all my powers of concentration together I made a dash for the nearest mirror. Something told me that looking at my image would tell me how true all this really was… and then this bad dream would just vanish.

As I reached the mirror I found I had indeed changed. My compass halo was on my front which is quite unlike the halo that follows the Gods… I was following it. In fact, the compass gave a sinister little laugh and whispered, ‘Happy? I brought you here where you wanted to be. But don’t you panic because I intend to take you on a little trip to the edge of the universe and through a number of time portals.’

‘Why me?’ I asked, trying to bring in that extra edge of helplessness.

‘You’re the chosen one,’ said my compass halo, ‘You will need to come with me and discover the real joys of real travel. But that’s not all. You will also need to bring back magic potions that the earth now needs.’

‘Aha! So I am actually in some Hollywood flick and am about to save the earth, right?’ I said, and added, ‘thank God, this is just a film set.’

‘No, this is real,’ said my compass halo and then went on to tell me that I would need to travel in a machine that was called the STORME and that this machine was capable of travelling in all sorts of terrains.

I said, ‘Of course I know what the Storme is. It is one of my favourite SUVs and I am generally dreaming of owning one soon. But I also keep wishing I win one in some contest.’

My compass halo simply said, ‘Good that you like the Storme of this world. But you’ll be driving the Storme of the universe now!’

‘Exciting,’ I muttered. I was quite accustomed to this halo that seemed stuck to my face and constantly whirring about… but I had now begun to like it a bit. It did tell me exactly where I was going and that is such a nice thing because most of us mortals don’t even know where we are going!

I was then asked to move to my book case in my Study and asked to bring out the miniature Storme that I had with me and that was comfortably kept right next to my travel books. Well, I have more than 5000 books at home and had my compass halo asked to find a particular page in a particular book, I’d even have done that in a jiffy! I know what each of those books has in it… but then all I was asked to do was to imagine that I was sitting in that miniature Storme!

‘That’s it?’ I asked, a little crestfallen.

‘Yes, and you’ll soon discover that zipping around in the universe is possible in this miniature Storme… and that one really doesn’t need massive rockets to travel these unthinkable distances. All you need is an unlimited access account to the time portals! We’re giving you that!!’

Conjuring up a colourful Storme!

That made quite a bit of scientific sense to me… and even though imagining I was sitting in a miniature Storme was a bit far-fetched, I did. I must have imagined well, because I was soon standing on a kerbside with huge buildings surrounding me. They looked almost like the ones I had photographed from the fifth floor swimming pool area of Intercontinental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur just a few weeks back… yes they did uncannily look like them, so I asked, ‘Am I somewhere in Kuala Lumpur?’

My compass halo whirred a bit more than it was necessary and answered, ‘The universe has a lot of similarities spread across its length and breadth. You’ll soon find that even far away planets have terrains as rough and as harsh as the ones you find on your way to Kaza in the Spiti valley. Then there are the same water bodies and the same hills and mountains. There are also the same high-rises everywhere else in the universe.’

‘Then how are we different from them?’

‘Look up and think of a colour and see the buildings change!’

The colourful storme... in our universe!

The colourful storme… in our universe!

I did that and saw the same buildings in different colours… and I clicked them all for you guys to see. I really love sharing all my wondrous experiences, you see. But I then asked, ‘What is so great about this entire colour change business here on whichever planet this is?’

The compass halo told me that this simply meant that even man-made structures were breathing with life and ready to follow commands. ‘Wow!’ I said, ‘our architects back on earth will be mighty pleased to have access to this technology. Imagine having a themed day out!’

‘This is not a joke,’ said my compass halo, ‘these colour changes also reflect the mood of a society and the roads all turn blood red when the road rage emotion crosses the tolerable threshold. This is what makes the people here on this planet realise their folly and they immediately begin to change to more favourable moods and emotions.’

Now this was indeed such a great idea… the surroundings telling you how to behave! This would certainly make us all happier. ‘So what do I do to have this wonderful technology become an inherent part of earth?’ I asked. I had actually loved conjuring up a colourful Storme in that futuristic cityscape of the universe.

‘Nothing,’ said my compass halo, ‘you just need to collect various potions from other destinations. If you do that successfully, this emotive-control technology will be yours!’

Off-roading on my Storme

‘Are you aware that you can off-road rather well even in that miniature Storme that you’re sitting in?’ asked my compass halo. I was thrilled at this because I really wanted to drive away from the cities and towns and into the heart of nature.

Well, this is precisely what we did next. We literally stormed into a planet and zoomed up the top of a mountain… and yes, I was sitting in my Storme! It felt nice to be doing some real driving… even though it was in this unreal looking world.

‘This looks uncannily like the time I was standing on Gilbert Trail in Kasauli and watching the rays of the sun beaming down through some friendly clouds,’ I said, and then hurriedly adding, ‘though this scene is quite different from the colours of the earth. This one looks like our earth is processed through some celestial HDR process on photoshop and I am standing inside that image!’

I was told that my assessment was quite nearly correct. This was indeed the HDR planet and had Silhouettes inhabiting it. They spent a lot of their time up in the sky, of-course, but were quite capable of walking on the ground and even conversing in my language.

‘That’s so wonderful,’ I said, ‘these must be really intelligent?’

The planet of Silhouettes!

The planet of Silhouettes!

‘They’re environment lovers,’ said my compass halo a bit tersely and then pointed out to one of these Silhouettes flying towards us. 

This one looked like a ferocious cross between a giant crab, a skinny donkey, and a determined eagle… and I must admit I was a bit afraid. But this creature just flew down, gurgled out some sputum on its crab claw to rub it clean and then gave me a smile that glowed like a hundred LED lights! It said, ‘Welcome earthling! We were as bad as you guys are and then we had to undergo mutation for more than twenty generations and now we fly around stitching our ozone layer.’ I was told that the Silhouettes were almost like humans looked and had almost destroyed their ozone layer. This caused the shape of their body to undergo mutation and the skin burned to a shade that was a bit of a shiny black. So now they were all ozone-stitchers, flying around and hoping they would get back their fair complexion! I was about to trade some of the complexion-brands we have on earth but thought it better to ask how they went about curing their ozone layer.

‘Aha!’ said the Silhouette, ‘we gurgle anti-oxidants that we then dry and convert into micro-nets. These nets are then taken high above to the ozone layer and then we try a chemical graft up there! This is helping us but is going to take us another million generations to completely cure it. Until then, we’re like this.’ It sighed but also gave me its gurgled sputum in a little bottle, with these words, ‘Go back and tell your people to create this in their factories to cure the ozone layer before it is too late.’

I thanked the Silhouette and came and sat in my miniature Storme… to storme away to…

Yes, the next stop in the universe was a place that looked uncannily like the Sepang International Driving Circuit where just a few weeks back I was driving a Formula 1 car! Yes, this part is quite true, you see… but the rest of the story is too hard even for me to believe!

The Muscle-tussles and the Tummy-tussles

I was simply plonked on to what seemed like a driving circuit and then there was this deafening roar and vroom of speeding cars and I looked in that direction… poised on the verge of panic! I surely did not wish to be in the path of Formula 1 cars as they zip around like they own the circuit!

My compass halo came to my rescue and told me that I could also throw my halo on anyone to make it go anywhere or even not go anywhere. ‘Not go anywhere?’ I asked, somewhat puzzled.

‘Well, what I mean is that you can stop anyone or anything right where they are.’ So I blindly threw a couple of these compass halos on to this increasingly deafening sound. There was a massive screech like cars screeching to a stop and I saw a couple of strange creatures on this strange circuit!

‘I’m Muscle-tussle,’ said one who had really muscular arms and… and did not seem to have any legs.

‘I’m Tummy-tussle,’ said the other who seemed to have a tummy almost as large as the one I sport. I was naturally attracted to this fellow and asked, ‘So why are you both tussles?’

On a planet that resembled a Formula 1 driving circuit!

On a planet that resembled a Formula 1 driving circuit!

The Muscle-tussles and the Tummy-tussles!

The Muscle-tussles and the Tummy-tussles!

‘Because we tussle,’ they said at the same time. I was told that one was always having a tussle with its legs that refused to grow because they thought the arms were simply too powerful now and would ruin their existence. The other was having its perennial tussle with reducing weight. And so both were forever zipping around this circuit… different aims but similar methods! ‘So human,’ I said and smiled.

But they explained to me that they were actually different from earthlings. Despite their tussles and their obsessions with either reducing or growing legs, their race had managed to give their bodies the strength, the power, and the manoeuvrability of an SUV! ‘This makes us zip around racing tracks as well as a terrain that does not have any roads, with absolute ease,’ said one of the tussles, and I forget which one it was.

‘We can go very very fast,’ said Tummy-tussle.

‘And we go up and down hilly terrain just like the Storme that you’re travelling the universe in,’ added Muscle-tussle.

‘This planet is exciting,’ I said, and told them that I was equally fond of fast cars that were stable as well. I also asked them how they could help me make the earth a better place.

‘That’s easy,’ said the tussles together, ‘you humans need to do much more morning workouts than you’re doing right now.’ Saying this he pointed to my flabby tummy and laughed. I nodded and said, ‘I agree.’ After all, I couldn’t really have done anything else on their planet. I found them sniffing the air quite frequently, so I asked, ‘Why do you sniff the air so often?’

‘That’s where our secret lies,’ said Muscle-tussle, ‘take some of this air to earth and let it mix with your atmosphere. It has molecules that will multiply and literally invade your planet.’

‘And why should I do that?’ I asked. I was certainly a bit suspicious and didn’t want aliens to come and take over my planet. I mean I didn’t really like the word ‘invade’.

‘Don’t you worry, my friend,’ said one of the tussles, ‘this air doesn’t have any industrial pollution and is quite powerful. Powerful enough to catalyse your planet into getting up early in the morning and go for long runs. However, these pure molecules will need to be protected. You guys really need to improve your industries in ways that pollution reduces.’

‘But that is a major issue for us,’ I said.

‘Can’t help you with that,’ said the tussles together, ‘we can only give you a sample of our air to transform you guys into sporting personalities. But you need to protect it from industrial pollution. That’s your problem.’

It was at this stage that my compass-halo nudged me and said, ‘Let’s move on. I’ll take you to the planet that will help you counter industrial pollution.’

And so we stormed into the next far-away planet called Reflectius.

The genius of Reflectius

Believe me, this was the strangest planet I have ever been to… the people there were not real. They were mere reflections. What I mean is that I could not see them unless they chose to reflect themselves in an object. The truth is that for the time I was there, even I existed as a reflection. Just look at this picture that I managed to self-click… I am just a reflection there! And reflected in my tablet there is an inhabitant of the planet… the reflecto-genius race of the universe!

The reflecto-genius race of the universe!

The reflecto-genius race of the universe!

These guys, I was told, just reflect themselves in the molten stuff that runs around in large industries… and even in the sludge or the liquid waste that comes out of them… and it is in their reflected avatars that they are able to work wonders. Their planet is known for its massive industries and also for an environment that has remained safe and protected for eons now! These guys are simply reflecting geniuses… they get into the heart of an industrial problem and simply cut out the deleterious processes that are taking place at the chemical level.

‘How do you manage to do this?’ I asked.

One of them who had chosen to reflect himself in my tab, answered, ‘That is no secret. The entire universe knows it. They just don’t have the will to implement it. We, as a race, get into the electronic circuitry of elements and just do some intelligent electron-pushing to convert any villainy there into a virtue!’

He looked at me as if trying to ask, ‘Was that clear enough?’ Truth is that it was. But the next truth is that I still did not know how it could be done. It sounded so great and so simple that you just had to push electrons out of their orbit and push them into others that then converts their traits!

‘How?’ I asked.

‘Understand chemicals and elements,’ he said, ‘coax them into submission. Elements are very egoistic and need to be coaxed very gently. Just show them a path that they prefer taking and they will gladly walk. What I mean is that you need to lead chemicals into processes that help them clean their own selves and also transform them into self-actualising chemicals.’

‘This is too complex,’ I said, ‘and seems too utopian and far-fetched.’

‘No, it isn’t. Just understand that chemicals love being pranksters and tramps… and need to be shown the right direction.’

‘Ok,’ I said, ‘this seems easier.’

‘So all we do is get into them and flow into the right machines,’ said the reflecto-genius, ‘they follow us there and then all happens as want it to happen.’

Seemed simple enough. ‘Do you have a potion for this?’ I asked, ‘and if you have, can I have some of it?’

‘There is no potion for this,’ said the reflecto-genius, ‘you people will really need to understand that chemicals don’t wish to pollute, it is their process that makes them pollute. So if they are sent to the right machines, there will be no pollutants and no pollution.’

This was understandable and I was sure our scientists too understood this seemingly small bit of truth. However, the issue was that we didn’t have machines that don’t pollute. So I tried again, ‘Do you have a solution for us?’

‘You can take a copy of our blueprint,’ said the reflecto-genius, ‘it is all there in this blue liquid and your scientists just need to inhale it to visualise the plans and maps that are nothing but complex mechanical catacombs for those who don’t understand them.’

I thanked the reflecto-genius for the blue liquid… that I still called a potion in my mind and went on with my travels into the universe.

The sunless sunny beings

The next planet I stormed into was dark… yes, as dark as dark can be. There was no sun and there was no light there. Even as I stood outside my miniature Storme, I could sense someone touching me… and before I panicked, I heard a voice, ‘So you are the lucky one from a lucky planet. Just wear this and you shall see all you wish to see.’ I was handed a pair of round stickers that I was supposed to place on my eyes. The moment I did that, I could everything around me… though it all appeared as if this world was in a negative of a film!

The nega planet too is a reality!

The nega planet too is a reality!

‘This is the nega planet,’ explained the negamanic, ‘everything appears like the negative of a film. She is my wife, a negamania.’ I saw them both, cute beings but with large eyes that seemed to be forever wearing those stickers. The only colour was their headgear and the rest was black. I looked around and said, ‘Hey! This part of your planet looks so familiar. This looks so similar to that stretch of Ashoka Road that is just behind Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi.’ I then took out my tablet and showed them that picture from my picture album. They looked at the picture and sighed.

Megamania then said, ‘We are indeed a replica of your planet and represent all that might happen a few hundred years later. We are like your future and wish so desperately that you begin improving. Every time you guys make a good move, we experience a positive change on nega planet.’

This sounded like a relief to me… I had been to a whole set of planets that were so superior to us that I had actually started feeling that we were too behind in this inter-planetary race… but here I was on a planet that actually depended on us… well, the truth just sunk into me. This planet depends on us! This means we have a responsibility!

It is so important to be responsible, I thought, not just for our future generations but also for the sake of these distant planets that depended on us for their sustenance!

I promised them that I would be going back and trying to help my planet be a better one… and stormed out with their wishes.

Back on earth

So here I am now back on earth and waving around like I have won a Grand Prix or a major race on a circuit!

Just then I heard a voice, ‘I’ve stormed into your planet to learn a little about it. You guys seem so fascinated with cars here!’

I turned around and saw this one-eyed creature looking up at me.

Yes, we had a long and interesting discussion but then I’ll talk about it all in a different post. This one is about my trave-nama… and it comes to an end with my visit to the nega planet.

I'm back... and so am not surprised that beings from other planets too travel to earth looking for clues to be better!

I’m back… and so am not surprised that beings from other planets too travel to earth looking for clues to be better!



This post is inspired by the ‘I am Explorer’ contest sponsored by Tata Safari Storme on Indiblogger.




Arvind Passey
30 September 2013