Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Big bang is not just a balloon bursting

Since we are covering the sights of Mumbai and getting over our issues with the city, one weekend at a time, it was only a matter of time before Nehru Planetarium popped up in the iterinary. Ever since I planned the trip and started telling people about it, I met an entirely new way to say the word - planet-oh-rium. It was difficult to say if this was the long-lost twin of planetarium but I knew that my journey towards growing up was well on its way that it did not matter. Not too much anyway. Planetarium, planetorium, do you want to come along to that place where they show the stars and the skies, that is the question.

Five hundred seats for the 3 pm show and a boastful House Full sign in the ticket window. Was astronomy facing a resurgence of sorts? Turned out, two schools had decided to take their students for the show. The teeming millions, at least some of us, were there before the show started. Like hungry sparrows, everyone was pecking at food, the crumbs making their way to the floor before making their way to the birds that hovered around. It was pouring, like it always is these days but people had braved the inclement weather to turn up. There was a model of a GSLV on display. Adi dutifully counted down and waited for blast-off but was most mature about the rocket's reluctance to launch into space.

There is an inscription at the door, thanking the kind folks from the Birla group for contributing to the planetarium. A good cause to donate to, I must say.

We went inside. There were niches in the wall in the hall where you could weigh yourself as per the gravitational pull of different planets. Instant tip for weight loss - weigh yourself on the moon. Also works really well for ageing.

What a show. It dwarfs you, like it is intended to I guess. It's all very scientific and it strips the universe of romance. It is all so magnificent, so vast, so insurmountable, and so very matter-of-fact. It's all energy, then matter. Sure there are constellations, the Pegasus and the Orion and the Ursa Major or the Saptarishi Mandal and sure you have heard stories about them or heard astrologers predict your future based on the position of the planets. But wait a second, let us take you eighty light years towards the planets and let's see what you now think, missy. Not recognizing any familiar shapes anymore, are we? The Big Bang, or the representation of it scared the little boy, though he was quite brave about the whole thing. It can get a little overwhelming. That dome and stars dying to give rise to supernovas and galaxies coming into being - it's all quite baffling. The cosmos often comes hurtling down at you and while it is delightful for grown-ups, it's easy to understand why a little one may seek his mother's hand in the dark.

As for me, I loved it. In fact, I'd like to go again sometime. Nothing like a generous dose of the cosmos to make one feel insignificant, I say. Maybe I will even stop reading my monthly horoscope at