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Science fiction with social twist: Pressing button on Hiroshima day to save human race

By Rathin Das* 

There was nothing unusual about Mitun's birthday bash. He turned 15 today, having born in the centenary year of mankind's first use of destructive power of the atom. His father had told him several times that exactly a hundred years before Mitun's birth, human race had tasted the essence of mega deaths by dropping the first atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That was the significance of the year 2045 A D when he was born.
As the guests left one by one, he did not care about the mankind’s horrible deeds of a century before his birth. Instead, he concentrated on the packets left on the table by his near and dear ones, and even by those not so dear to him but befriended his father just to get their bills passed on time, if possible even before the contract work has started.
All the birthday gifts were of routine nature. The same old ‘click-and-throw’ cameras, the micro recorders, the computronics game books, the lunar gravity suit or the Neptune gravity suit. None aroused Mitun’s curiousity as he was tired of all such items for the last few years. He had been receiving all these gifts on his birthdays or even otherwise, whenever a business associate of his father visited their home. He took some quick snaps with the camera, ejected the prints, slipped them into his cupboard and threw the camera into the kitchen gutter connected to the municipal pipeline for waste disposal and bio-chemical recycling. He knows that in another 48 hours, these articles would be turned into some other usable item and enter yet another home or office.
Likewise, Mitun tried out the other presents too. He put on the lunar gravity suit, jumped around like a rabbit for some time, got bored with it and hung the suit in the old almirah where all other gravity suits received earlier were already gathering dust. The Neptune gravity suit also met with the same fate, but the only difference was that the old wooden cot, a memento of his great grandfather, broke into pieces when he jumped over it unmindful that his body weight had increased manifold.
Minutes later, their neighbour from the ground floor flat rushed up and complained that plasters from their ceiling are peeling off. Mitun's father was apologetic, but at the same time pointed to the peeled off plaster from their own celling. Only then the ground floor’s gentleman realised that it was he who had presented a Uranus gravity suit to the girl on second floor.
Mitun's father attempted an honourable patch-up and said that it was not the fault of any of them. These flats were constructed by the Indian National Housing Board 63 years ago, he argued. Way back in 1997, even the lunar gravity suit was in conceptual stage and thus the Housing Board officials could not be expected to imagine that scientists would design all other planetary gravity modules in the next few decades. Mitun's father also took the opportunity to reiterate his oft repeated argument that the government should either ban the manufacture of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune gravity modules or provide alternative accommodation to the people living in Housing Board flats built towards the close of the twentieth century.
This remark led to an instant verbal duel as the neighbour commented that he was aware of Mitun's father having many shares in the Lunolight Toys Limited, the company which has the sole manufacturing licence for the lunar gravity suits. Mitun's father retorted by saying that he also knew that all the family fortunes of his ground floor neighbour could be attributed to his grandfather being the Housing Minister in 1997 when hundreds of people had died as newly occupied Housing Board flats had collapsed.
Rathin Das
Mitun did not bother to establish a correlation between house collapses and the fortunes of housing minister's grandson. He discovered one interesting item among the presents he had received. It was the only new thing he saw in this year's birthday harvest. This was probably the latest invention of the tele-electronic industry. He unpacked it hurriedly, went through the manual and gathered that it was something which could recall the television transmissions of the past on pressing of the year, month, day and time of the desired event.
“This is exciting, Dad”. Mitun couldn't control his joy and immediately started fiddling with it. The first event he wanted to view on his televiewer was the hoary incidents he has read about in history. Mitun pointed the device towards his televiewer on top corner of the room and pressed the number buttons. He pressed 1945, followed by 08, the month of August, and then pressed the date 06. But he was disappointed. Nothing came on the screen of his televiewer. It was only full of dots.
Mitun ran to his father and complained that the faulty device must have been presented by one of his business associates now displeased with him for some reason. Both father and son came to the televiewer room. The father told his son "Now tell me the year, month and date you want to view”. Mitun said “the event you have talked so much about, dropping of the atom bomb exactly a hundred years before my birth". Father pressed the keys, one by one, 1.9.4.5 0.8 0.6. But nothing came on the screen. He too was puzzled, as much as his son. He went through the manual repeatedly but could not make out what was wrong.
Scratching his head for some time did not yield any result. Then, suddenly, he realised that there might not have been any telecast of the Hiroshima bombing incident. He is not even sure whether humans had been able to invent such things like televiewing 115 years ago. He immediately tried with the year of Mitun's birth. He went on pressing 2.0.4.5 0.8 0.6 and the screen came to life immediately. A news reader said “A hundred years ago on this day, the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Under our weekly feature This Day Last Century we will beam to you a special report on the dropping of mankind's first atom bomb.”
Mitun was elated to see the programmes of the year of his birth. He snatched the device from his father's hand and pressed the fast forward key to bring the schedule to 3 p.m slot, around the time he was born on 6th August, 2045.
It is the time for afternoon news. The newscaster read “Hundreds of thousand people from all continents gathered at the memorial at Hiroshima today and took a pledge not to use science for destruction of the human race. The Hiroshima Bombing Centenary Committee, comprising the heads of Governments of all the United Nations countries were specially flown down to the town for today's special memorial service. Meanwhile the Government of India today reiterated its stand that it will not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) unless the 123 of 198 UN members, which already have nuclear weapons, disband them forthwith. This was India's 473rd rejection of the NPT proposal during the last seventy years."
Mitun put off his televiewer. He pressed some other year and date into it. The televiewer started again “the foreign dignitary also visited the samadhi of our last Prime Minister who was cruelly assassinated five years ago. Later in the evening, he will be the chief guest at the national awards ceremony for outstanding contributions in various fields.
Like past many years, this year too no one has been named for the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian award. It may be recalled that no one has received the Bharat Ratna during the last 23 years since it was made mandatory for the recipient to have made some positive contribution towards the eradication of spitting paan in public places and stopping the use of loud-speakers for agitational and religious purposes. Such a drastic condition could be made mandatory for all probable Bharat Ratna awardees as the ruling party then enjoyed absolute majority in both houses of Parliament as well as in more than two-thirds of all the state assemblies.”
Mitun got disgusted and put aside his device. Dejected, he remarked "then no one will get Bharat Ratna for another century”.
---
*Senior journalist based in Ahmedabad. This story was written before mobile phone was invented. It forms part of the book Aspersions: Between the Lines by the author

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