A star-struck childhood

A star-struck childhood

How many times have you laid under the stars and wondered what is out there? Is there really someone like you, millions of light years away, looking down at you, from up there somewhere?

This question has fascinated me forever, are we really alone in the universe?

We have billions of stars in our Milky Way; in those billions, are we truly the only living breathing planet? Are we the only "intelligent species"? And if there is intelligent life out there, why aren't they reaching out to us? Wait. Did I just say that? I retract. I guess we can truly call them "intelligent life" as they probably are NOT interested in contacting us, looking at the state of affairs on planet earth.

These questions take me back to my childhood. It was mostly spent sleeping under the stars in summer with the cool sea breeze hitting my face.

My house was right on the beach in lovely, quiet Juhu in the 70s. I still remember, when the Mumbai city lights went too bright to dim out the star shine, one could actually hear the waves lapping at the shore. Summer was special because my cousins from Agra and Gwalior would visit us during vacations.

When they came over, we would put the mattresses out on the terrace and the kids would sleep there. We would carry with us lots of snacks, chatting and have a lot of 'masti' till from within the room, a 'chachi' or 'taiji' or mom's voice would call out at intervals saying "sojao abhi." But were we listening? No. We were busy giggling away, counting the stars in the night sky well into dawn.

I had a lot of childhood fantasies and one of them was that I believed Superman (from the movie) really existed. I had the sweetest pre-adolescent crush on Christopher Reeves (who played Superman in the movie) and stood many a night on my terrace, staring at the stars looking for planet Krypton, wondering if I shut my eyes, focus hard and call his name, would he actually just fly down and sweep me into his arms, like he did with Lois Lane in the movie! We would fly all over the city's bright shining lights. Then came the adolescent romance with the stars lying down on the bungalow's water tank at night, mooning away staring into infinity with romantic tracks of Pankaj Udhas and Kishore Kumar playing in the background. All this while I would throw sneaking looks at the opposite balcony for a glimpse of the crush of the season.

In my mid 20s, my romance with the stars continued. Long romantic walks under the stars and the first kiss. The first sighting of shooting stars under a glorious diamond-studded Swiss sky. Making empty wishes on them. Something about a moonless night and the stars shine brighter… The superstar satellite, a full moon, blotting out the magic and the little balls of gas vanish around - the full moon does its work on me too not in a werewolf sort of way but being a full-blooded scorpion, the tides control me.

My relationship with stars (not the filmi ones, but more the heavenly body types) continues even today. Vacation time with the kids, I take them for walks under the African jungle skies or the coastal Maldivian skies, wherever we might be and I tell them about the magic the skies hold at night.

The romance of lying on the grass or sand and staring at the stars without the city lights glaring back at you, makes me feel that life is closing in on me.

I then rush out of the city into quieter areas - a night drive through the jungle or higher ground, where I can lie again under the stars and reassure myself and refresh, almost therapeutic for me… and I close my eyes and wish for the stardust to be sprinkled upon and wish upon a shooting star when I see one.  

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