The Promise

Avi skipped a beat or two when Aarti entered the hall. Tall slim Aarti was wearing a plain, light-blue silk sari. Her head was slightly covered with a dark-blue, long scarf with heavy embroidery. It was hanging freely by her side. Light makeup on her eyes and cheeks enhanced her beautiful facial features. He knew that she would look good but had not imagined her looking so gorgeous. He quickly checked to make sure his relatives didn’t catch him admiring her. But he just couldn’t keep his gaze away for long. After a short nervous look around, he went back to doing what he loved the most; looking at his beautiful fiancée.

It was the night of Avi and Aarti’s engagement ceremony and the marriage was to take place in another two days. Avi had been waiting for the occasion since he met Aarti for the first time. Six months back, at her Aunt’s place, he came across a simple and elegant girl happily participating in the arrangements of his cousin’s wedding. Generally, marriages in India are potent matrimonial grounds for prospective brides and grooms. And that’s what happened with Avi. He was not ready to get married anytime soon. He was just 25 and wanted to wait few more years before starting a family. He stopped arguing when he came to know about his parent’s ideas. He was being matched with Aarti. After that secret was out, he wanted to tie the knot with her as soon as possible but twice his engagement and marriage had been postponed. Finally, after many sleepless nights, the long awaited time had come.

Aarti was sitting right next to him. For very brief moments their eyes met. Her skin was glowing and she was smiling, but something was missing. Instantly, he knew that something was bothering her. He wished he could get few minutes alone with her in privacy, just to assure her about their happy future together. He helplessly looked at thirty other relatives who were also sitting around them as if they were preparing to go in a match of dodgeball. Avi’s younger brother and his friends were hovering Aarti like helicopters in high-security zone. She was trying her best to talk to all of them. Somehow, Avi distracted them towards his younger and available sisters-in-law. As soon as the boys left, the gang of aunty’s invaded with their newly wedded daughters-in-law. And this continued for hours or at least he felt like that. Avi kept looking for a chance to chat with his sweetheart.

Finally, Avi’s mom came forward with the rings. It was the time for the ring ceremony, all the guests collected around them. Cameras flashed and clicked all over. Everybody was in high spirits. They cheered for them as if in couple of minutes the whistle would blow and the first round of boxing tournament would begin. Aarti as usual was quiet and patient. When instructed, she extended her right hand forward.

Avi looked at her beautifully manicured but henna-less hand. He remembered the first interaction he had with her at his cousin’s wedding. She was jumping with joy and showing-off the dark color Kof her henna on her palms. When Avi asked her the reason for her excitement, she bashfully answered, “The darker the color of my henna, the deeper will be my husband’s love for me.” At that time she had no clue that she was talking to her future husband.

He smiled and gently held her hand and put the elegant platinum-diamond ring on her thin, long finger. People showered the flowers on them. Aarti also put the ring on Avi’s left hand ring finger. After exchanging rings elders directed them to feed each other some sweets. Once the ceremony was over, people dispersed towardhs nicely decorated and inviting food counters.

A special table was also laid down for the special couple with a huge white and red colored tablecloth and small flower vase with some orchids in the center. Avi’s parents were being invited to this special stage. Avi and Aarti sat side by side. While they were waiting for others to join in, Avi cautiously slipped his hand under the table and caressed her soft and smooth hand slowly. She nervously smiled. She liked his touch but quickly moved away. She got worried about consequences if somebody saw them sneaking.

They glanced at each other and then few drops fell from the mascara and liner laden eyes. Avi knew that was the only time that they are going to get before their marriage. He slightly pulled the veil away from her hand. With a jerk Arti tried to hide her amputated arm, the one she lost in an accident just a month after their marriage was fixed. But he lovingly pressed the stump of her hand between his palms and tried to calm her down. He hid her hand behind the deep crease of the table cloth and spoke “Everything will be fine. Today, I received the email from ‘Touch Bionics Inc’ and the prosthetic limb is ready. The day after our wedding, we would be flying to Scotland to get the fitting done.” Wiping her eyes with his hands he promised, “I will always be there for you.”

“What Do You Want To be?”

That Morning was very pleasant. She was browsing the news on her iPad. The news that she already knew but wanted to see it again and again and on all available sources. May be not for the world but for her, her son was the celebrity of the day. Once he would have flown the STS XXX to Mars next year, he would be the youngest astronaut to do so till date. Sally K. Ride was the youngest until now. She was 32 when she flew STS -7 in 1983 with other mission specialists and pilots. Sid had called her mom the night before and overwhelmed her with this exciting news. After an year of rigorous training at Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, he had been chosen to be among the five finalists to go on the second mission to Mars. He would just be 29 years old on 24 April, 2022, almost an year from now, when he would be flying on his space vehicle from Key West, Florida.

While browsing through net, she even forgot about her tea. She had read Sid’s name at so many places. Everywhere possible. She didn’t go into the details of the papers that he had published in various Science Journals and other magazines but she definitely admired the byline. These papers and articles came into publication during his engineering years and during his doctorate. By now, she knew the in and out of her son’s work. Ashu brought another cup of tea. They looked at each other and smiled.

A little sip of hot tea on their little patio traversed her twenty-two years back when Sid was just seven. It was his birthday party, when Sheisha asked him, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And without any ado he answered, “I want to be a Fire Fighter at Santa Clara station number 400.” Both his answer and his strong conviction surprised his mom.

First Inspiration

Though she never felt that there was anything wrong in being a firefighter but she had repeatedly heard him say that he wanted to be an astronaut. He had conveyed the choice of this career in many ways so there was never a doubt in her mind that he would change his decision anytime soon in spite of the fact that he was first inspired by a monkey. Curious George, Sid’s all time favorite animated character was the first monkey to go in space in one of the episode in the cartoon series broadcasted on TV.

Sid’s aversion from the mystical world of Astronomy became more evident when his mom came across his “Blue journal.” He had written in there that he doesn’t want be an astronaut anymore because it was boring. Yet another surprise. She smirked. Although she didn’t know much about astronauts but she had a strong feeling that a job of an astronaut can be anything but boring. Whatever be the reason but his mom was not prepared for it. She wanted to talk to Sid about this change but the “liberal mom” within her stopped her from saying anything. The “liberal mom” in her had always felt that kids should be made aware of the choices they have but the final decision has to be made by them only. And then life took it’s course.

Tech Museum, San Jose, CA

A couple of weeks after the journal incident, they happened to be at The Tech Museum, San Jose, CA. The girl behind the information counter kindly welcomed them with a smile. Sid’s Mom liked the positive feeling that she had when she entered the museum. The entrance fee included the price of the movie at the IMAX (dome) theatre. They had to make a choice between the movie title “Forces of Nature” and “Hubble.” Sid made the decision that he wanted to watch the second one. They had two hours before the show, so they went to lower floor and enjoyed other science exhibits.

Two people, a quarter of century apart by age, were jumping from one station to another at The Tech Challenge Gallery. Both of them seemed to be equally excited. Younger one was overwhelmed to learn the scope of science. The older one was happy to discover the avenues of teaching. Sid and his mom were in high spirits. They tried all the hands-on activities that were there. “Green By Design” section was amazing too because it educated about the power of natural resources like wind, water and solar energy. Sid was totally amazed when he saw the glowing rings, from the energy that he produced by letting water flow on the turbine.

While they hopped from one exhibit to another he kept reminding his mom about the time. He was looking forward to the movie Hubble and finally the time to go to theatre came. He hadn’t had the opportunity to be in Dome theatre before. It was the love at first sight when he saw the theatre. Being a weekday it was not crowded. Both mom and son had a tremendous choice for seating. They decided to sit in the topmost section. First, it was dark and then the dome lit up with thousands of stars. The movie started with fireworks. It was bright, it was loud and it seemed that the flares were coming on to us. It was an actual 3-D experience.

IMAX Hubble was an amazing experience. Watching things that are beyond a normal person’s imagination, the galaxies and stars and the colors and the photos clicked by the Hubble telescope was just a majestic experience for both. Sid had the time of his life when the reverse counting started and the space shuttle flew off of the ground. His face brightened on seeing the astronauts (mission specialists) repairing the Hubble through so many challenges. Amidst all the excitement, he reached his mom’s ears and whispered, “Mom, I used to think that Astronaut’s job was boring but not anymore.” She smiled and offered him the cookie ice-cream that astronauts eat when in the shuttle, a gift that she purchased from the Tech Museum Store earlier that day.

Imagine seeing it in 3D