19 December 2014

Ready for time travel?

At some point in your life you would have heard of traveling through time.  When you read about a faraway place, enchanted lands, fascinating characters, there’s a part of you that wants to visit, wants to meet these amazing people in the flesh and so on.  That’s natural. 

It’s not about stories only.  We learn history and we learn geography.  We read about the Himalayas, Mount Everest, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, we search for text and pictures on the internet and wonder how cold it must have been.  We read about heroic feats and wonder what it would have been like to live in that time.  How was it like at the Last Supper of Jesus Christ?  If you were there, would you have done something to save that Prince of Peace?  Do you wish you were watching from behind some tree as the Ascetic Siddhartha attained Enlightenment? 

The truth is that we can visit these places and those times.  If we want to.  All it takes is a good imagination and some pieces of information about the period, the events and the personalities.  The only time machine one needs is the mind.  You can sit back, close your eyes and take off. 

You can imagine the moment when Prince Dutugemunu decided he would leave the Royal Palace.  You could follow him, be with him through those long, lonely years of self-imposed exile, shared his food, listened to his plans, his regrets and resolve.  You could accompany that other great king, Elara, to his chambers immediately after giving the order to punish his son and recount his grief.  

Do you not feel sorry for Princess Vihara Maha Devi as she is cast out into tempestuous seas?  Can you not feel the heat on the sand as her boat approached kinder shores?  Do you not see the surprise, confusion and sorrow in the eyes of Julius Caesar the moment he feels Brutus’ knife on his skin? 

Isn’t it easy to imagine growing up with Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley as friend and playmate in some pre-school in that other world where everything is real and nothing is fiction?  It’s the same with Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Gale Hawthorne and other characters in the ‘Hunger Games,’ is it not?  You can, if you want, have breakfast with characters from ‘Divergent’ such as Tris Prior or Tobias Eaton.  You can tag along, stand shoulder to shoulder or even make the key decisions.   

This time machine is not something that can take you into storybook worlds and histories you’ve read about.  It can take you to the future too.  You can go to the worlds you’ve read about in science fiction, in machines not yet invented.  You can forget all the science fiction you’ve come across and visit a world where people are not dying of hunger even when there’s a feast going on the other side of town, a world where trees are not seen as ‘timber’ but as vital to the health of the planet, a world where people talk instead of ‘chat’, people meet instead of ‘tweet’ and have real life, real time and real space conversations. 

You can imagine a time where technology allows us to understand the language of dolphins, where birds don’t chirp but actually tell us of faraway places they’ve been to, what they had for breakfast and how nice it would be if kids didn’t break their nests or stole their eggs. 

You can go anywhere you like, with whoever you like, meet anyone you want to meet, explore, discover, be amazed and return to the present all the more richer for the experience.  And the best thing is that you don’t have to wait until science gives us a time-machine.  Better still, it’s free.  

This is the twelfth article in a series I am writing for the JEANS section of 'The Nation'.  The series is for children. Adults consider yourselves warned...you might re-discover a child within you! 

Other articles in this series