Big Billion Day

The country finally celebrated the success of its maiden mission to Mars, more than two weeks after the event. And how. One of the world’s largest e-commerce sites, that recently started operating in India, showed the way by launching its “Mission to Mars Celebration Dhamaka” (Dhamaka, for the Hindi unfamiliar readers, is equivalent to “blast”, in the celebration sense).

I received an email announcing the celebration, with a “Start here” button prominently displayed to convince the unconvinced. Call me a space nut if you will, but I wasted no time in joining the celebration. I clicked on the “Start here” button without wasting any time.

It was a revelation. Truly “out of the world”.

I could buy books to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy watches. I could buy Kindles to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy iPads. I could buy luggage to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy mobiles. I could buy T-shirts to celebrate the success of the Mars mission or I could buy toys. There was nothing that could not be bought. Brought tears to my eyes. I would never have imagined that the country’s maiden mission to Mars would enable me to buy so many things that I did not need for routine discounts. I am only now beginning to grasp the enormity of the achievement of the Mars mission. I had taken it as a routine scientific mission to Mars to discover new things, validate theories and generally look for ways to further man’s knowledge and frontiers. But it was, clearly, much bigger. Thank you

I placed my order for the shoes and T-shirts that I did not need. I was not going to hold back from celebrating this important milestone in the country’s space endeavours. But before clicking the “Buy” button, I carefully scanned the site for any hints of support for the Mars mission or for future endeavours of the Indian Space Reasearch Organisation (ISRO). There were none. I heaved a sigh of relief. I could buy without fear of paying extra. Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong supporter of the Mars mission. But paying extra for stuff I don’t need? No way.

Expectedly, many others have started walking down the path so selflessly blazed by, and launched their own celebrations to mark the historic achievement.

Builders have started asking people to buy property to celebrate the Mars mission. Car-dealers have started asking people to buy cars to celebrate the Mars mission. Restaurants have started asking people to eat more at their establishment to celebrate the Mars mission. TV manufacturers have started asking people to buy TVs to celebrate the Mars mission. There is no stopping the patriotic fervour now.

In fact, in tune with their global aspirations, businesses are understood to be looking for global events to celebrate.

Expect builders to ask people to buy property to celebrate Marin Cilic’s first US Open (tennis) win. Expect car-dealers to ask people to buy cars to celebrate Chelsea’s victory over Arsenal in the English Premier League football. Expect restaurants to ask people to eat more at their establishment to celebrate Stefan W. Hell, Eric Betzig and William E. Moerner being awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Expect TV manufacturers to ask people to buy more TVS to celebrate the reduction in the US fiscal deficit., India’s homegrown e-tailing behemoth, and the main competition to, went a step further. It launched its own celebration, “The Big Billion Day”.

Billion Day? Rings a bell?

Could they be celebrating the country’s population crossing a billion? Perhaps, but that happened several years back.

Could they be celebrating the presence of more than a billion stars in the firmament? Perhaps, but that has always been the case, even though no e-tailer may have celebrated it.

The distance between Earth and Mars? Possible, given the current flavour, but factually incorrect as the distance is less than a billion.

What else could it be?

It was reported that the company has recently raised a billion dollars for their expansion. Could it be that? Nah, too obvious.

Satisfied that there was no logical explanation for calling it the “Big Billion Day”, I eagerly logged in. It was bound to be fun. With lots of stuff to buy and lots of discounts, what else could it be?

Unfortunately, soon after the “Big Billion Day” dawned, the site crashed. The collective anguish of a billion shoppers could be heard on Mars. The promoters have sent out an email apologising for depriving folks of the joy of shopping for stuff they don’t need and for failing to add to their own wealth.

It was not enough. It could never be. The government has been forced to step in to investigate. They have promised to include the right to shop for stuff that I don’t need, at discounted rates, in the Fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution, and protect it through suitable legislation.

The right to shop for stuff that I do not need, at discounted rates.

One of the greatest discoveries of the modern world. Worth protecting.

Best laid plans

With ears glued to the FM radio, I listened, transfixed, as reasons were trotted out for being proud of one’s country. It has been impossible to miss the advert on FM while driving, these last few weeks.

Equally compellingly, the advert asks you, as a proud countryman, to register with the National Population Register (NPR), which will become the single source of identity for all. Quite a doable task, as opposed to unrealistic expectations of FM and TV adverts in the past drumming up patriotic fervour either for fighting the enemy on the borders with guns and bullets, or for helping the cause of women in the country by changing our parochial, paternalistic outlook, or even for contributing generously towards flood relief.

Coming in the wake of the volley of messages sent out by the Unique Identity Authority (UIDAI) that has been set-up to collect data on each individual that will form the single source of identity for all, appealing to the patriotic spirit in each individual and asking them to register with UIDAI, the message was particularly compelling.

Now we have not one, but two institutions that will be the only source of identity for all.

This wise use of national resources is expected to give a boost to the sagging economy by generating needless employment for millions. Once the two databases are ready, a third institution will be created to ensure that the earlier two are aligned. A fourth is likely to be created to handle cases of conflict between the two.

But I digress.

Even in the darkest of times, there is always hope.

Even though the present times are not necessarily the darkest, hope has nevertheless surfaced through the unlikely medium of the FM advert alluded to earlier.

This FM advert tells you, among other things, that you should be proud of your identity as a citizen of this country, because, plans for a Moon mission nothwithstanding, we have now planned a mission to Mars.

This message has rekindled the hopes of countless. In every discussion, at every streetcorner or office corridor, the clinching argument often is “so what if we haven’t completed our Moon mission, at least we have been able to plan a mission to Mars”.

Experienced space watchers see this as the dawn of a golden age of space exploration for the country.

The bolder amongst space-watchers have forecast that within twelve months of the announcement of the Mars mission, without reaching Mars or having done anything towards reaching it, we will be ready to announce plans of a new, bolder mission. It is likely to be a mission to Jupiter, the largest planet.

Then, within twelve months of that, without reaching Jupiter or having done anything towards reaching it, we would have planned for yet another newer, and even bolder, mission. A mission to the edge of the Solar System, an area about which little is known.

Thus, in a span of barely three years, the country would have progressed from the insignificance of a  planned Moon mission to the exclusivity of a planned mission to the edge of the Solar System.

Richer countries with greater resources have taken almost half a century to go from Moon to Mars.

Reverberations of this startling development can be felt all around.

For one, it has given a boost to the country’s flagging fortunes in many different sports.

The country’s football association, which had made plans of trying to beat one of the neighbouring countries, none of whom with a distinguished record in the sport, and move up from 147 to 145 in world rankings, has announced a bold new plan. Of taking on and defeating Japan and Korea, the two highest ranked Asian countries in the sport, in the Asia Cup.

It is a timely plan as the country is unlikely to qualify to play in the Asia Cup. This will give a further fillip to the game in the country as this will enable the association to soon announce plans of beating Spain, Brazil and Germany, probably the three most consistent performers over the last two years, in the next World Cup. Again, since we know we have not qualified, it keeps options open for a further rapid rise of the game in the country.

From planning to beat neighbouring countries, minnows in the game, we have progressed to planning to beat Spain, Brazil and Germany, possibly the three most powerful teams in the world today. All in the space of a few months.

The Finance Minister, in the meanwhile, under attack for not delivering target growth numbers, is making plans for achieving growth numbers double that of the realistic plan.

General elections being around the corner, all major political parties are busy making plans…