No one spelled it out. And yet, it was there. Like a star.
I always thought I had a non-scientific mind. When I looked up at the clouds, I could never recognise whether they were cumulus or stratus. I saw images. Of elephants, of Archaeopteryx (I loved to figure this out specially), of flying castles, of Santa Claus's face. I believed I was prone to imagination than rational thinking. Then, a few years into high school, and Physics introduced me to the world of constellations. Individual stars being a part of an image in the sky. I was baffled to know, science needs imagination.
That was the beginning (I guess) of questioning what seems to be 'real'. The absolute versions held ground for a long time since then, but the foundation of the idea of the 'absolute' had started eroding.
Far away in the distance, there used to be a ball of gas. It started 'living' - burning itself up in order to radiate light/energy/life. It performed the balancing act of gravity and expansion. And then it had to die. It became a 'dwarf' or an eternity called 'black hole'.
|Life cycle of a star|
Is the star there as I see it now?
I can see it twinkling! It is actual, I guess. But, it may have died and its light is still crossing the seas of the universe to reach me. Does that make it virtual?
Feeling homesick on a day when celebrations of a mother goddess fill my mother's house with laughter and joy. Before the deity leaves the threshold of the home, I skype home. I dress up as a traditional Bengali married woman - complete with sari, the jewellery, the vermillion on the forehead. I have arranged a candle, the vermillion (sindoor, the mark of marriage), a flower, an Arab sweet, a small glass filled with water on a dish. The camera looks into the face of the deity. From across the oceans, I hold the platter in my hands and perform an action that every married woman does at the end of the festival for any Hindu goddess. I boron (a ceremony performed to cordially welcome) the deity.
[It is strange that the festival begins and ends with the same custom of boron. Even when the deity is taken away for the immersion in water, marking the end of the festival, it is wished a good journey and an invitation to return in the next cycle of time.]
What I did was in real time but not in real space. Does that make it any more virtual or any less actual?
I do not know. The conventions of understanding the time and the space are somehow soiled by the sense of happiness I had at the end of the act. I felt as if I participated actively in the joy that exuded in the household for the past few days. I felt the warmth of having a family filling me in this chilly land. That is the perspective I choose.
"Life cycle of a star" from "Nebulas" in E.Encyclopedia Science on Fact Monster. Web.
"boron" : Image boron performed by my mother. The deity is that of the Mother Goddess Jagadhatri. © Susmita Paul 2010.