I love constellations, and my dada (maternal grandfather) loved the stars; just today, I was reminded of a conversation we had eons ago. This tale is from a past that I even cherish to date…Dada would have been a month short of his 101st year, if he were alive today. But, instead, he chose to be among the stars!
We were looking at the stars. Only a few were visible to us; but each shone brighter than the other, standing solitary, and doing their best to pale the blackness in the sky. He was counting them, but I was making out the shapes, tracing my favourite constellation ‘Orion’ and asking dada to look yonder, to get a better view.
“It doesn’t look anything like a hunter,” he said mockingly.“I don’t know why they named it that. Can’t figure out the head, hands or legs….Stupid astronomers! Count the stars instead, it is more fun.”
“That’s boring, and we did that yesterday,” I interrupted.
“And how many did you find?”
“Ten, may be.”
“I found 25. Clearly, you didn’t do a good job of it kaali maina (that’s what he called me).”
“Because I am not interested dada,” I clarified. “I’d rather look for constellations; we just learnt about them in school last month and it is so much fun…dada see…see the Ursa Minor,” I said, on suddenly noticing a new constellation, pointing my index finger towards the sky with uncontainable excitement. “By the way, it is also called the little bear,” sparing no moment to boast of all the knowledge I had recently acquired.
“You mean chotta bhaalu,” he asked, translating it for me in Hindi, just to check if he had heard it right. According to dada, English was a peculiarly funny language; one with too many words sounding the same, but meaning a lot different. It was always better to make things clear, he would say. I nodded, ignoring his strange insistence for translating homonyms.
He gazed back at the sky; his eyes running in the direction I had pointed; he squinted hard and in a banal tone, replied, “Hmm, I think I also found his elder brother, bada bhaalu.”
I did not know whether he was referring to Ursa Major (great bear), or if he was mocking me; I believed it was the latter as dada had claimed ignorance when I first mentioned the concept of stars taking on different shapes.
“Anyway, I won’t show you any more constellations, because you don’t seem interested,” I said, upset by his jibes.
Dada smiled, and lurched forward from his chair to get hold of the cane that was resting on the ground.“That’s like a good girl. You carry on with your project, I am going into the field.”
“To look for more stars…the view is way better out there,” he said; and may be he sensed my disappointment, because he quickly added, “So that we can bring all those stars together, and create more bhaalus in the sky.”