So the Nasa has found evidence of water on Mars. I can’t tell you how relieved I am. Because where there’s water, there’s oxygen, and where there’s oxygen, there’s life. Which means, finally, that my fondest dream may actually come true. I really could move to another planet.
It’s not that I’m some kind of intrepid explorer determined to hack through impenetrable forests (or, in the case of Mars, impenetrable permafrost) for the greater glory of my nation and/or a book contract. Far from it. If there’s anything I’m certain to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for, it’ll be for being the world’s most cowardly person, with a yellow streak so intense that, faced with so much as a dead cockroach, it could power an entire discotheque.
Nor have I been influenced by the shows on news channels like IBN7, which insist that a) there are aliens from outer space here on earth (so that explains Navjot Singh Sidhu!) and b) images of swirling things from outer space bear a striking resemblance to Hindu gods (How? Has anyone ever actually seen a god?).
No. I’ve wanted to move to another planet ever since I began reading newspapers, aged about six. That’s when I realised that, far from being a warm, happy, fuzzy place where the worst thing that could happen to you was a pinch from a mean goblin, the earth is actually a not very nice place. Because it’s filled with many not very nice people. Last week reinforced that belief, what with the bomb blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, the continuing riots in Jammu and Kashmir, and the unsettling knowledge that we might actually have a home-grown terrorist organisation here in this country. Once again, these events showed how pathetic we are as human beings, how much pleasure so many of us take in hurting innocent people just for the sake of it. Not even for a principle, but just because we can.
It’s a thought that’s been bothering me for a long time, ever since the riots after the Babri Masjid was brought down, and all the riots since, including Gujarat. I can understand (to a point), the battle between beliefs. What I can’t understand is the need to be barbaric, like burning people alive. That’s why I read Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. With the help of awesome research, the book shows how Hitler’s Final Solution of wiping the Jews off the face of the earth was carried out by people like you and me. Not just some evil SS types. It’s a terrifying book, but compelling because it shows how innate the bully instinct is in all of us. How we’re all capable of doing horrendous things to other people, just because we can.
So I’m thrilled there’s another planet I can move to. With a little bit of luck, its aliens won’t consist of Navjot Singh Sidhu.