The Adventure by Jayant Narlikar

INTRODUCTION: The story The Adventure is a blend of science and history. The story highlights the difference between the real world and the parallel world, it also shows the possibility of things happening in the parallel world that cannot happen in the real world.

It is science fiction. Gangadharpant was a historian. He was also known as Professor Gaitonde. He was travelling by the Jijamata Express. His mind was moving fast. He had arrived at a plan of action. In Bombay, he would go to a big library and look through history books. He will try to find out how the present state of affairs was reached. He had also planned to return to Pune and have a long talk with Rajendra Deshpande. He hoped that Rajendra would surely help him understand what had happened. At Sarhad station, an Anglo-Indian in uniform went through the train, checking their permit. This indicated the border of the British Raj. The tiny Union Jack painted on each blue carriage of the Greater Bombay Metropolitan Railway reminded them that they were in British territory. The imposing building outside Bombay V.T. (Victoria Terminus) announced its identity as ‘East India House, Headquarters of the East India Company’. Professor Gaitonde was prepared for many shocks. But he had not expected this.

The East India Company was wrapped up shortly after the 1857 events. Yet It was not only alive here, but also flourishing. So history took a different turn, maybe before 1857. He had to find out how
and when it happened. He found a different set of shops and office buildings as he walked along Hornby Road. These were like a city in England’s typical high street. He turned right on Home Street and entered the building of Forbes. He said the English receptionist that he wanted to meet Mr Vinay Gaitonde.

She consulted telephone list, the staff list and directory of employees of all the branches of the firm. She politely replied that she couldn’t find anyone of the name there or in any other branch. He thanked the girl politely and came out. Taking a quick lunch at a restaurant, he went to the library of the Asiatic Society to solve the riddle. The Town Hall housed the library. He asked for a list of history books including his own. While reading the fifth volume of history, Gangadharpant finally came to the moment where history had taken a different turn. That page in the book described the Battle of Panipat.

It mentioned that the Marathas won it handsomely. Abdali was defeated and pursued back to Kabul by the Maratha army. This victory was a great morale booster to the Marathas. It also established their supremacy in northern India. East India Company suspended its expansionist programme. The company’s influence was reduced to small areas of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. Vishwasrao and his brother Madhavrao combined political sharpness with bravery and expanded their influence all over India. They kept the puppet Mughal regime alive in Delhi. They were clever enough to recognise the importance of science and technology. The East India Company offered aid and experts. The twentieth century brought further changes. Inspired by the West, India moved towards democracy. The Peshwas were gradually replaced by democratically elected bodies. The Shahenshah of Delhi survived this change as he exercised no real influence. He okayed the recommendations made by the central parliament.

Gaitonde read on and began to appreciate the India he had seen. It had never been the slave to the British. Gangadharpant could not help comparing the country he knew with what he was witnessing around him. He felt his investigations were incomplete. He wanted to know how the Marathas won the battle. He looked for the accounts of the battle itself. He came across ‘Bhaushebanchi Bakhar’. He knew that Bakhars contained detailed but falsified account. He hoped to see the germ of truth. He read the three line account of how close Vishwasrao had come to being killed. As the professor left the table, he shoved some notes into his right pocket. Absent-mindedly, he also shoved the ‘Bakhar’ in his pocket. He found a guest house to stay in, took his meals and set out for a stroll to the Azad Maidan. A lecture was in progress there. He found the presidential chair unoccupied. He swiftly moved towards the chair. The audience asked him to vacate the chair and leave the platform.

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Gangadharpant kept talking to the audience. He had the experience of speaking at 999 meetings. He became a target for a shower of tomatoes, eggs and other objects. Finally, the audience swarmed to the stage to eject him. Gandgadharpant could not be seen anywhere in the crowd. Two days later Gangadharpant narrated everything to Rajendra Deshpande. He was back in the world he was familiar with. He did not know exactly where he had spent two days. Rajendra asked him what he had been doing just before his collision with the truck. Professor Gaitonde replied that he was thinking of the catastrophe theory and its implications for history. Then he produced a page torn out of a book. It was a page from the Bakhar. The book was lost in the melee at Azad Maidan. Rajendra read the page which described how Vishwas Rao narrowly missed that bullet and how that event turned the tide in their favour. Then Gangadharpant produced his own copy of ‘Bhausahebanchi Bakhar’. The relevant page described how Vishwasrao was hit by a bullet. Rajendra tried to rationalise his experience on the basis of two scientific theories known till that day.

One was the catastrophe theory. The juncture at which Vishwasrao, the son of the Peshwa and heir, was killed proved to be the turning point. History says that his uncle, Bhausaheb, rushed into the melee and was never seen again. The blow of losing their leaders was crucial for the troops. They lost their morale and fighting spirit. An utter rout followed. The torn page showed the crucial event gone the other way. Rajendra said that reality may not be unique. It has been found from experiments on very small systems of atoms and their particles.

There is a lack of determinism in quantum theory. So there may be many world pictures. All the alternative worlds could exist just the same, though we know the world which is talking about. Catastrophic situations offer radically different alternatives for the world to proceed. So far as reality is concerned all alternatives are viable, but the observer can experience only one of them at a time. By making a transition, Prof.Gaitonde was able to experience two worlds although one at a time—one he lived in then and the one where he spent two days. He was experiencing a different world though he was in the present. Gangadharpant asked why he had made the transition. Rajendra replied that one needed some interaction to cause a transition. Perhaps he was thinking about the catastrophic theory and its role in the war, or he was wondering about the Battle of Panipat. Perhaps the neurons in his brain acted as a trigger. Professor Gaitonde admitted that he had been wondering what course history would have taken if the result of the battle had gone the other way.

The Adventure by Jayant Narlikar

Tag: The Adventure by Jayant Narlikar


I. Tick the statement that is true in the following:
1. The story is an account of real events.( )
2. The story hinges on a particular historical event.( )
3. Rajendra Deshpande was a historian.( )
4. The places mentioned in the story are all imaginary. ( )
5. The story tries to relate history to science. ( )

Ans. 1. False, 2. True, 3. False, 4. False, 5. True.

II. Briefly explain the following statements from the text: (Answer in up to 40 words)

1.‘‘You neither travelled to the past nor the future. You were in the present experiencing a different world.’’
Ans. Gangadharpant, according to Rajendra Deshpande, had made a transition from one world to another and back again. By making a transition, he was able to experience two worlds although one at a time. He neither travelled to the past nor to the future. He was in the present but experiencing a different world.

2. ‘‘You have passed through a fantastic experience: or more correctly, a catastrophic experience.’’
Ans. Gangadharpant had passed through a strange experience. He had the experience of living in two worlds–the one he lived in now and the other where he had spent two days. This world had a different history. Rajendra explains his experience by terming it as a catastrophic experience.

3. Gangadharpant could not help comparing the country he knew with that he was witnessing around him.
Ans. Gangadharpant knew India which had seen the decline of the Peshwas and experienced the slavery of the British. But the India he had seen in two days was entirely different. It had not been subjected to slavery for the white men. It was self-dependent and enjoyed self-respect. He compared the two countries–the one that he knew already and the other that he was witnessing around him. Both had different histories.

4. ‘‘The lack of determinism in quantum theory!’’
Ans. The quantum theory is based on the idea that energy exists in units that cannot be divided. This theory lacks the belief that people are not free to choose what they are like or how they behave because these things are decided by their background, surroundings and other things over which they have no control.

5. ‘‘You need some interaction to cause a transition.’’
Ans. Rajendra Deshpande explained to Gangadharpant that the latter was able to experience two worlds by making a transition. Gangadharpant wanted to know why he made the transition. Science does not provide a ready-made answer to it. Rajendra observed that one needs some interaction to cause a transition. He made a guess. Perhaps Professor Gaitonde was then thinking about the catastrophe theory and its role in wars or he might have been wondering about the Battle of Panipat.

B. TALKING ABOUT THE TEXT (Answer in 100-125 words)

1.Discuss the following in groups of two pairs, each taking opposite points of view:

(i) A single event may change the course of the history of a nation.

Ans. Sometimes a single event may prove so disastrous that it can change the course of the history of a nation. For example, take the Battle of Panipat. Ahmad Shah Abdali had come all the way from Kabul to attack Delhi. Since the Mughal Emperor at Delhi had no real strength to fight his army, it was the Marathas who faced Abdali in the decisive battle at Panipat. There was no difference between Abdali’s troops and the opposing forces. Their armour was comparable. So, a lot depended on the leadership and morale of troops. At a critical juncture, Vishwasrao was hit by a bullet. He was the son of the Peshawa and his heir. His death proved to be the turning point. Bhausaheb rushed into the crowd and was never seen again. The blow of losing their leaders was crucial for the troops. They lost their morale and fighting spirit. The Marathas were completely defeated. The Britishers were now free to start their expansionist programme. Gradually, they enslaved the whole of India, except some states which had treaties with them.

(ii) Reality is what is directly experienced through the senses.
Ans. What is reality? Some say that reality is what we experience directly through the senses. Other are of the opinion that we may experience reality through instruments as well. Then another question arises: Whether reality is limited to what we see or if it has other forms to make itself known. Reality may not be unique. Experiments on atoms and their particles have proved it. The behaviour of these small systems is quite startling. It cannot be predicted definitively, even if all the physical laws governing those systems are known. An electron fired from a source may be found here, there, anywhere. So there may be many world pictures. In one world the electron is found here, in another, it is over there. In yet another, it is in a still different location. Once the observer finds where it is, we know which world we are talking about. But all those alternative worlds could exist just the same. A transition is needed to reach the other worlds. Hence reality is always not what is directly experienced through the senses.

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(iii) The method of inquiry of history, science and philosophy are similar.

Ans. History, science and philosophy—all depend on analysis of facts. History is a detailed account of the events that occurred in a particular area—a state, nation or world during a particular period. Science has its laws codified which are based on observation, experiments and conclusion. Philosophy is the study of nature and meaning of the universe and of human life. It deals with deeper questions. However, the methods of inquiry in all these branches of knowledge, i.e. history, science and philosophy are the same. We apply the methods of induction and deduction. Observation and analysis are the tools of the researchers. Every finding is carefully analysed and verified. A historian collects facts and tests their veracity (truthfulness) by comparing them with contemporary accounts. Similarly, a scientist does not evolve a law on the basis of a single experiment. A principle in Philosophy is an outcome of sustained observation, analysis and comparison. Today we find the methods of science being used to explain history.

2. (i) The story is called ‘‘Adventure’’. Compare it with the adventure described in ‘‘We’re not Afraid To Die.’’
Ans. The adventure described in ‘‘We’re not Afraid To Die’’ involves the experiences of six characters namely the narrator, his wife Mary, son Jonathan, daughter Suzanne and crew members Larry Vigil and Herb Seigler, whereas the story ‘Adventure’ recounts the experiences of only one person—professor Gaitonde. Both stories present human beings imbued with a spirit of adventure and inquiry. The ship ‘Wavewalker’ carries its passengers around the world in a sea voyage where they come across disastrous sea waves in strange seas. Professor Gaitonde’s railway journey in Jijamata Express carries him to the part of the country which he has seen for the first time. Both stories contain horrible circumstances and dangerous events. The collision of the ship ‘Wavewalker’ with huge sea waves puts the lives of all the passengers in danger. Professor Gaitonde’s collision with a truck makes him senseless. The captain and crew, caught in the web of huge sea waves, make efforts to save the ship and reach a place of safety. Professor Gaitonde tries to persuade a hostile audience and is manhandled. He seeks a scientific explanation of his transition to another world and returns therefrom. ‘‘

(ii) Why do you think Professor Gaitonde decided never to preside over meetings again?
Ans. Professor Gaitonde had the experience of speaking at 999 meetings and had faced the Pune audience as being most hostile. During his visit to the other world, he found a lecture going on at Azad Maidan. The presidential chair on the stage was unoccupied. Professor Gaitonde who believed in propriety and decorum in social and public life, considered it to be a sacrilege and wanted to correct the wrong act. He went to the mike to express his views. But the unfriendly audience was in no mood to listen. They declared that they were sick of remarks from the chair, of the vote of thanks, of long introductions. They only wanted to listen to the speaker. They had abolished the old customs long ago. The presidential chair was just symbolic. The crowd interrupted Professor Gaitonde in his lecture and pushed him with force bodily. This was a very harrowing experience for the eminent historian and he decided never to preside over meetings again.

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