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.

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.

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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

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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)


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The Adventure by Jayant Narlikar Summary, Questions


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