Mylapore Astronaut

Created as a collaboration between Earth2Orbit (The first Indian space startup), Space Biskit (a space inspired apparel collection of this fashion studio) and me, this project is a narrative exploration into creating out of norm possibilities for astronaut background stories breaking western stereotypes.

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Alienated

As a collective decision of the council of welfare and sustenance for living beings across the Galaxy, a community was created to live in a large space station at a place that was accessible from all the known planets. Equal numbers of representatives were chosen from each planet to be a part of this community, to maintain the balance of any decisions taken. They were the good biologists, observing and tending to our (and many such planets') dysfunctions. They were the doctors of the galaxy, the care takers who would come to save planets such as ours. They operate under the command of a highly intelligent machine for they believe that much like the machine, this is a created universe after all.

 

A little human boy has been born and brought up here. Even though they have tried to create a life as stimulating for his growth and development as possible, it is still the only world he and ever known. As he grows older, the strong human trait of curiosity keeps budding and growing. He wonders where is it that he comes from, and what is it like on earth, his home planet where everyone looks like him. He grows up to be an excellent researcher and astronaut, and finally gets assigned to visit earth. 

 

Before commencing any work, he decides to visit Mylapore, the birthplace of his father. After travelling a long distance to see where his parents come from, in hope of understanding his species and himself a little better, he lands somewhere near Mylapore. Upon reaching the town, he is completely disoriented. His first interaction with the air he breathes in, different smells it brings along, the cacophony of sounds that he hears, and the sensory overload is quite a contrast to the controlled environment that he has lived in almost all his life make him realise how different things are, from his imagination. He feels like an alien on his home planet and he hates how that feels.

A confused and lost astronaut wanders the streets of Mylapore and the people around find it a rather unfamiliar and strange sight. Some wonder if there is a film shooting going on somewhere, others look at him like he is a crazy man. His claim to having come from outer space doesn't help much either.

 

After being left in a temple because the people around think that God alone can help this crazy man, he tries to make sense of these people and their world. How much of their life, actions, behavior, decisions are a cause/effect of their belief and serious emotional investment in the belief of 'God'

And how can he feel like one of them, like he belongs, if he does not share this belief. If he does not talk, walk, look, eat, dress, think, dream like them then was it merely his genes that belonged to this place?

In hope of answers and understanding, he starts interacting with people around, and after a series of anecdotes, stories, some judgmental looks and cuss words, he finally gets it. Their belief is what gets them through the day, just the way his belief gets him through his. 

 

It may be realities, but they are part of the same nonlinear truth that is the need for humans to make sense of their life, of their existence. This truth along with his undying curiosity and need to find home, need to belong is what makes him human, and as soon as he realizes and embraces this idea, he feels at home.

Unfathomable 

A child grows up in the streets of a small God-fearing town amazed by things that are difficult to quantify or fathom, wanting to be awestruck, looking at how large the universe is. As he grows up and starts facing the realities of his life, he turns into a man zooming out to incomprehensibility with a realization of how insignificant he is, and how little his world matters.

 

With his knowledge of space and physique of a strong worker, he proves to be an asset and gets selected, along with many other civilians from different places to be the first group of people to experience life on the new planet.

 

As his journey to the planet progresses, he starts wondering if life would ever be the same, and the realization that if he were to ever come back home, it wouldn’t be the same gives him a strange feeling. 

With lots of time on his hand and not much to do, he 

looks around and starts finding parallels between life in Mylapore and on the space ship. 

 

How he was still in a tiny space which had just one too many people, how his life in a low-income home had prepared him for rationing supplies like food and water. In fact, he never thought that growing up in a town that didn't understand or believe in the concept of privacy would be something that would help him feel at home on a spaceship, but surprisingly, it wasn't very different from that. 

 

He started finding comfort in the realization that even though where people come from always stays with them, human behavior is almost always consistent, irrespective of that. Because in the end, they were all the very same people. 

 

Much like how man evolved from a being who kept to himself, to one that cared about his needs of food and shelter, later to one would seek and long social interaction, and then the need to express and tell stories, the ship and life on it too was evolving as the long journey proceeded. Soon, it became a circle around a simulation of a fire and storytelling session around it. There was Mythology, history, fantasy, all floating around connecting people who otherwise thought themselves so very different from one another. Some sang a song, some drew a picture or recited poetry or even said a prayer. Every one of then expressing themselves in ways that they felt true to them.

 

This left the Mylapore astronaut with a lot of questions. He wondered, imagined, search all around him and well as inside him, for the cause of man’s belief that he is superior to the air he breathes, the butterflies he captures. 

 

Why does man think he owns the wind, stars in all of their vastness? What makes him go around naming them and marking ownership on something so unfathomable? 

 If man thinks he owns the whole galaxy, he will clamp it in his fists like the fish that he has catches in the stream that is his, watching it wriggle and gasp for air. Watching death itself. That is the pride and joy man carries, his golden trophy.

In that case, how will it be on a planet that man has yet not known enough to 'own'.

Leaving the Mylapore astronaut with the thought that if they arrive in this new unfamiliar place that they are to soon call home, what stories will they tell, will they make history or carry their own histories forward. 

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Halfway human

A middle-aged man, who has spent his life like most other men his age, in pursuit of financial stability and a settled lifestyle gets to be a part of a diverse team of candidates chosen for a special research expedition on the 'new planet’. His selection happens due to his physical strength and endurance which are important factors to ensure survival and health outside earth.

 With his surprisingly agreeing to go, he realized that this was merely a small part in the larger scheme of events. It makes even more sense when he finds out that all the chosen ones are to get their bodies optimized with the best gadgets and parts that could be designed or engineered making him a cyborg, a hybrid of machine and organism. A creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.

 

It is known that humans are overridden by emotions and love for people and things, that can break them and they will fall very deep into a pit of grief and mourning. Even after decades of evolution, they are yet, in many ways primitive and still have much to discover but their big-headed minds celebrate in their youth in the vast universe. They could be so much more if they put their needs, desires, emotional states and pasts behind themselves and look into the future because without their distractions they can be anything and do everything.

Turning them into humanoids (cyborgs) seemed like the fastest way to do that, is what they are told. They now have an on and off switch for desires, feelings and emotions. And are given training on how to turn these into energy and use this switch to help achieve maximum potential. 

 

The Mylapore astronaut now faces an identity crisis questioning where he should look for a sense of belonging- in his Mylapore with his people or in space with himself. From trying to explain to his ageing mother what a cyborg means, to neighbors that think he has lost his mind for believing that he is now half machine, things seem difficult, until he uses his off switch. Which completely changes his side of things. He no longer feels humiliation or despair. And as he goes to have a very difficult last interaction with his lover, he realizes that he is not feeling anything in her presence. The logical part of his head makes it easier than ever for him to say goodbye. 

 

This gets him puzzled. Would the logical human not have any relationships and social interaction if emoticons weren't required?  If humans are indeed social beings and look for people to be around to feel a sense of security, then am I not human anymore, or have I been evolved to a point where that trait is not required anymore. This makes him question how he makes sense of his new found self and how it reflects on his world and reality. 

 

He finds some peace in something he is told at training- Our dreams are the most important aspirations and challenges we will ever meet but we aim to achieve the impossible and create the unknown. The day we grasp the idea that life exists for exploration and infinity will be the day the human race grows up into something huge and massive and you watch us run, as we spread across the universe. And with this thought he leaves, in hope of a new world and a new meaning to life.

 

arries, his golden trophy. Man cannot wrap his arms around the Milky Way and make it his. Man cannot control the slowing beat of his heart, thickening of his blood, the fading of his thoughts, the incompetence, the suffering that comes with age. Man cannot evade Death. Man cannot evade Life. And of all, Man's deepest flaw, he cannot evade himself.

 

A middle aged man, who has spent his life like most other men his age, in pursuit of financial stability and a settled lifestyle gets to be a part of a diverse team of candidates chosen for a special research expedition on the 'new planet'.His selection happens due to his physical strength and endurance which are important factors to ensure survival and health outside earth.

 With his surprisingly agreeing to go, he realised that this was merely a small part in the larger sceme of events. It makes even more sense when he finds out that all the chosen ones are getting their bodies optimised with the best gadgets and parts that could be designed or engineered making him a cyborg, a hybrid of machine and organism. A creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.

identity crisis questioning where he should look for a sense of belonging- in his Mylapore with his people or in space with himself 

From trying to explain to his ageing mother what a cyborg means, to neighbours that think he has lost his mind to believe that he was chosen, the conversations and internal conflicts that go on in his head, how he makes sense of these and how it reflects on his world and reality. 

 

 

This narrative would address contextualised sense of identities, how they are concieved, how they shift,  and a speculative reality where where space travel is not just a success story or narrative from the west.

. Social reality is lived in social situations, our most important political construct, a world changing fiction) 

Humans, we are overridden by our emotions and love for people and things, that can break us and we will fall so deep into a pit of grief and mourning. We are primitive and yet have much to discover but our big headed minds celebrate in our youth in the vast universe. We could be so much more if we put our pasts behind ourselves and looked into the future because without out distractions we can be anything and do everything. Our dreams are the most important aspirations and challenges we will ever meet but we aim to achieve the impossible and create the unknown. The day we grasp the idea that life exists for exploration and infinity will be the day the human race grow up into something huge and massive and you watch us run, as we spread across the universe