Star Gazing

For the first time on this blog, a piece of fiction – a short story written by Priya Raju. Read on.


The students of Grade 2 were clearing out when Mr. Mansur entered the class room. “Boys & Girls – I’m taking you on Friday night to the Planetarium. Get these permission slips signed by your parents tomorrow”.

A general hubbub ensued. We are going to the Planetarium, We are going to the Planetarium! We are going to the Planetarium!! We are going to the Planetarium!!! Nobody was really sure what a Planetarium was, but it had an interesting name – it sort of rolled on your tongue.

Mr. Mansur raised a hand & the kids became quiet. Cindy raised a plaintive hand & asked him, “Sir, please Sir. Are there any monsters in this Planetarium?” Arun loudly sniggered – Girls were such scaredy cats. Aloud he said, “Cindy, you are stupid. Sir, please Sir. Can we get Cotton Candy there?”

Mr. Mansur laughed aloud & said, “No children. We’ll watch stars & planets in the Planetarium”. Oh. That didn’t sound too exciting. “We’ll get a special telescope. You can see the stars & planets real close”. Ok, this sounded better – definitely, some possibilities. “I’ll even let you operate the telescopes”. Hoo-ha, hoo-ha, hoo-ha, hoo-ha!! This was very, very thrilling.

Arun couldn’t think of anything else that evening. Why, there were only 2 more days. He went to the apartment complex where he lived with his parents & elder brother.

His elder brother, a 7th grader, looked smug as usual & Arun decided that he won’t tell him anything about the trip. Nothing at all & wild horses couldn’t drag it from him. “Brother, do you know Mr. Mansur is taking us to the Planetarium on Friday?” John looked at Arun condescendingly & said, “That’s nice. Do you know that stars are made of big balls of hot gas?” Arun became indignant – gas indeed! Why, he must think I’m a fool. “John – the only gas here is the one you make after eating beans”. John returned with crushing dignity to his books.

After dinner that day, Arun looked at the sky. What the – there were no stars. They had gone somewhere. Clearly, this was bad. The next day, he told Mr. Mansur, “Sir, there are no stars left in the sky”. Bad, bad, bad – Gee, they had probably fallen down from the sky. They fell right into the gutters. The one-eyed cat in the school ate them. Binu started sobbing & a few others followed suit. Mr. Mansur told them, “We live in the city. Because of light pollution we can’t see the stars. You can see them from the Planetarium.” At this reassurance, they cheered up.

Friday evening & the kids couldn’t control themselves. Some of the boys danced on the table & chanted the refrain, “Innikku[1] – Planetarium, Innikku – Planetarium”. Ms. Singh, the Principal, walked in & looked shocked. She was easily shocked. The kids piped down, afraid that THE plan might be scrapped.

The Planetarium was on a hill & it was pitch-dark when they arrived. They silently made for the telescopes. Binu squeaked suddenly, “I can hear the stars!” There was a buzz of agreement – the stars were indeed making some sound. Must be the noise made by their incessant twinkling. Mr. Mansur told them, “Those are just crickets in the woods. And now, the telescope is pointing to the Venus.”

Soon, a mug of hot chocolate was served. They covered themselves with thick blankets & listened to Mr. Mansur saying cool stuff about various stars & planets. Mars was Red. Saturn had a ring. The Great Bear was not really a bear.

A very dreamy Arun walked into the living room that night. “I love star gazing & telescopes”, he announced to his parents solemnly. Immediately, a-meaningful-glance passed between his parents.

“I’m glad you are taking an interest in your plans, Arun”, said his dad happily. “Perhaps you’d like to take up Astronomy, son”, said his mom. “But really, you need to improve your scores in Math. They are abysmal & you certainly can’t get into a good institute if you don’t improve. Perhaps I can enroll you into some special classes & I’ll take you the Math Olympiad”. Arun looked perplexed.

“That’s silly, Rosie”, said his dad. “My son will become an astronaut. I won’t permit him to become a geek like your father. Arun – we have to work on your stamina & physique. You need to focus on energy building. Now, I know an excellent after-school tennis program”. His mother looked miffed. “Really, Ravi – why do you have to drag my dad into this? After all, it is for Arun to decide”

Both his parents looked expectantly at him. He thought that he had to say something – they wanted him to. But his mind had gone blank.

“I want to go to the bathroom”, he said. His mother sighed & said, “Wash your hands after use”.


[1] Tamil word meaning “Today”.


  1. Quote
    Anonymous said January 11, 2007, 8:11 pm:

    Nice story, Priya. It reminded me of the workshop on astronomy I attended last year. I got to see Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars through the telescope. Venus was so beautiful, like huge, brilliant solitaire. No wonder Arun fell in love with the sky.

    – Archana

  2. Quote
    Anonymous said January 11, 2007, 10:10 pm:

    Thanks Archana. BTW, where did you attend this workshop? Please let me know. It sounds interesting.

    – Priya

  3. Quote
    Anonymous said January 12, 2007, 4:38 am:

    It was in Dakshin Chitra. A lady called Geetha Vasudevan runs a study group called Hayagriva Study circle. She conducts workshop on many interesting subjects. There was even one on investing in art few months back (I did not attend it since it spanned across 8 weekend). I will send her mail id to you if you are interested.

  4. Quote
    Anonymous said January 12, 2007, 4:49 am:

    My previous comment went. I also wanted to tell you that I found the right name for the book on evolution I mentioned about in your post on fear of cockroaches

    The Descent of Woman -Elaine Morgan

    Just in case you are not able to locate the previous comment; I attended the work shop in Dakshin Chitra. It was organized by a lady called Geetha Vasudevan who runs a study circle called Hayagriva study circle. They conduct work shops on very interesting subjects. There was one on “Investing in Art” in October. I will send you her mail Id if you are interested.


  5. Quote
    Anonymous said January 12, 2007, 7:43 am:

    Thanks Archana. Please scrap her mail ID to Orkut. We’ve been wanting to contact the Hayagriva study circle.

    – Priya

  6. Quote
    Anonymous said January 12, 2007, 10:32 am:

    Nice story Priya. It touched upon many conteporary problems as well as children’s innocence. I could identify with parts of the story well. But the names of the characters are little cosmo. Could be native names like Arun, Ravi etc.

  7. Quote
    Anonymous said January 12, 2007, 1:05 pm:

    Thanks Vamsi. Good point about the names – I wanted anyone & everyone who visited the site to easily get the gender of the character. I guess Mansur, Ravi, Arun & Binu sound Pukka Desi, while John, Cindy & Rosie sound a bit contrived.

    – Priya

  8. Quote
    Anonymous said January 13, 2007, 9:07 am:

    Thanks Archana. I’ll check it out.

    – Priya

Leave a Comment



Formatting Your Comment

The following XHTML tags are available for use:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

URLs are automatically converted to hyperlinks.