Pahalgam – The unforgettable pony ride in paradise

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Pahalgam || Gulmarg || Kashmir

It would be a cliché to say the view was picturesque, Kashmir is too beautiful to express in words. We were on our way to Pahalgam. As we left the city of Srinagar behind and hit the highway, my window was splashed with colours, the yellow mustard fields, the green lining of the willow trees, the greenish-grey hills, the shimmering white snow cap and then the pristine blue sky; one making a backdrop for the other. It is like a layered painting conceived by the greatest of artists.

It was a little after 6 am, and the roads were almost deserted.

A bandh (shut down) was called on that day demanding justice for Asifa, the hapless little girl. Procuring transportation was difficult but our hotel manager (Walisons Hotel) Sajad bhai went the extra mile to extend his cooperation. He insisted that we move on early, a village en route to Pahalgam in Anantnag district was supposedly in an enraged temperament and could pose a threat. Thus the journey at the appointed hour.

Suhail the kashmiri boy, all of 21, drove at a slow but steady pace, showing us the Kesar fields, the walnut trees, the willow trees, the bat market and the kesar market lining the highway with countless shops, ofcourse all closed at that wee hour, interestingly most of the kesar shops had ‘Zamindar’ on their Signboard pre or post fixed with something or the other.

Soon we were driving past sleepy little villages, the apple orchards and then we met the Liddar. Rajib asked Suhail to stop and urged us to get down. I had no idea that the air outside would be so chilled.

Srinagar was at 5200ft and we were now approaching 8989ft, much closer to those snow caps. Pahalgam boasts of being the gateway to Amarnath pilgrimage. The famous Amarnath yatra starts from ‘Chandanwadi’, 16kms uphill from the main town of Pahalgam.

Srinagar looks like any other town, bustling with activity, big and small buildings, flyovers and congestion. Jhelum and the flood channels are fairly clean and looking at the ornate bridges on them, with a glimpse of the snow-capped mountains at the horizon, one does get reminded of being close to paradise. But Pahalgam is paradise.

The river that is called Liddar, fed by numerous streams trickling or babbling down the snow-capped mountains, gives a distinct character to Pahalgam. It is at the heart of this tiny picture-perfect town.

There is only one way to enter Pahalgam, through a small check post on the road. After the welcome banner, the road goes upstream beside the Liddar. On one side the hill slopes up and the other limits the gully that the river creates. A few hotels are scattered on either side of the road, each kindling a desire to frame it or better be a part of that frame.

The road leads to the centre of the town which is at the river level.  The town centre is a stretch of about 2 km on the same road; it has two big parking lots (to hire cars) at each end, curio shops, eateries and hotels, a mosque, an ancient temple and a gurdwara. It also has two ATMs and branches of J&K Bank and HDFC. SBI atm counter had been closed since long. A public utility stands a little way up the slope from the road, opposite to the Gurudwara, Swachcha Bharat!

The road then bifurcates, one leading towards ‘Chandanwadi’ and the other towards Aru Valley and further.

The town has another level accessible by two roads, one a steeply inclined road which goes straight up the slope from the town centre to the main gates of the JKTDC (Jammu Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation) tourist lodges where we were housed for the 3 unforgettable days of my life.

Another, which we took on the day we arrived, a little round-about but less steep, is an offshoot of the main road at the onset of the town centre. This level is on the slope of a hill that goes up, up and up; mostly has JKTDC lodgings, some government offices and residences of the forest and other departments.

There is a village at the fag end of the road on this level. This road is called the circuit road.

In Pahalgam, riding is the thing to do, if one is not angling or rafting or trekking! It had been raining and snowing for the last couple of days and it was only for us to ride that snow white gleamed on the mountain tops, and ride we did.

We checked in to a pre-booked (online) two bedroom cottage, had tea and breakfast sitting at the garden table. Gulam was just a phone call away to take care of all our needs. Villagers from the nearby mountains came with their wares to sell, we mostly declined, taking just one dress material as a gesture of empathy. All winter they weave and wait for the tourist season that begins in April.

Tourism is the only livelihood of the people of Pahalgam, in fact of Kashmir as a whole. The hotels, the shops, the weavers, the artisans who do paper mache or woodcraft to the drivers, horse tenders and the horses and even the masseuse, all depend on us, the tourists.

The masseuse, another Gulam bhai was persistent about rendering his services and finally, we promised to avail them in the evening. He came around 7 pm and massaged Rajib and Roddur. It was good and reasonable at only Rs 300.

We took the horses from the guy, whom the manager of JKTDC recommended, the rates are written on the board for all to see as though fixed, yet negotiations go underway if the hours are lengthier and the numbers are more. We took three ponies for a 4 to 5 hrs trip (12kms) for Rs 4800.

Little did we know about the adventures that awaited us! Roddur had been very eager since he rode a horse in Darjeeling and a camel in Jaisalmer. I was very sceptical since in Darjeeling, I mounted one and got down immediately screaming hypnotically and in Jaisalmer was almost hanging for my dear life at the camel’s butt. Rajib was only worried about being able to sustain the long ride.

As soon as I got up, my head reeled but I hung on, for one if I backed out the fun would get spoiled, two there was no other way to go to Baisaran valley also called ‘mini Switzerland’, except for on ponies or foot and I could not have trekked alone.

After a while I got comfortable, this was a classic case of defeating fear with mental powers, I did it! The metalled road soon ended as we started the climb to the next level up the slope through a winding road that was full of muck and water from the incessant rains that had hit the valley till the day before.

The ponies want to walk through the mud, as the stones laid on the mud road hurt their legs, thus they move over to the edge often. We went on for a while stopping at times to see the Pahalgam valley peeping through the pine trees as if to take a look at the new bride. And beautiful she is.

At a point we stopped to pose with rabbits which the local boys catch from the forest and are happy to get any dime that one cares to give them. Then came a turn where we left the path which came close to be called a ‘road’, though muddy and clearly made only out of regular use.

We started climbing up the slope, no tracks, no marks, just a straight climb up. All my fear had vaporized by then and I was amazed to find that the horseman was able to find a footing on the slope where I could see none and the beast followed.

We went over the logs, through gentle streams, adjusting our bodies, bend back when going down, bend forward when going up and in the midst of all this I give a sidewise glance and find Roddur riding all by himself at a little distance giving instructions to his horse. Under normal circumstances, I would have been petrified but there atop my pony in that vista, I assumed myself to be Ibn Battuta going on a long journey and thought of him as a fellow traveller used to ridding naturally, which he proved to be all through when we hit even harder descends down the slope.

Finally we reached Baisaran valley. Rolling meadows, surrounded by pine forest with a backdrop of the snow capped mountains. It seemed like a gateway to heaven. Baisaran is the camp site for trekkers who go up to Tulian Lake at 12000ft. Baisaran is 5kms from Pahalgam.

We sat for a while, drank kahwa and ate maggi which is readily available. Roddur did some Zorbing and Rajib clicked, clicked and clicked.

The onward journey, again through the off-beat, no track path took us to a village which had 3 houses. The Gurjar lady happily let us photograph her ware and we gave her a few bucks.

There was a nice stretch of land after the village and then came the most horrific descend. We were to ride down a slope which had an inclination of almost 45 deg down to a waterfall. I was trying to focus on the awesome scene.

Suddenly Roddur’s pony was sick of following mine, which was being led by a horseman and went astray. It had been doing that all the while but this descend was not to be fooled around on, so my horseman took its reins too. It would have made quite an intense scene in a movie. One horseman trying to lead two horses down a very steep slope with riders on them, one of which, me, was quite a rounded bundle prone to lose balance any instance.

Rajib had a horseman to himself but that didn’t make it any bit easier.

The waterfall was another prattling stream cutting through the rocks, coming from somewhere uphill. One could wade through it in April and the drier months, but after July it swells up and makes quite a sight rumbling down over the rocks, rendering the crossing over impossible.

There is a small shack for refreshments.

The descend further is not so steep but a difficult terrain for the horses. Its all rocks and slippery too! The ponies tripped a couple of times. I reasoned that since they had four legs, a little trip won’t make it fall and if we could just cling on to it, then we won’t crash land either.

Soon we hit the metalled road that was the other end of the circuit road that we had started our journey from. There is a small village and settlement at this end. Children were waving and running along.

Roddur seemed to be in his element all through; he mostly rode on his own, up the hill, down the hill and was having a roll.

The next day, to Roddur’s dismay and discomfort, we travelled on the four legs of a car that we are more used to. We visited the famous Betaab valley, where Roddur tried Zip Lining to my surprise. He is scared of heights and is a very non sporty person.

We went till the snow line at Chandanwadi and had jhaal muri, in the Aru valley where we found possibly the costliest public utility in India at Rs 10/- per head.

Back in Pahalgam after the sightseeing, we tried trout fish. It was too expensive but delicious. Food all through the Kashmir valley needs a special mention. Just as the valley is a paradise, the food is that of the Gods; from 5 star rated restaurant to road-side dhaba, everybody knows how to cook up the most mouth-watering savoury.

Kashmir is also famous for its Papier-mâché art in addition to their signature motifs on textile and wood carvings. Walnut wood is widely used for decor. Pine is used for the base of the Shikaras. The saying goes that its only after some 10-15 years that the pine realises it is in the water, the decay might start then.

We picked up most of the home decor from Pahalgam.

The day before our departure we explored the 1300 years old Sun temple, the mughal garden at Achbal and Kokernag; that is another delightful story which needs to be told separately.

Closing the Pahalgam chapter, we headed for Srinagar. Liddar kept company for a good time and then we parted, once and for all? May be not, who knows. Loaded with souvenirs and kesar and cranberry and blue berry and kehwa and saffron cream, and many more things and enchanting memories we came back to a sweltering Srinagar.

Srinagar we found is chilling when it rains and sizzling when it doesn’t, that is in April.

Pahalgam || Gulmarg || Kashmir

Out of containment

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

from an era without coronavirus

I have been familiar with the term cantonment since childhood well into my forties. But ‘containment’ had never been so up close and personal. We contain harmful chemicals, angry bulls, rising water levels so on and so forth but humans en masse, unbelievable!

Equally unbelievable is the fact that I am the potential danger, and all humans around me are death personified. Creepy as it feels, an indiscernible tiny spec has become the governing body of our oh! so superior human bodies. One touch, one sneeze, one spit and I could be infected in 60 seconds.

My son tells me that our bodies are weak, our abilities are inferior, and without advanced tech, left alone, even a dog can shred us into pieces. But look what we have become – a weapon of destruction without any tech.

We have heard of bees whose behaviour gets altered after being bitten by Apocephalus borealis. The infected bees fly at night towards bright light aimlessly displaying ‘Zombie’ like behaviour where one is not in control but is being controlled by someone or something else and dying eventually.

Thus subjugated by the Corona virus, we the humans, are also behaving like zombies – venturing out purposelessly towards procuring stuff we don’t have an immediate requirement for, be it food or medicines or gadgets as if being forced by a will that is no longer ours but manipulated by evil, and dying eventually.

In that sense we have become harmful and thus need to be contained. Our housing society had to be made a containment zone for a couple of weeks as the number of Covid positive cases were rising at greater rate than fuel prices. Frequent advisory notices, awareness talks or even people getting affected could not make people to adhere to norms that would benefit themselves.

Can we then say that we are superior intelligent beings capable of making democratic choices or should we hand over our reins to the AI that cannot be manipulated so easily? But then who knows, viruses don’t spare anybody! Does it not seem like they are at the apex after all, naturally occurring or manmade? However we are free again, out of containment and once again given the opportunity to prove that we are sentient beings with a rational mind. Feels good, hope we prove worthy.

The Benefits of Organic Farming

By Anoushrayan Deysarkar

Beautiful fields near Hampi

Chemical fertilizers are one of the cornerstones of the Green Revolution in India. They drastically increase the yield of crops grown in the fields. However, they have their own drawbacks.

Chemical fertilizers dissolve in water and are absorbed by the plants as mineral nutrients. However, they also enter the groundwater and form poisonous substances. Sometimes, rain washes them into rivers and streams, thus polluting them.

When animals or humans drink or use such water, they fall ill, due to the poisonous nature of some of these substances.

The bigger problem, however, is that chemical fertilizers do not enrich the soil, unlike organic fertilizers such as manure and animal dung. This is because chemical fertilizers deplete the nutrients in the soil. For example, excess nitrogen in the soil feeds the growth of nitrogen-eating microbes, which produce CO2. In this way, carbon is pulled out of the soil and into the atmosphere. However, it is essential to have sufficient quantity of carbon in the soil. In this way, chemical fertilizers reduce the amount of essential nutrients in the soil. They also prevent the regeneration of soil nutrients.

Chemical pesticides are also a major problem. They kill off the bacteria and fungi in the soil. The reduction of organic matter has drastic consequences for the soil. The soil does not regenerate essential nutrients. This is because the bacteria break down compounds into nitrogen and phosphates, which are important for the health of the plant.

In this way, chemical fertilizers and pesticides severely harm the soil. Alternatively, organic manures and organic pesticides made from natural substances can help to keep the soil healthy. The yield will be reduced, but the soil will last for a longer period of time. Thus, it is wise to choose organic pesticides and fertilizers over chemical ones.

Go organic and save the soil!

The G’lander kids

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Earth – many centuries hence


Giti Gitu and Gito had come to that part of the prairie where they were not supposed to be. It was a restricted area. They weren’t there because they were naughty, but because they were lost. The only relief was that there was light. Ample light, to find our way back home, thought Giti, the eldest of them. They were not siblings but in their biome G’land, everybody’s name started with G.

10 yrs old Giti was a smart chap. It so happened that after school, Gitu (8) and Gito (7), who lived in the same housing complex as that of Giti requested him to take them home by a detour he had quite often spoken off.

The detour was a small one, hardly a couple of fathoms more than the usual way home. It was bordered by a line of very tall bushes.

So it was first two lefts then a right and a slight right and a left again to reach home by this detour. Giti knew it as good as the table of 5. And yet it happened. He got lost and with him Gitu and Gito too.

“Must have taken a turn we should not have.” Gitu said aloud. True it is, but which one? thought Giti.

Beyond the tall bushes, Gito spotted a lamb and showed it to the others. Giti gestured to keep quiet. The lamb was happily jumping around unaware of their presence, suddenly it turned to face them and with a start jumped back and ran as fast as possible. The children ran after it but soon lost it.

The mystery

Gito was exhausted and sat on a pile of dry grass with a thud. Giti and Gitu were about to join when they saw Gito rolling down into a pit as the dry grass started caving in. He had accidentally touched a lever that opened up a sort of thatch. Gito started screaming and the other two ran towards the opening. Gito was standing on firm ground, not very deep, hardly about their height into the earth in a squarish enclosure. Giti and Gitu jumped in.

The three walked towards the interior of the enclosure and found a door. A little push opened the door ajar and they walked into a room that was walled with glass. Giti placed his palm on the wall and started walking around the room, the other two followed. Suddenly Giti could feel a portion of the wall moving outward. It was a door. The trio pushed and entered another room, much smaller and filled with many narrow chambers like phone booths that they had seen photographs of in their books.

They got inside one and found that it had a lot of buttons. Gito started pushing them but nothing happened. The kids rushed out and started checking the other equipment. There was a big box that looked like a washing machine or dish washer. that they had seen at home. Gitu and Gito started pushing all the buttons and before Giti could warn them one of the booths started glowing. The children ran towards it and went inside. The door shut almost immediately. A voice started saying, “Initiating protocol for descend. Please take your seat” The kids sat down on the bench and a belt came around their waist. A sweet smell filled the chamber and the kids felt sleepy and before long were snoring aloud..

Giti woke up first. The booth door was ajar. The belts were no longer holding them. He shook Gito and Gitu out of their slumber. The trio moved out of the booth and came into the room. Giti said, “Guys I think we slept off and it must be quite late, lets head home, our parents must be very worried.” The other two agreed and they ran out of the room pushing the doors. They came into the enclosure where the hatch had opened, but the hatch was closed now. The kids started looking around and shortly found a lever sort of thing. On pressing it the hatch started to cave in.

Giti put Gito on his shoulder and stood up. Gito climbed out easily. Next out was Gitu and then Giti climbed out. They stood there dumbfounded. Where was the priory? There was sand all around.There was ample light so they could see afar. But with sand all around and no known landscape, they didn’t know which way to go.

Giti said, “I am completely out of my wits, what do we do guys?” Gitu and Gito looked at each other. Finally Gitu said, “Lets start walking.” The three started walking. After a very long walk the kids saw a white tent and a few people moving about it. One of the men spotted the kids and came towards them.

The kids were very exhausted by now and passed out. The man called out for a few others. They picked up the kids and took them into the tents. Made them lie down. After quite some time Giti woke up. One man was sitting by his side. He slowly spoke to him but Giti could not understand. He then punched some buttons on his watch and gestured to Giti to speak. Giti said, “I am Giti.”

The man looked at the watch and a wrinkle formed on his forehead. He again punched some keys and this time the watch repeated after he had spoken, “Are you lost? You seem to be from G’land. How did you reach D’land?”

Giti gave the complete account of their escapade after school. He then inquired about Gitu and Gito. The watch translator said that they were in the other tent. Soon after the trio were given refreshments and they felt revived. Now they wanted to go home. The men from the tent told them that they were far out from the city. Giti asked inquisitively, “What is happening here?”. “We are replacing the water pipes. It has to be done every 20 – 25 yrs to keep any contamination at bay,”

Apparently, the kids came through an elevator but according to the men there wasn’t supposed to be any elevator nearby. This was a remote location meant only to facilitate water circulation throughout the different biomes. Children coming from Grass(G)land to D(Desert)land meant a lot of trouble on a global scale. It meant unauthorized entry to a different biome, through an unauthorized shaft dug without official knowledge and definitely with a malicious intent.


Next morning the kids were taken to the nearest habitation – a beautiful township complete with hi-tech facilities just like the one where Giti, Gitu and Gito live. One of the official routes to traverse between the Lands which the tourists, officials and scientists used was nearby.

Giti Gitu and Gito were taken to a building with beautiful gardens around it, it was a striking feature in a otherwise sandy landscape. They were thoroughly examined, decontaminated and then taken to a room which had a couple of vertical cylindrical metallic elevators just like the ones that the kids had seen and traversed by but much more sophisticated and comfortable.

Urbanization and extreme technological development had seen the surface of the earth made into a city planet – The Ecumenupolis, It had nothing natural about it any more. It had turned into a typical business center – only huge, humongous. Trade happened on an interplanetary scale(Read the account of K’ Rell Suga – a business traveler from L’Orgrehi, a very distant planet).

However the apex living beings of Earth, the humans felt the need to preserve the beautiful biomes(habitats) that the planet had once been adorned with. They wanted their children to know the beautiful and bountiful nature. But they wanted to create a layered Earth where each habitat or biome will be preserved and their unique biotic and the abiotic factors will not interfere with the other biomes.

So they dug into the Earth and created a unique biome for a couple of thousand kms supporting it with pillars and complete with artificial sun and all other natural elements as required with the help of advanced nano bots tech.

The ecumenupolis was followed by the grass-land, the desert-land, the forest-land and the ocean-land.Beyond that was the mantle and core of the Earth, which kept it going – no messing up there!

The kids were given a small drink and asked to sit for a while. While the adults could handle the travel between the habitats, it had never been tried on kids, they were not even made aware of the existence of the other biomes till 16 years of age, after which they could travel freely between the biomes. The light music and ambiance made them feel sleepy and they slept off.

Gito was thrilled to see his mom as he woke up. “Mamma, I went to another earth, it had a lot of sand and no grass. I didn’t want to go there. We were just taking a detour and then…” Mom gave him a patient hearing although she knew everything, the officials had briefed the parents earlier while the kids were still under the effect of the sleep inducer. The three little G’lander kids were very excited about their adventure. But there was a lot more to find out !!!

A Tour of Earth from L’Orgrehi

By Anoushrayan Deysarkar

Earth – many centuries later

“Entering Realspace in 5 minutes.”

The automated voice greeted K’Rell Suga as he exited cryostasis. He quickly got into his anti-inertial luxury couch and strapped in. The deactivation of the warp field and the sudden stop caused by the ship entering Realspace was nauseating, but the couch should help.

K’Rell was going to Earth(as in The G’lander kids), for a business deal. He was travelling in his one-person frigate, upgraded with state-of-the-art security and a powerful FTL engine. He had heard many stories about Earth, and how beautiful it was, both its urban side, and the Biomes. K’Rell was not impressed. Surely it could not be more beautiful than the great cities and vast natural parks of his home planet, L’Orgrehi?

“Entering Realspace in 1 minute. Please strap up your belongings.”

K’Rell didn’t have to worry about that – his belongings were safely stowed away. He simply waited impatiently for the moment when the warp bubble would collapse and he would enter, ‘Lagrange Point 2, Earth-Luna System, Sol System’, as he had been informed.

“Entering Realspace. Warp bubble collapsing in 3, 2, 1… Warp Bubble Deactivated. Enjoy your trip!”

K’Rell deactivated his harness and stepped out to the window. Earth’s moon, Luna, obscured the view of the planet itself, but his ship was moving and soon he’d be able to see –

K’Rell gasped. He had just had his first view of Earth. The entire planet was covered in a single city. He knew the term for this – he had learnt it in school. It was a – Ecumenopolis? Yes, that was the term. A city planet. Beautiful.

But where were the Biomes? Most people who visited Earth refused to tell anybody else about it, saying that they needed to visit it themselves. As a result, K’Rell had heard about the Biomes, but he had never got any real details about them. Either way, he’d get to know, soon.

His ship took an hour to land on Earth’s surface, courtesy of their space elevator, and another hour to check in out of the spaceport. Once he had all his baggage ready, he chartered one of the local automated ‘flying taxis’ – why not use pods, he didn’t know, but the locals just laughed when he asked them, murmuring something about a ‘fifth element’ – and then checked into his hotel. He was on the 56th floor, one of the lower ones.

The next morning, after breakfast, he got to Juk-Rai Market Nexus, and attended his appointment with the CEO of Verision Industries. The deal was successful, and now a lot richer, K’Rell decided to explore this planet.

He chartered an automated gyro-pod – at least they had those – for the entire day. Then, he started his tour.

He went to entertainment parks. He went to shopping malls, holo-cinema halls, and to restaurants. He rode roller coasters, bought souvenirs, and tasted dishes from all over the universe.

When he heard that there were interesting and unique heritage sites, preserved for more than a thousand years, he decided to visit them. He chartered a supersonic bus to carry his gyro-pod to the heritage site of Burj Khalifa. The tower, constructed in 2009, had been the tallest tower on Earth for a long time. Now, of course, it looked tiny, compared to the 5-kilometre-tall skyscrapers rising around it, and the even larger luxury condominiums.

He visited the ancient mega-cities of Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, New York and London, now absorbed into the Ecumenopolis. He visited museums and exhibition centres.

At the end of the day, he returned to his hotel, tired but happy, having explored the entire planet. However, he still hadn’t found the Biomes, though he had seen several advertisements for them. He had originally planned to stay for only a day on Earth, but now he decided to extend his visit by another day.

The next day, he went to the hotel management, and asked them to charter a trip for him to the Biomes. 1 hour later, he was on a personal supersonic carrier, travelling to the nearest ‘elevator’.

K’Rell wondered what that meant. Was he going to a space elevator? Were the Biomes in space? Well, he would find out, soon enough.

K’Rell arrived at what looked like a reverse space elevator, leading downwards instead of upwards. His carrier docked onto one of the Hubs, labelled Outer Earth, which didn’t make any sense to him. He then followed the instructions on his holo-ticket to a door labelled ‘Murmila Biome Tours’. K’Rell flashed his ticket at the reader, and the door opened. One quick DNA scan later, he was led down a corridor by a human guide.

K’Rell was taken to an elevator, and told to strap in. The couch was comfortable, and clearly inertially damped. The guide checked to make sure he was comfortable, and then gave a signal.

The elevator started moving down, speeding up until it was moving downwards, through solid rock, at breakneck speed. K’Rell, was getting nervous, when suddenly, the rock fell away, and the sight under his feet – because only now did he realise that the floor was made of a transparent material – struck him speechless.

Below him, was a vast grassland, spreading out in every direction.

It took them half-an-hour to reach the hub at the bottom. The guide led him to a gyro-pod for 2, and then proceeded to take him on a tour of the Grassland Biome, colloquially known as G-Land.

They toured the G-Land for the next 2 hours, and finally returned to the Hub.

K’Rell smiled, and told the guide, “Thank you, young man, that was a wonderful tour. I’ll be sure to write a good review.” The guide looked at him strangely and asked, “What are you talking about, sir? This is only the beginning!”

And then, he took K’Rell down another layer, to the Desert Biome. And then to the Forest Biome, and then the Ocean Biome. Each layer seemed more beautiful than the last.

K’Rell spent the entire day exploring the Biomes. At the end of the day, he returned to Outer Earth – that name finally made sense – and got his baggage out of the hotel. 7 hours later, as K’Rell prepared to go into cryostasis for the journey home, he knew he would be leaving Earth with not just a successful business deal, but with extraordinary memories of the planet and its beauty.

# Biomes – a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g. forest or desert.

# Cryostasis – process of freezing a person, in this case – while on a long planetary travel.

On Amazon – E3PO talks love – Novella

Crogy, Neel’s housekeeping Cyborg, is programmed to efficiently handle human emotions, well only the straight forward ones; so when Neel is struck by cupid’s arrow, Crogy tries to find a rationale and fails. He is the author of this narrative which spans years and generations from one pandemic to another and tells the story of heart aches in times of global crisis and how it created predicament in the personal lives of his master Neel and his grandfather Mohit. Crogy switches between the past and present chapter by chapter bringing in hordes of characters that influence the lives of his protagonists in a small or big way, he also gives a sneak peek of his times – the futuristic world that 2090 could be. The gripping novella ends on a sweet note having taken the reader through two vivid and eventful journeys, full of twists and turns.

The Periodic Table

Anoushrayan Deysarkar

The periodic table is a common sight in nearly every chemistry classroom in the world today. But how did it come to be?

In 1789, Antoine Lavoisier published a list of 33 chemical elements, grouping them into gases, metals, nonmetals, and earths.

 In 1829, Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner observed that many elements could be grouped into triads based on their chemical properties. For example, Lithium, Sodium and Potassium were grouped together in a triad, as soft, reactive metals. German chemist Leopold Gmelin worked with this system, and by 1843 he had identified 10 triads, three groups of 4 and 1 group of 5. However, although various chemists were able to identify relationships between small groups of elements, they had yet to build one scheme that encompassed them all.

In 1862, the French geologist Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois published an early form of the periodic table, which he called the telluric helix or screw. His paper used geological rather than chemical terms and did not include a diagram. As a result, it received little attention until the work of Dmitri Mendeleev.

In 1864, Julius Lothar Meyer, a German chemist, published a table with 28 elements. Realizing that an arrangement according to atomic weight did not exactly fit the observed periodicity in chemical properties he gave valency priority over minor differences in atomic weight.

Concurrently, English chemist William Odling published an arrangement of 57 elements, ordered on the basis of their atomic weights. Odling alluded to the idea of a periodic law but did not pursue it. He subsequently proposed (in 1870) a valence-based classification of the elements.

English chemist John Newlands produced a series of papers from 1863 to 1866 noting that when the elements were listed in order of increasing atomic weight, similar physical and chemical properties recurred at intervals of eight. He likened such periodicity to the octaves of music. This so termed Law of Octaves was ridiculed by Newlands’ contemporaries, and the Chemical Society refused to publish his work. The Chemical Society only acknowledged the significance of his discoveries five years after they credited Mendeleev.

Russian chemistry professor Dmitri Mendeleev and German chemist Julius Lothar Meyer independently published their periodic tables in 1869 and 1870, respectively. The recognition and acceptance afforded to Mendeleev’s table came from two decisions he made. The first was to leave gaps in the table when it seemed that the corresponding element had not yet been discovered. Mendeleev was not the first chemist to do so, but he was the first to be recognized as using the trends in his periodic table to predict the properties of those missing elements, such as gallium and germanium. The second decision was to occasionally ignore the order suggested by the atomic weights and switch adjacent elements, such as tellurium and iodine, to better classify them into chemical families.

In 1871, Mendeleev published his periodic table in a new form, with groups of similar elements arranged in columns rather than in rows, and those columns numbered I to VIII corresponding with the element’s oxidation state. He also gave detailed predictions for the properties of elements he had earlier noted were missing but should exist. These gaps were subsequently filled as chemists discovered additional naturally occurring elements.

The popular periodic table layout, also known as the common or standard form is attributable to Horace Groves Deming (1923).

In 1945, Glenn Seaborg, an American scientist, made the suggestion that the actinide elements, like the lanthanides, were filling an f sub-level. Before this time, the actinides were thought to be forming a fourth d-block row. Seaborg’s suggestion was found to be correct, and he subsequently went on to win the 1951 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in synthesizing actinide elements. As we know, the periodic table has undergone many changes throughout its history, until it has reached the modern form we see today. Many elements were found in nature, and some have been synthesized in labs. Scientists are working, even now, to find more elements and improve the periodic table. Let us hope that we continue to find out more about the periodic table, and that our chemical knowledge improves in the process.

Space Elevators

Anoushrayan Deysarkar

Illustration: Victor Habbick/Getty Images

Megastructures are truly massive structures, which are used for projects beyond anything we can do today. One of these is the space elevator.

A space elevator is a theoretical structure stretching from Earth to space, which allows the transport of materials and spacecraft from Earth to space and vice-versa, without the use of a rocket.

The construction of a space elevator would be extremely expensive and difficult, but the payoff would be immense. It would require an extremely strong thread, one that only became possible after the invention of artificial super-fibers like C-60. However, no existing material has the required strength to support such a structure. Several plans have been put forward for the construction of a space elevator, though none have been realised yet.

Apart from the thread, another problem is location and actual construction. A space elevator would have to be built at the equator, to avoid major problems. Several locations have been suggested, in regions free from storms and heavy winds. The western equatorial Pacific is a possible location, as it has the best possible natural location, free of environmental hazards.

Many ideas, such as building the elevator on top of a mountain or tall tower, have been proposed, to reduce the stress on the cable. The construction would probably be done by a satellite, feeding cable down to the Earth’s surface, and a counterweight to create centrifugal force, upwards. The space elevator is a fascinating megastructure and has the potential to cut costs down by up to 100 times. It would be very useful and making one would be very rewarding for whichever country manages it.