Mars Log4 mins 469 4 mins 469
Enough. I have had absolutely enough. It's been 5 years since I have been posted on this barren planet. When I signed up for a Mission to Mars, I thought there would be adventure, wonder, and excitement. All I have is some stale brinjal, a cranky old cat for company and a vast range of mountains that are too big and too red. Though yes, Tambu isn't always cranky; ISRO did a good thing by making sure that astronauts have an animal companion. But if Tambu is my spirit animal, I feel worried about what kind of spirit I may have.
5 years can be a long time, right? I don't know exactly when I got around to finally maintaining my personal journal. I think it was some time after the first six months when I desperately wanted to see another human, hear his/her voice, and maybe even shake hands or give a hug. For someone who didn't like this sort of thing on Earth, this was a little worrying. See the counselor has anyway mandated 1 hour of daily interaction via video calls. Sometimes it’s my parents, sometimes old friends and sometimes buddies from the ISRO base in Cochin. But over the years I can feel that their lives have moved ahead. And I've been stuck in this unchanging terrain.
‘So how's the mission going?' they always ask.
I no longer know how to reply. Nowhere. The mission is going nowhere. There is also no threat of running out of resources, being attacked by any aliens or any other wacky shit. The only danger, and yes we had been briefed about it, is of losing our minds. It's the sort of thing you laugh about when you're sitting with a group of your passionate astronaut buddies, all eager to shine bright. And we were given lots of training on not going crazy. Meditation, yoga, journal writing, that kind of stuff.
Initially, I avoided keeping a personal journal because it seemed weird to me. I am not a writer really. My thoughts are either many and furious or none at all. And I don’t have any thoughts on how to deal with my current situation.
In a way, it's a good thing that I didn't get married before coming here. My wife would have probably not managed to remain my wife. Now they're also making me participate in this online dating thing with other female astronauts. When we're deemed to be compatible, she will be sent to Mars. But honestly, it's not going so well. No matter how casual they try to be, I can see it. They look at this as a prize. Any romantic feelings are not the main deal here. And see, I have never really believed in love or Shah Rukh Khan. But I can't handle it when anyone tries to be fake nice. I can sense that the base team wants me to say yes to some girl. Nikarnika, I think. Hell, they even made Tambu get on a video call with her. Well, Tambu was not impressed. I like how cool Tambu can be. She thinks I don't know, but when I am asleep she comes and snuggles up to me. I guess that's cute.
When I signed up for this, let me be clear, I knew what I was signing up for. But now I am no longer the person who had signed up for all this. I don't know for sure what I want. A teaching job back home at the base station would be nice, I think. Tambu, of course, would be coming back with me.
Most of the testing and research assignments are running smoothly. They could be controlled from Earth now. Though I don't know if they'll allow me to come back. My return request was filed last week and they pretend as if nothing has happened.
Even when we signed up we were told that we could return after 5 years. I think they were hoping that we wouldn't do this. I keep saying ‘we’ but my mates are spread all across the solar system. Occasionally when the planets are at a suitable broadcasting frequency, we do get together for a call. Boy, it's good. It's the only time when getting drunk feels good. But our conversations are starting to crack now. Everyone is struggling with their isolation.
Inaka's case was a shock. We didn't think he would take his own life. All those years ago during training, he seemed the most in control. I mean this guy made every party a little crazier, a little more memorable. Maybe he needed the parties as much as the parties needed him. Oh hell, I miss that bastard.
This idea of sending us on our own to different planets, I see how it might have been cost-efficient. One mission goes wrong, we only end up losing one ship and one astronaut. But I hope the next missions have bigger teams. Teams that can be families. Because being an astronaut, I thought it would be about exploring the space and beyond. But mostly it has been about coming to terms with my own self.