Passengers

Yesterday I watched the second half of the 2016 American science fiction film ‘Passengers’ starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Why the second half only? Well that is the time allotted by me in the evening for a break after a ‘hard’ day’s work ‘online’ and gazing at the laptop screen!! Relaxing means to switch from one English film TV channel to another till some movie appeals to me. In this evening slot, I often get to see science fiction films. Most times the story line is: America is under attack by aliens, Russians, bio weapons or creeps, and the hero, sometimes a heroine, saves America and the world!! Clap Clap! But sometimes one gets interesting stories of what the future may look like, films like Inception, Matrix, In Time, and Tenet where an invention inverts time!! Fascinating, and the more I watch the more plausible this seems. Read the book Homo Deus by Harari (review here). You will believe that pursuing 3 goals of the world or the future human agenda, as Harari puts it, might get us to the state depicted in many of these films. This is done with AI and machine learning and new technologies, till technology begins to manipulate homo sapiens!

Spoiler Alert: Do not read further if you plan to watch the film Passengers! To get back to the film Passengers, I entered the plot when these two beautiful people Aurora and Jim were being served in a bar by a robot Arthur. I wondered why there was no one else anywhere on that spaceship. I gathered it was a spaceship from my sci-fi experience! In the story the spaceship Avalon was transporting 5000 people and crew in ‘hibernation pods’, meaning asleep, to another planet. People meaning human beings. Need to clarify this as all kinds of creatures walk around in these films, human, half human, partly human and non-human like Arthur. The journey was to take 120 years from Earth to the planet Homestead II. Again a plausible theme according to sci-fi Me. One day we will have to abandon Earth, destroyed by our reckless use of natural resources, and move to another planet.

So why are these two, Aurora and Jim, walking around when they should have been asleep in their hibernation pods? Well, around thirty years into the journey a malfunction of Jim’s hibernation pod due to an asteroid collision that damages the ship (part I missed as it was in the first half), woke him up. After one year of this lonely life he noticed this beautiful women Aurora in her hibernation pod and decides to ‘wake’ her up for company. When Aurora finds out she is furious apparently since that means she is dead! Confusing, as she did not seem dead at the end of the film! No matter. The rest is somewhat like all love stories. A crisis, superman Jim’s antics and Aurora’s loneliness, makes her fall in love with him! Surprised? They fix the damage to Avalon through a dangerous space walk and safely reach planet Homestead II.

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As many of us, I have been stuck in our ‘living room’ for an entire year since March 24, 2020 when India imposed its first strict lockdown. Some opening up for a few months, though work from home norms continued, and again the second wave of the corona pandemic is upon us in April 2021. Curfew and mini lockdowns are imposed again. How much longer into the future?

The morning after watching this film, I took these random shots of our living room. It struck me that this was really my spaceship! Spaceship 502. Enclosed in this space I take classes, attend meetings and webinars, all in the virtual mode. Spaceship 502 is my home, office, entertainment center and all else for the entire year and through this journey. Fortunately I have a partner, a co-passenger, for company on this long journey. Not clear for how long we are to remain on Spaceship 502 and where are we heading to? We are lucky that like Aurora and Jim we can take short space walks outside this spaceship. Sometimes the space walk is for pure joy and fresh air and sometimes to refresh our stocks on Spaceship 502. Unlike Avalon we are not fully stocked with essentials for 120 years. But sometimes I wonder if we should stock up, for a year or two perhaps?

In the film Aurora and Jim knew that their final destination, if all went well, was the planet Homestead II. They eventually arrived at Homestead II. ‘In the ship’s grand concourse area, they discover a huge tree, many trailing vines, much vegetation, birds flying, and a cabin. Aurora’s voice-over is reading her story, describing the wonderful life she and Jim had together on the Avalon‘.

So this is my story on Spaceship 502, but at the end of this journey there is a huge vacuum and uncertainty looms large. We are looking into space just like the Passengers in the film! What will we find at the end when we are out of this pandemic? How will the world have changed, relationships, the means of communication to build relationships, our work and work places, our homes and socializing? Or will the loneliness teach us to ‘apparate’, like Harry Potter, to transport oneself from one place to another without having to physically traverse space? Will we be able to have parties where we actually appear in the party virtually? I see this a lot in my sci-fi films! This way we can feel a little closer to friends and relatives than in the Zoom/Google Meets we have to manage with for now. How will children manage after life on their spaceships? How will little ones and adolescents manage social relationships and regular school hours, or will there be regular school/college hours anymore? Will we arrive on planet Earth II intact and with the physical and mental resources to face the new challenges? Its all a blur!

Epilogue: Of course, life is not as difficult for us on Spaceship 502 as it is for the majority of the population in our country. I am exaggerating for the cinematic effect! Many of my posts earlier have documented our life under lockdown. I have the luxury of having animal and winged friends who visit me, attend my classes, listen to my woes and provide companionship! They are amazing company and stress relievers too (Check out here)! Being senior citizens we have got our two shots of the vaccine. With huge crowd of Millennials joining the queue for the vaccine from May 1, 2021, we can see and feel the desperation and anxiety all around. Everyone is not so cozily packed in a comfortable spaceship. But make no mistake, all of us are on a spaceship travelling together to ‘The Lord Knows Where’! Keep safe, dear friends, looks like we have a long journey ahead.

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