Mars: The perfect place for vacation?
On December 25, an aircraft was developed by Sheikh Hamza Jilani, famously known as the ‘Populator’. It was widely spoken about throughout the world.
The news had greatly disturbed and pestered my parents, who were quite obviously averse to the idea of living on another planet. The government would decide the people who would be flown to a place, completely unknown to every one of us. My brother seemed rather disturbed by that fact.
“That means one of us could be sent, alienated from our home but right next to aliens?!?”
I, likewise, despised the idea from the core of my heart.
On a regular Saturday night, I was hunched on the dining chair with my family, who sat silently as we ate dinner. I shot my mother a look to tell her to break the silence but she could not make out my expressions. It had never been so quiet before. My little brother wolfed down his food and after he finished, he switched on the television to watch a football match. We were startled at the news reporter who kept yakking away.
“And with the creation of the populator by Jilani, one of the most talented engineers of the world, some humans will be living on Mars and the race will be known as the ‘Distant Human Race’, according to Mr President who has announced the aircraft’s first launch on January 8, 2089.”
Populator is an aircraft which was assembled on December 25, 2088 and took eight years to build. This aircraft was developed to transport some of the population to Mars. Jilani was working in collaboration with the AWIS (Another World In Space) organisation which was working to establish communication networks on Mars and Neptune.
He proposed the idea of developing housing facilities and industries for food, clothing etcetera on these planets. The main problem they faced was the provision of oxygen. Thus, they set up ‘oxygen canals’ which were linked to the ‘oxygenator operator’ on earth. The canals would suck oxygen and unleash it into Mars’ atmosphere.
The AWIS organisation sent two astronauts to test ‘breathing’ without oxygen tanks and it proved to be successful. Within 10 years of fatiguing work, the major food processing industries and housing settlements were constructed, catered by powerful rockets through which basic resources for construction were transported. Labourers carried out the back-breaking work and were on oxygen tanks, with five oxygen tanks for each with one tank lasting an hour. Life was based on processed products and no agricultural products were grown due to the unsuitable land for cultivation on Mars.
According to the news channels, the project was heavily financed by all the governments of the world. After living there seemed viable, the AWIS and NASA worked together and sent a man, Kamal Kamran for one month to see whether the basic commodities of life provided, were enough. When Kamran returned, he appeared optimistic about life on the other planet.
At hearing this, I inferred that the man was mentally retarded. My brother exasperated and furiously shouted,
“The idea of developing the aircraft was perhaps thoughtful of the president but he does not realise that most of us would not opt to live with aliens out there!”
I nodded in agreement to acknowledge his wild imagination for once. My mother, who was overcome with fear cried,
“Faran, if they select one of us to live in Mars, I would rather die than to be away from all of you. I am telling you, the world nears its doom.”
My father didn’t respond. I could sense my family’s perturbation and I wished I could do something to change it. But we couldn’t. So like the rest of us, everyone else sat worried in their homes, confused and entangled in misery.
On January 1, the government announced for a registration process for the people willing to live on Mars. However, it also proclaimed that if the list is not sufficient, it would randomly select people and send them to live on the other planet. I laughed and mocked the government’s dull-witted decision and wondered who would actually stand in line for registration. Nevertheless, I was left astounded when I saw the long queue with innumerable people standing there with great ebullience and built-in enthusiasm.
I yelled at the top of my voice,
“How could so many people even try to think of living somewhere far away from their homes? Have they been bewitched or bribed?”
My mother, who was blankly staring into space, said
“Perhaps it’s the promise of wealth that has driven them insane. I mean you can easily recognise that those are mostly the poor and the penniless that do not have enough to eat. For them, it is perhaps a wise decision, Isra. They are bound by the government’s strict grocery purchasing laws and the increasing inflation has caused them to starve. They can only afford half a meal a day.”
And then everything began to make sense.
Life was not progressing for these people. They were bound to endure hunger crisis, shortage of produce, innumerable students in one classroom, tackling the tough competition and were being suppressed under the government’s laws. An average four member family is not allowed to purchase groceries exceeding the amount Rs50,000 per month, a small and insufficient amount.
With technology advancements, a cure for every disease and illness was available on Earth and therefore only a few people died. As a result, the overall world population was increasing rapidly. Yet, there were many poverty-stricken people who grew feeble and weak due to their lack of affordability for costly medical treatments, while the upper class lived its life in luxury as it was capable to afford reckless extravagances. Charity organisations did not maintain the certain level of help and could not approach everyone. Thus, the promise of job opportunities and wealth on Mars had fastened their seatbelts to take off to another dimension, far away from the world. This was not just Pakistan but every other country in the world.
Suha, my best friend, assured me that the upper class families’ wouldn’t not be sent to live on Mars as they do not have trouble making ends meet like the lower class.
The goal was mainly focused on the improvement of the life of those belonging to the lower class. That is why there were more poor people in the queue for registering. Despite the news, I was wrapped in sorrow and pity towards those who had to move to a new world.
January 6 was declared an official holiday as the government was going to publically announce the list of the people chosen as the Distant Human Race. After lunch, my family uncomfortably settled onto sofas in front of the TV. My brother seemed more concerned than us and sat attentively right in front of the TV so he could listen carefully.
The man briefly introduced the Populator and began with the list. One by one he called out names while we stood focused. There were billions of people from all over the world, ranging from children to adults to the elderly. It took thirty three hours for all the names to be called out and my family sighed in gratuitous relief when our names were not called out. However, there was terrible news for my mother. Her sister’s family name was officially announced. Tears filled my mother’s eyes. My brother and I tried our ultimate best to console our mother but she could not stop sobbing.
We left the house that same day to visit my aunt. My aunt was poor and so she decided to be positive about it and considered it a rational decision. As I hugged my aunt, I burst into tears. I wondered if I would get to see her again. I saw the blurred vision of my cousin who was only three, happily roaming about in excitement.
On January 8, at 8am, I turned on the television and saw everyone gathered at the ‘plain of population’ where the Populator stood. The aircraft was distinguished through the shape that resembled the shape of earth. It was round and humungous. It could hold up to a 10000 passengers. It provided facilities including ten restrooms, a cafeteria and activities such as video games and a TV screen in front of every passenger’s seat. It was a more enhanced and an upgraded version of an airplane. The ‘pilot’ was known as the ‘Populat’ and to fly the craft, it was essential for four Populats to be present. The flight was free of cost. As the engines roared and rumbled, passengers boarded and the door shut quickly as I sat on my sofa with my coffee and waved goodbye to everyone. I shut the television and sipped my coffee next to my mother while my father got himself ready to leave for work.
The populator was perhaps beneficial. Indeed, the AWIS organisation could not develop a planet as beautiful and as perfect as earth but it did manage to solve problems of the deprived and penniless. I smiled as my mother gathered me in her arms. I played with my creativity and thoughts plagued me about the peculiar, odd destination they were to arrive at. It would be an exotic place to see and live in. I wondered if it could be a place for vacation in future. It would be costly.
I grinned at the thought of alien invasion on earth if they felt the Distant Human race was obstructing their land.
Aliens or humans, Mars might be the perfect planet for vacation!