first_imgGagarin nearly died when the rockets didn’t disengage from his capsule after re-entry, making the heat almost fatal.Fifty years ago, a calm, young madman allowed himself to be strapped inside what was most likely to be his metal coffin. As he lay back and had the belts fitted around him, he smiled for the still and movie cameras. Then, once the lid shut on the little tube, the young man became just a voice.’Everything alright?’ They asked him from the outside. ‘ Everything is fine! Let’s go!’ he replied cheerfully. And the people outside pushed the button.LeapThe closest most of us over forty will ever come to feeling the thrust of the huge rockets pushing up is when we are taking off in a small airliner, i.e not very close. The rockets catapulted the young man and his steel container right up against the ceiling of our atmosphere and through it out into space. Reporting calmly through serious g-forces, Yuri Gagarin’s voice is the one we can hear re-assuring his masters at Ground Control instead of the other way around.Everything is fine. I am feeling alert. I am continuing the flight. It’s interesting and beautiful.The ground controllers pressed the various buttons that jettisoned the booster rockets and sent Gagarin into a parabolic pradakshina of the planet. At the highest point of his orbit, Gagarin was as far away from the earth’s surface as Jaipur is from Delhi, roughly 300 km, the closest was about 90 km. Gagarin completed his orbit and his controllers instructed his remaining rockets to slam him back into the earth’s atmosphere.advertisementApparently, Gagarin nearly died when the rockets didn’t disengage from his capsule after re-entry, making the heat almost fatal.Finally, though, the rockets did let go.The capsule was back, flying in what we call air. Gagarin pressed the one important button over which he had control and the lid of the capsule blew open, ejecting him and his parachute at a height of several kilometres. The craft itself was left behind as the first spaceman descended safely back to the Russian steppes.In less than half the time it takes to drive from Delhi to Jaipur, Gagarin had gone around the earth. Before his orbit no one could say for sure what would happen to human bodies in spacecraft outside the bounds of earthly gravity.After the flight we knew that, with proper design and engineering, extremely fit human beings could survive leaving the earth and returning to it.Looking back, there is a contradictory feeling about the whole thing. On the one hand, the flight of the Vostok can be compared to the first fish that tried to use its fins to walk on sand, a major evolutionary step in the developmental story of our species. On the other hand, save the moon landings, there has been no leap comparable to that first flight – it’s as if we are still that first school of fish, unable to stray very far from water, and a long way away from developing proper amphibious characteristics. Unlike us, those pioneering, early- amphibian ancestors of ours didn’t have ( as far as we can tell) any politics, economics, wars or electorates to deal with. It was, literally, each fish for itself, or maybe small groups of them, maybe the rash teenagers, doing their dangerous capers outside the proven safety of water.War There have been many reports, of course, of various American and European lunatics with spaceships ready in their backyards, the galactic equivalents of home- made sports- cars or sail- boats, all ready to fly off, aiming for the moon and points beyond, a bit similar to the way the experiments with early flight worked. Reportedly, so far, the US and other governments have managed to put a stop to these highly expensive suicide bids but who knows, there may come a day when some loony trillionaire might secretly put together a craft that could take him or her for a spectacular joyride.These crazies aside, the business of cosmic exploration remains in the hands of the government space agencies of large and mostly rich nations, which is where the national agendas and contested budgets etc all come in.This brings us to the second set of contradictory feelings. On the one hand, most of us love the idea of someone ( not us, perhaps) soaring away into the starlit darkness, hopefully to come back with treasures, discoveries and stories of the cosmos of which we are a part. The rationalists among us also realise that one day humanity will have no choice but to go and live on other planets, because our species can now make a good guess that this particular tiny rock of ours, even with the best maintenance, actually has an expiry date as far inhabiting it goes. On the other hand, if we examine the history of how Yuri Gagarin came to be on that flight in 1961, a different set of thoughts, anxieties and angers rises up.advertisementShortly after this commemoration we will see the 70th anniversary of the huge Operation Barbarossa, that was launched by the German Wehrmacht against Stalin’s USSR. Then, from 2012 to 2015, will come various seventiethyear memorials of the defeats of that army till its final decapitation in the ruins of Berlin, in 1945. Unlike what the earlier histories of the Second World War tell us, the demise of Hitler’s regime was a messy and chaotic business, the hydraheaded monster of Nazism collapsing surprisingly quickly in places while proving shockingly resistant in others.Not least of the reasons why the supposedly super- systematic Nazi machine met such an unsystematic end was that – even as they struck at Germany’s multiple jugulars – its enemies were divided. For the last year of the War in Europe, the Soviets, the Americans and the British were involved in a fierce and complicated three- way hunting dance ( think the last, triangular showdown in ‘ The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ , with a fatally wounded but still dangerous ‘ Evil’ in the middle). The decisions made by the Soviets and the Allies at that moment would shape our history for the next fifty years.One of the most interesting American mistakes was to let Stalin’s armies reach Berlin first, imagining it was merely a symbolic prize and hoping the Russians would bear the brunt of any last- ditch fanatical resistance in the Nazi capital.Stalin, though, had information that the Germans had stockpiled enriched uranium for their new, experimental atomic device in a laboratory in a Berlin suburb.Stalin wanted Hitler and he wanted to fly the Red flag on the Reichstag but what he wanted most – and got – was this precious component for a nuclear bomb.As the Soviet armies sped west towards the destination that was secret even to their own generals, the team of Nazi scientists who had delivered the lethal V- 1 and V- 2 rockets to Hitler managed to surrender to the Americans speeding eastwards.Bomb America managed to trigger its first nuclear explosion within a couple of months of the fall of Berlin. And then, as we know, by August 1945 they were able to translate those explosions into two nuclear devices that they dropped on Japan, forcing it to surrender. The Russians eventually got their nuclear formula not from the ruins of Nazi Germany but through their spies in the USA and Britain. What they were unable to get, however, was the know- how of the Nazi team of rocket scientists; therefore they had to develop their own rockets to counter the American aeronautical behemoths. The reason why the USA and the USSR were developing powerful rockets was that it was the safest way to deliver a huge bomb upon an enemy on the other side of the planet.advertisementSpace exploration came to both countries as a spinoff of this endeavour, almost as an unrealised bonus. Now, if you twin Gagarin’s flight and Armstrong’s landing on the moon with the trillions of dollars that went into developing and making nuclear bombs and if, for a moment, you fantasise about what might have happened if this money had been spent in developing humanity as a whole, you might find yourself thinking that this April could have done just as well for the first human space flight from a healthy and peaceful planet. That might have been interesting and beautiful too.last_img read more


first_imgThe WBJEE results have been declared.The results of WBJEE 2011 (West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination) have been declared on Tuesday by the West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination Board (WBJEEB).The WBJEE 2011 results were declared at 2PM on Tuesday. The results are available on the websites http://results.banglarmukh.gov.in and www.wbjeeb.in.The WBJEE is held for admission to engineering courses in colleges across the state.The examination was conducted on April 17, 2011.For more news on India, click here.For more news on Business, click here.For more news on Movies, click here.For more news on Sports, click here.last_img read more


first_imgA grown up bromanceZindagi Na Milegi Dobara Director: Zoya Akhtar Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar and Abhay DeolRating:    Jokes about teachers. Fights over girlfriends. Silly word games. Bare chests. Rippling muscles. Streaked hair. Sigh. Glossy looking and beautifully written. I must confess by the time I finished watching Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara I was convinced that no one can make a bromance as beautifully as a woman.The film is gentle, taking time out to look at horses running in the meadows, feel the wind the air, swim with the fish underwater. All that male beauty may be a little manipulative and the plot is a little contrived–three adventure sports to test your courage–but the story keeps you engaged.A meditative take on growing up, becoming a man, taking responsibility for one’s actions, it has the courage to go for long periods with no dialogue. A scene where Hrithik Roshan does a Finding Nemo and another where the boys discover the joys of sky diving is all about just being. Seizing the moment. Living for the day. Yes, yes, cliches all, but shot with such sisterly care that the boys flourish in the female gaze.Naturally the trip to Spain is not just a trip. It is a journey of the soul. There’s Kabir whose family runs a contruction company. There’s Imran, a copywriter who is a poet in his spare time (and fortunately writes Javed Akhtar style poems). And there’s Arjun, a stockbroker who lives in London and has trouble with commitment. So that’s Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar and Hrithik Roshan. And naturally the love of a free spirited good woman Katrina Kaif will cure Hrithik of his permanent state of melancholy.advertisementLots of manly tears. Even more bare chests on the beach. And many more scenes of drinking wine and tossing back shots (where the women give as good as the men get). It’s all very glamorous. And very seductive. Yet the film pulls you in, partly because of the frank, unvarnished performances by its leads. Hrithik is lovely as Arjun, shorn of the pretence that his recent performances have shown. Farhan is sensitive, soulful and perfectly capable of reading out his father’s poetry. And Abhay for a change is playing the rich brat who is virtually pressganged into marrying his family friend Kalki Koechlin, giving a perfectly posed performance as a spolit little madam.My favourite moment of the film? Not the showy moment when Hrithik discovers the meaning of life with one deep sea dive with Katrina Kaif. Or when Farhan confronts his pot smoking ageing painter dad-can’t tell you who he is, but it’s a lovely piece of casting. Or even when Abhay decides he has to run with the bulls.It’s when the three boys are sitting together on their last day, drinking, singing the Doordarshan theme song.Lovely. A bromance that has more style and heat than most rubish romcoms. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara? It’s a film you will want to watch dobara.last_img read more