It was a chilly evening in the month of October, and the weather couldn’t be any better. I was away from home for the first time, away from the concrete jungle Mumbai was, in a small village called Karnala. Our school took us for frequent trips, and this was the first time they took us for an overnight trip. It was around eight in the evening, and we were walking to the dining hall. One of my friends shouted “Sab log upar aasmaan ko dekho!” (Look up to the sky, everyone!)
Hands down, that was the best thing I had ever seen. Hailing from a city where houses touched the sky, I had never seen the stars, as there would always be bricks and concrete to block my view of the sky from my balcony. The only other place I would regularly visit was my native Hyderabad, and it was polluted enough to convince me that stars were a myth. All Mumbaikars could afford was a hazy moon. I probably had seen stars before, I do not remember. That was the first time I properly remember looking at the stars. There were millions, probably a billion small white soot-like particles in the sky, flickering light and a countless other small things I missed whilst my stay in Mumbai. It was the best thing that had ever happened to me, and I can never forget the way the huge sheet of black with white dots smiled back at the kid who had never seen anything of that sort, who had never found happiness in realizing that he was an insignificant dot in God’s huge canvas. His city had given him nothing in the nine years of his stay there that he could cherish, but an unimportant village which was struggling to come up on the maps had given him something he could not forget even if he tried. It has been nine years, and I haven’t forgotten even the tiniest bit of that night.
Going back to what the sky was for me before the stars happened. It was home to the moon until I saw stars at Karnala. It was home to that white ball of light which was an indispensable part of the stories my mom narrated to put me off to sleep. It was a member of my family, the one thing I had been constantly seeing and idolizing all my life.
It is an institution of lies. Its glory is fake. Its warmth is stolen from the sun. Its stories are excuses for parents to put kids off to sleep. But the stars? The stars are something not everyone is privileged enough to see. Small dots at a distance no one knows about. Slowly radiating to die. Fading, dying, to become a part of someone’s memory. Giving a person hope that their loved ones even after death exist in a world of dark blankets and white dots. Flickering dots hoping to become a part of someone’s memory.
So now when somebody asks me which one is more beautiful: the stars or the moon, I don’t give it a thought. Because the moon might be a ball of warmth, but is a lie. I would rather prefer tiny specks of truth that make my day.