I don’t remember exactly of the first time I saw the moon. Do you? This not knowing, opens many portals to wander. I wonder if it was my father who showed it to me for the first time? Or was it my Maa, while singing the lullaby ‘Aay aay Chand Mama?’ The lullaby Bengali mothers have been singing to their children for centuries where they invite the moon to come and help their babies to fall asleep. Surprisingly, when I think firm I don’t remember any formal introduction with the moon! There was no ‘Homayra, meet the moon. Moon, meet Homayra’.
The first memory of the moon that I recall was while taking a rickshaw ride at night. My brother wasn’t born yet. We were returning home from our aunt's house, the streets were somewhat empty so I predict it was late. I was sitting on the lap of my father. It was a slow cold night of streetlights, mist and the moon. I remember it so vividly only because the moon was following us. It was coming home with us! The buildings of old Dhaka that are fused tightly together, from time to time were blocking my view, I would think ‘oh, we lost the moon this time’ but the moon always managed to peek through again! Every time the rickshaw would take a turn, I would think now the moon will be left behind. But it still followed! I thought I must be a special child, since the moon watches over me; but later I was introduced to physics and learned that the moon never followed me, or anyone really. Which means I was not special, just ignorant. The moon just appears to be following one because it’s so far!
The distance between the moon and someone on earth is about a quarter million mile. So any distance one travels on earth is very small in comparison. Thus, when I was in a moving rickshaw, it didn’t matter from which angle I was viewing the moon; it seemed to remain in the same place. In addition, we were leaving behind the old buildings of old Dhaka, the streetlights and the passages, which played a pivotal role in crafting the illusion of the moon following us. A perfect Magic!
The moon and I had many encounters after that, of course. The moon being the witness of all my heartbreaks and transitions. The one tru
e friend, that knows it all.
In 2017, I had the opportunity to get to know the moon a little better. All the photographs from books and Google searches weren’t doing it. I had to look at
it myself, intimately. I had just bought this telescope and was figuring out how to work it. It’s remote controlled, which means if you just click on the moon button it should automatically move its neck towards the moon. But to make the automation work you have to first align it with the earth. To make the alignment work you have to answer a bunch of questions like where you are? What time zone are you in? Not just that, you have to do what the telescope tells you to, for example: 'point at three stars'! So I did what a wise person would do, I operated it manually.
The manual process was similar to looking through a hole into the darkness. But even though I was looking at pitch dark and couldn’t seem to catch the moon in my viewfinder, it wasn’t so disappointing. Because that patch of darkness in the sky, also meant the vastness of the universe! I was looking at the void of our universe! In that void, I caught a glimmer of light and I knew the moon was nearby; I only had to follow the right direction. After a few minutes of wandering around the sky trying to find that bright bokeh, I finally encountered the moon. The chalky white dot; it looked like a how a street light looks without my glasses on. I swirled the focus until it came clear, and there was the mighty moon.
At that very moment, It felt like, I was looking at the moon for the first time. I could hear nothing! As if the cars had stopped moving, the street had no lights and the wind had stopped blowing! There was no noise, no music, no sound. Not even my breathing. Like I didn’t even exist! As if I wasn’t on earth! The moon had invited me to somewhere quarantined. The moon and I became the same. Why did I feel like this? It's not like I don’t know how the moon looks. I have seen it so many times before. In detail! On television and posters, in newspapers, templates and books! I know it doesn’t have its own light, it reflects the sun. I know what it does to earth. I know how it touches the tides. I know its affairs and the misconceptions people have about it. The ideas, the existence of its dark side! The myths.
But on a cold Michigan night, why did the moon look so alien through a telescope? Craters so visible! Moon is just hanging in there, as if I didn’t know the moon before, at all.
I wrote all of this in the year 2017 and now looking back to this piece makes me cringe. All these words, to write down the emotions I felt that night, nevertheless failed miserably to describe my troubles. The racing beats of my heart, tickling sensations on my knees, the suspended blink of my eyes, the dopamine, the adrenaline and the butterflies. I couldn't express any of this! Knowing the moon for all my life, and suddenly from that tiny viewfinder it felt so unreal, so new! It felt as if the moon came so close to earth and I came so close to the moon. And it was simply magical. It was like falling in love with someone you have fallen in love with, a thousand times before.