Ready for Mars?

I had a strange dream yesterday. I was following someone on horseback. The face was unclear, but I was sure it was a man. It appears we were running away after committing a crime. The details of the crime were not visible. There was fear and cold sweat on my face. My leg muscles tightened as I was on the horse. Despite my effort, the legs were not moving. Breath was bursting in and out of my nostrils and mouth. I gripped the reins tightly while I was riding. A shrill voice was audible, but I was afraid to look backwards. The person in the front did not hear my voice. I soon lost track of him and stopped in front of a large compound.

The two-story building was white and looked like a public services office. I could read the sizeable blue board on the building, and several men and women were standing in separate lines at the entrance of the building. All were carrying some files and books in their hands.

I asked the guy in front of me. He told me that screening interviews for Mars were happening in the building. I also stood in line. I needed not worry about my crime. It was an excellent opportunity to run away from the Earth.

Two guys in military uniforms were in the first room. They registered my name and DOB on a hand-held machine. They give me a sticker with identification to stick on my chest. Another guy pulled me aside to take my physical measurements. I moved into a hospital-like room, and a nurse came and took my blood sample. I was exhausted when I ran on a treadmill belt for three minutes. After a series of tests ( the results were visible immediately), I went into the next room with the label ‘SKILLS’. A grim interview board of men and women was ready to ask me questions. Their questions were very primitive. The committee wanted to know whether I knew carpentry, digging a well, potato farming or raising cattle. There was a question about whether I could light a fire using stones. I drew a blank for questions on agriculture. The members tested my hand’s dexterity and psychological readiness for hard labour. ‘ Can you work for seventy-two-time units?’ was a typical question. I needed help understanding a time unit. My response that I was a mechanical engineer and could overhaul diesel engines did not cut.

I moved to the next room with a label, Survival. The members were curious about my ability to live without water and food. “Can you live inhaling CO2?” “How will you plan if your year is 687 days?” “Can you run a marathon?” There was a question to check whether I could survive on dates. I conveyed to the board that I was not one of the mythical sages who lived without food and water. I told the committee that I was a vegetarian, and they were sceptical of any vegetarian options on Mars. When I arrived, I assured them my brother from Kerala was already there to serve me tea and idlis on Mars.

I went to the next room with a label- Religion. I remember neither the questions nor the answers, but I knew it was a tricky Q&A. I faced a lot of flak in the room with the education label. While my Indian language could be of no use, the committee wanted to know whether I was familiar with any sign language. I conveyed to the panel that I learnt morse code while I was a student and semaphore alphabet using flags when I was a boy scout. I told the board that I could read maps, but I was still determining whether the directions(NEWS) were valid. My responses did not elicit a positive reaction. I drew a blank in the room with the label ‘Safety’ as I do not have training on self-protection equipment. I would not be able to run a mile at a stretch or use a gun. I faced amusing questions in the room with the label — family and friends. As an Indian, I am a pro at raising a family. As far as friends were concerned, my opportunistic attribute was unparalleled. I could make or drop friends instantly if they needed to meet my personal needs.

Another challenging room for me was entertainment. I can neither play a game nor an instrument nor sing a song. I told the board I could talk incessantly until the other person ran away.

I had to rush to a washroom, though I had several other rooms for completion. I stirred and realised that it was 3 am, and I was in bed. As my mother often told me that early morning dreams would come true, I hope the above will also come true.

(https://mars.nasa.gov/all-about-mars/facts/)

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