The year was 1985. I was a teenag­er enter­ing the Xth grade in school, sub­scribed to an Indi­an children’s mag­a­zine “Tin­kle”. One item in an issue in 1985 caught my fan­cy. It was in the Sci­ence sec­tion: “How to build your own tele­scope”.

By that age, I was already fas­ci­nat­ed by sci­ence in gen­er­al and astron­o­my in par­tic­u­lar. I had read how Galileo had watched the moons of Sat­urn and I was enchant­ed. The tele­scope described in the Tin­kle arti­cle would have a mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of 20x with an aper­ture of 2.5 inch. If it were built, you could watch the craters on the moon! I was fas­ci­nat­ed but, how could I build one myself?

Huge rolls of thick paper from cal­en­dars, stuck togeth­er with adhe­sive, rolled to form the tube with a slit for the main front lens. Small­er roll of thick paper glued with adhe­sive to form the small­er tube to hold the eye piece, adjust­ed in dimen­sion so that it could roll in-and-out eas­i­ly with­in the larg­er tube of the front lens. Beg­ging my par­ents for Rs. 175 to then let my elder broth­er buy those lens­es.

Slow­ly, the tele­scope began to form. But it need­ed a stand. We had an old, dis­card­ed table study lamp, with a spher­i­cal base, and a ball-sock­et arrange­ment for an upper hemi-spher­i­cal base for the lamp. It was a gift from the school for my elder sis­ter for her schol­ar­ly apti­tude. I cut off the upper hemi-spher­i­cal base, and the cylin­dri­cal sock­et for it fit­ted the thin­ner eye-piece cylin­der of my tele­scope per­fect­ly! Wow. My tele­scope was ready.

From that point on, I was watch­ing the craters on the moon, gaz­ing at the Ori­on Neb­u­la, and try­ing my best to observe galax­ies beyond my reach. M42 became a beloved object in my life and has remained so for many decades hence­forth. My pas­sion and my curios­i­ty had no bound­aries. That tele­scope mag­ni­fied the extent to which my human vision could reach. It taught me that there are tools man invents to reach out­side and beyond the lim­i­ta­tions of our per­cep­tions and our indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences.

28 years lat­er, I ask myself, which tele­scope am I using now? Not to gaze into out­er space, but to observe with­in and around myself. The answer came read­i­ly: it is books, movies, and pri­mar­i­ly, peo­ple. Books and movies expand our expe­ri­ences beyond what our own per­cep­tion could ever have. Books place you into sit­u­a­tions you’ve nev­er been, make you under­stand the moti­va­tions of char­ac­ters you’ve nev­er met. Movies let you expe­ri­ence sit­u­a­tions you’ll prob­a­bly nev­er expe­ri­ence and allow your imag­i­na­tion to fly. These are tele­scopes that mag­ni­fy indi­vid­ual human per­cep­tion and expand it beyond what would have been nat­u­ral­ly pos­si­ble.

Peo­ple are the ulti­mate tele­scopes. Every per­son, has a wealth of expe­ri­ence and learn­ing and wis­dom to whomev­er is allowed access. Every per­son has a wealth of knowl­edge we’ve nev­er learned, a trea­sure of insights we’ve nev­er had, a gold mine of expe­ri­ences we’ll nev­er have. How often do we make use of these read­i­ly avail­able tele­scopes?

How much trou­ble, how much effort, I went through to con­struct my first tele­scope! Do I take even a 10% effort in uti­liz­ing the tele­scopes that oth­er peo­ple offer me for free?

Oh no, he lives in such a bad area, it’s a pain just to dri­ve to his home.” “Oh no, she talks too much, I can’t even lis­ten to her any­more.” “Oh no, he is too pre­ten­tious.” “Oh no, she is too much into her own thing she doesn’t care about any­body else.” There are dozens and dozens of rea­sons we have for our­selves.

Each of these human beings is a tele­scope, if only one were will­ing to watch through the eye­piece. The eye­piece, in this case, is the human abil­i­ty to lis­ten, which we most often abuse — or in oth­er words, don’t use at all.

We reject the view, by not lis­ten­ing at all. Often, we choose not to view through the tele­scope.

Because, we’re so com­fort­able with our own world­view, that any­thing that changes it, is deeply uncom­fort­able to us. We do not want tele­scopes.

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  • Atul Sab­nis

    How true and so won­der­ful­ly writ­ten! Love­ly! 🙂

  • gau­tam

    Nice one Mahen­dra. Each of these human beings is a tele­scope, if only one were will­ing to watch through the eye­piece.

  • pre­rna

    Straight from the heart, loved read­ing it, keep writ­ing 🙂