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What if . . .

By Sonavi Desai

The two most tantalizing words in the English language are probably ‘What They give rise to fantastic possibilities. Probabilities and possibilities render meaning unto life, giving birth to optimism, to dreams, to hope…!

Depending on an individual’s aspirations the words could conjure up wonderful things…. one could dream through another’s articulation of that dream and imagine all the things that he has been wishing for. What if I win the lottery? What if I get my dream job? What if I can eliminate hunger from the world? What if wickedness ceases to exist? What if the world were disease-free?

So, what if wishes were horses? Beggars would certainly ride but they could also dream of being able to pick their steed. Maybe more than one. Several thoroughbreds of excellent Arab pedigree. Black, or grey, or white. Housed in one’s own stables …

If one has to let one’s imagination run riot then there’s nothing better to start with than What if. What if human beings walked on their heads? What if people lived in the sky? What if a day had a hundred hours? What if everyone’s life was like Benjamin Button’s? What if trees grew into seeds? What if you saw with your toes and spoke through your ears? What if Alice’s Looking Glass World were real? It could get curiouser and curiouser …

For the serious-minded, questions about life and science would explode. What if the force of gravity ceases to exist? We do take it for granted. What would happen to our planet and our galaxy and the entire cosmos? Quite amazing to contemplate, really. On the other hand, what if space travel becomes routine? We would be rushing to the spaceport to catch a spaceship and zip off to another planet and/or galaxy. And to make things more interesting, our fellow-traveller in the next seat might be a Plutonian who looks part-serpentoid, part-grey alien, and part pumpkin!! Bizarre? But fascinating too!

At a spiritual level, What if there is no God? Or, conversely, what if the existence of God can be proved? What would God really be like? Male or female or neutral? Just a powerful force or something with attributes? Maybe the ruler of the entire cosmos, who runs his/her/its writ from a larger, more advanced planet in a remote part of the universe? A super-computer-geek? Or a superconsciousness matrix that pervades everything? What if we actually find the answer? It would at least put a long-standing debate to rest. And we could eliminate the word ‘agnostic’ from the dictionary forever!

Wouldn’t it be marvellous if little kids were taught to think of What if things every day? We would nurture so many optimistic, creative geniuses. With a child’s sense of wonder they would dream up a What if world in seconds, enveloped in rainbow colours and chocolates.

Imagination is a wonderful thing. Imagination is freedom. It takes you on a magical journey of discovery. The worlds of Noddy, Alice, Harry Potter, and Aslan are all What if worlds, as are the worlds of Sherlock Holmes, and Anna Karenina, and Darcy, and Jane Eyre. They are alternative universes that have brought so much joy to millions of people over time across the world.

But What if there is a world without books? A dark, dry, soul-less place that never sees the light of ideas. A world bombarded by flashing screens with never a moment to absorb a thought and build a What if world out of it. What a pessimistic thought!! Let’s imagine the opposite instead. What if there is a world where everyone is a book lover? Where knowledge is treasured? Where ideas flow free, penned for eternity, igniting curiosity in fertile minds. I can only repeat the words of Tagore, that creative genius, applying them to the entire world:

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

. . .

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

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