A tragic story is hard to do in science fiction; the genre is inherently an optimistic one. This might seem a perverse claim given the fact that dystopian fiction multiplies like viagra-overdosing rabbits. But here’s the thing. Even if in 2450 AD, everything “goes Russian”, as Wodehouse delicately put it, by God, at least we start off with the assurance that our skunk of a species is going to be around till 2450 AD! That’s not too bad. We’ll probably figure something out by then. Hooray, three cheers for suicide by carbon dioxide. This is what sets the story by Abiral Kumar and Mainak Mitra apart. They have chosen a science-fiction setting but they avoid making grand statements about human prospects. Its emotions are human emotions; in 2450 AD, their story would be a mainstream story.
In Abiral and Mainak’s story, two lovers– perhaps they are former lovers or perhaps they are only very good friends– meet in Varanasi, talk, and try to say goodbye. Varanasi is a perfect choice. It is a cosmic kind of city, and it is after all, the city of goodbyes. I haven’t said anything about Ganga. What shall it profit a man, asks Matthew 16:26, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? It is precisely such a loss that the space-faring protagonist of Abiral & Mainak’s story must contemplate.
— Anil Menon
The Bombay Literary Magazine
The protagonists of our story are painted in the colours of viraha: the quintessential Sanskrit expression of separation from the beloved. Traditionally, viraha has been characterised by its eventual end. The hero finds his beloved, the lovers unite in the season of monsoon rains, the migrant workers return to the threshold of their home. The viraha that still stretches on, one believes, must conclude in the afterlife. But are such resolutions available anymore?
At the heart of the story is the image of the prayer lamps afloat on the river Ganga that blend into spaceships approaching a red planet. The fragile leaf cups, laden with flowers, carry the desire of the people for a better future. But the rivers on which they float are in grave danger. In our search for better futures the question remains: how much of the living past will we be able to relocate and graft into our possible futures?
–Abiral Kumar & Mainak Mitra
Abiral Kumar (author)
Abiral lives in Berlin and dreams of Delhi, Patna and Mussoorie where he has spent most of his time. His comics Fragrance of Time and Perchance to Dream based on the medieval Hamzanama stories has been twice awarded by the Barzinji Foundation, USA.
Mainak Mitra (Graphic Artist)
Born in Baruipur, Bengal, Mainak wanted to be a cricketer, actor, filmmaker, class topper, soldier, youngest author. But he moved and practiced fine arts in Baroda for few years instead. During Covid, he started making comics seriously. Later, he studied animation at IDC. Some say he claims dreaming to be his primary occupation. These days he has been frequently spotted in Bangalore.