Jayant V Narlikar’s ‘The Ice Age Cometh’ is a narrative that revolves around the prediction of a catastrophe and the prediction turning into reality. All the people around the world, who are usually divided and ignorant on the issues related to environment, come together and make an all out effort to prevent the impending doom.
The story explores how at times, a genius is crushed by the well-established scientific minds. Vasant’s discoveries initially were not taken seriously and rejected. Later, when the reality hit the world, the same sceptics not only come to believe in him but also approach him for a solution to fight back against the disaster. Vasant as a scientist makes a mockery of the peer review system, which coheres to the scientific doctrine of principles. Narlikar explicitly criticizes the biases and prejudices of the scientific “establishment”:
“Vasant’s face carried fleeting shades of sarcasm and frustration before it became featureless again as he continued, “You people think of us as perfect scholars in search of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, undeterred by jealousies and temptations. It’s all bunkum! We scientists are human. We possess all the weaknesses of the human mind. If the establishment finds new discoveries unpalatable, those belonging to it will do everything to suppress them. I had to water down my hypotheses, blur predictions in order to get some of my ideas in print. The rest—those in manuscript form—were considered too crazy or outlandish to be published.”
In the story, Narlikar also adds some elements of Hindu mythology. The project is named as ‘The Invasion of Indra’ because Indra is the Vedic deity of the heavens, lightning, thunder, rains and wars. Indra is also mankind’s friend because he brings sunshine and rains to the earth by killing the Asura Vritra who prevents prosperity on earth. Vasant uses modern weapons , the equivalent to Indra’s weapons to bring sunshine and to fight the diamond dust which had led to Ice Age all around the world. The geo-stationary satellites are called the Sanjayas of Mahabharata. In Mahabharata, Sanjaya was the person blessed with the ability to see into all things. So, during the Mahabharata war, with this special sight he recited all events happening on the battle ground to King Dhritrashtra. The geo-stationary satellites are similarly responsible to inform the world whether their endeavors bear any fruit. These satellites are used to deliver knowledge about the weather and the atmospheric changes across the globe.
There is usage of certain Indian words like ‘Papadam’ in the narrative. Such words and the Indian cultural and geographical setting give a sense of belongingness to the readers of this narrative. The story is also a lesson to the readers that this fictional event might be a reality someday. The lesson that one should learn through this story is that the earth is going through a lot of changes primarily because of man’s greed, and the “delicate balance of the eco-system” is constantly under threat. The whole world needs to come together to fight unitedly against the uncertain and unknown doom by first identifying and eliminating the causes, otherwise it might be too late. By the end of the story, we also realize that everything comes at a cost; the Ice Age for the time being is stopped but the next big problem is the fear of floods and other such disasters due to Global Warming and melting of ice everywhere.