Star Gazing

Star Gazing

A Story by Anusha Motamarri

This short tale is about how grandpa introduces nidhi and Subbu to the wonders of the universe.


Subbu : Woooo! the sky looks beautiful, back at our home town we have never experienced a starry night.

Nidhi: Yeeess! this feels awesome! I would love to sleep here on the terrace tonight, what say?

Subbu: Yes! I would absolutely love it! let's inform dada about it, it would be fun if he joins in too!

Nidhi: wow! listening to his stories under the stars would be so much fun!

Ramulu cheerfully accompanies their grandchildren, makes a bed for them, and like every other day, he made it a point to pamper Nidhi by giving her her favorite pink pillow. No wonder why Nidhi loves dada so much. Ramulu gets on the bed and both kids quickly jump into dada's embrace like cute little puppies. they are extremely excited to be sleeping under the beautiful sky with a storytelling session to look forward to.

dada: you both are absolutely right! The sky really looks stunning today!

Nidhi, Subbu(amazed by the glowing sky): Yeahhhhhhhhhh....!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(...... all of them silently stare at the sky and savor the view.......)

Subbu: dada...

dada: yes, Subbu...

Subbu: Dada, how many stars are in the sky?

dada (smiles): Mmmm, what is the bigggggggggest number you know of?

Subbu: a thousand, no! a ten thousand, no!!, I know one million too, yes, dada one million.

dada: Good beta, wow! Do you know one million numbers? that's great!! you Nidhi? what is the biggest number u know of?

Nidhi (chuckles): 2 million!!!

dada: Haha! but the number of stars in the sky is more than a million or 2 million. in fact, it is higher than any biggest number you can ever imagine in your lifetime. Not just you but, it is more than any biggest number any human being in the world can ever imagine.

Subbu (confused): But... but.. dada, I can count the stars I see now, I bet they won't be more than 5 hundred or a thousand.

dada: yes beta you are right! but, What you see is only a fraction of the entire universe. there are many more stars that we cannot see, which are much farther away from our earth.

Nidhi (points to a twinkling star): dada, dada! can u see that twinkling star?! how can we reach that star? can we go by flight?

Dada: Haha! No beta, we cannot. they are so far away from earth. we cannot reach them.

Subbu(quickly interrupts): how far?

Dada: Mmm, it will take hundreds of years for us to reach a star.

Subbu: What!!!!a hundred years?

Nidhi : woaaah.

Dada (playfully) : Yes beta, sometimes it takes even more than that, depending on which star you choose to land on.

(kids are lost in trying to digest that the stars are farther than they had imagined)

(....Subbu tries to recall the metric system for the length he had learned in the school the other day...)

Subbu: Dada, how many kilometers are the stars away from us.

Dada: That's a great question Subbu! but, because the stars are so so far away, they are not measured in terms of kilometers or meters or miles. they are measured with something called "light years".

Subbu: oh really, my teacher dint tell me about this!

Nidhi: Light years... what is it?

Dadatries to put his thoughts in the simplest words possible): It is the amount of time it takes for light to travel from one point to the other. If light takes 1 year to reach from earth to some star, then the star is 1 light year away from us. If light takes 2 years to reach from earth to star it's 2 light-years away from us. for example, light takes 8 minutes to travel from earth to sun. and light is known to be the fastest moving thing, ever found. light is faster than any vehicle u know of too! that is why distances are measured in terms of speed of light.

Subbu (interrupts): This is interesting. so if I switch on torch here, a person on the sun can see it only after 8 minutes!!!! is it?

Dada: yes absolutely!

Subbu: woo! I never knew this. dada I have a question!

Dada: Go on beta!

Subbu: You said the person on the sun can see my torch only after 8 minutes of me switching on the torch. then what about the stars? because you said it will take hundreds of years to reach stars, does that mean that the light I am seeing on the star, is lit hundred years back?

Dada: wow!! that's so quick Subbu! yes, u are absolutely right! if the distance between that star u are seeing and the earth is 100 years, u are seeing the star as it was 100 years ago. you will be able to see how the star is currently only after 100 years.

Nidhi: That's so amazing dada!!!!!!! does that mean I am seeing a star how it was 100 years ago?

Dada(smiling and caressing Nidhi's hair): yes Nidhi, if the person on that star stares at the earth, he will also be able to see the earth as it was hundred years ago.

Subbu: does that mean if he sees earth with powerful binoculars and tries to see people on the earth, he wont be able to see me, instead, he will see my great grand mother and what she was doing!! thats so shocking dada! how can that happen?

dada: you are a quick learner Subbu! yes, for anything to be visible, light should first travel to the eyes only then, it will be visible. If I am being able to see you now, it's because light from you traveled to me. but as we are very near and light travels fast, I am able to see u immediately.

Nidhi(innocently asks) : Dada, is this a story u are making up for us?

Dada: haha!! no beta, this is how it is, you will clearly understand these when u grow older.

Subbu(tries to recall something): Mmmm... dada, you said depending on the star I choose, the distance varies. what does that mean?

Dada: each star is at a different distance from earth. depending on that distance u can see how it was that many years ago.

Nidhi: Wowww!! What's the oldest star I can see now dada?

Dada: Mmm, as far as I remember, there is a star which s of 14 billion years away from us. which means u can see that star as it was 14 billion years ago.

by the way, you know, one billion is a thousand times that one million you know of Subbu!!

Subbu: Woah!! 14 of such billions!

Nidhi: That's huuugeee

Dada: Do you know the age of the earth?

Subbu: Mmm no

Dada: it is only a 4 billion years old

Subbu: what! that's shocking.

Dada: haha!

Subbu: after 10 billion years, people on that star can see earth taking birth, woaaah! this is so unbelievable dada...

Dada: yes beta, the universe is full of secrets and unbelievable stories. We just need to ask simple questions like you both had asked today "how many stars are in the sky?"

Nidhi(chuckles): "can we go onto the star by flight?" too

Dada: Haha, that was indeed a great question my cute little baby...

(..both Nidhi and Subbu want to listen more from their grandpa, they deny sleeping until dada says few more stories from the universe..)

dada: Do you know that the star you are seeing right now there, may not even be present there...

Nidhi, Subbu (confused); what? how can we see something which is not present? it's like someone seeing light from my torch even if I don't switch it on.

Dada: No no beta, let's say you switched on your torch for one minute and then switched off, it means, you have released light into space for one minute, the light u left still travels through space even if u had switched it off. it's like a bullet. you shoot and close the gun, the bullet still travels irrespective of you closing the gun or not. same way here, you switch on torch for a minute and switch it off, the light you have just released still travels through space, and they will be able to see your light only after a certain time depending on the observer. If the person is on sun he will be able to see it after 8 minutes, if the person is on that faaaarthest star, he will be able to see that after 14 billion years even though u switched it off now.

Subbu. (wide eyes) : Dada, so, are we also seeing the switched off lights!!?

Dada: not all beta, but there are few, every star has an expiry date like all the products in the grocery stores have. once the star reaches that expiry date, it will switch off its lights or it will be dead.

Nidhi: A star dying... it must be the saddest thing.. is that beautiful twinkling star alive dada?

Dada: yeah, that's very sad, but we can not predict that beta, if the distance between you and the star is 2 years, and if it's dead today, you will only be able to see its death after 2 years. because, the last light sent from that star, reaches earth only after two years.if no light comes from it after two years from now, it means it is dead today. but do not worry about their death beta, many stars keep dying and many new beautiful twinkling stars keep taking birth. you will never run out of stunning starry nights like these, you will come across much beautiful twinkling stars in your lifetime.

(.... Subbu, and Nidhi with mouths open wide, gets lost in seeing the sky in their own perspectives...)

Subbu gets lost in the thoughts of how strange and awesome is it to see dead stars still alive, isn't it like seeing dead people still alive? he thought to himself, and the fact that every star in the sky we see as it was certain years ago and being able to see the past sitting right here in present blew him away.

Nidhi gets lost in counting how many twinkling stars she can see, and she feels as if she knows these stars personally now. she decides to come on to the terrace every day to see new friends that she made that night, to see if they are still twinkling, to see if they are all doing great...

all of them slowly slip into sleep dreaming about "discovering secrets of the universe".

© 2021 Anusha Motamarri

Author's Note

Anusha Motamarri
please do let me know if u have liked the story, and feel free to give any feedback

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Well, you did ask, so you have only yourself to blame for this. But since it's something you need to know...

Having characters toss dialog back and forth isn’t a story. No one reacts, stops to think, rephrases, or does any of the things humans do in life. So how can it seem real to a reader? Fiction isn't a record of what happens, it's far more than that.

Assume that some one ran into the room where you were and said, “Did you hear that someone was hit by a car just down the street?” Would you simply reply, yes or no, with no change of expression, no thought, or other reaction? No. But in this story your characters react not at all. They do nothing but read the lines you give them, with no more emotion than punctuation provides. Have your narrator program read it aloud, to hear what the reader gets. It’s very different from what you “hear” as you read because unlike you, the reader knows nothing about who these people are, how old they are, or even what planet they’re on.

Take it a step further. Suppose that person who ran into the room said, “Did you hear that your mother was hit by a car just down the street?” Because there’s an emotional connection between you and the one hurt, your reaction would be dramatically different. You would have a strong internal reaction, which, in the method you’re using would never make the page.

Bottom line: Fiction-Writing is a profession. It’s one that the universities offer degree programs in. And you have to assume that at least SOME of that knowledge is necessary, right? More than that, in your school days all those reports and essays you were assigned to write trained you in writing reports and essays, not fiction. Use nonfiction techniques for fiction and the result will, and must, read like nonfiction.

So if your goal is to write fiction, you need to pick up at least some of the techniques the pros take for granted. There's no way around that, because your reader, like you, has been reading published books, written with those professional techniques, almost exclusively for all their life, and they expect to see the result of using them in whatever fiction they read.

The library’s fiction-writing section is an excellent resource, so take advantage of it, because as E. L. Doctorow put it: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” But if you don’t know how to do that, or even that you should…

There’s a great book on writing fiction, available free at the address below this paragraph. Grab a copy and give it a try.

Jay Greenstein

Posted 7 Months Ago

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1 Review
Added on April 27, 2021
Last Updated on April 27, 2021
Tags: stargazing, fiction, terrace, story, shortstory, lightyear, fun, light, grandparents, grandfather, sky


Anusha Motamarri
Anusha Motamarri

Hyderabad, India