The Comet-I Class 8 English from It so Happened Book Chapter 9 Summary, Explanation, Difficult words meaning and Questions Answers


The Comet-I Class 8 English It so Happened Book Lesson 9– Detailed explanation of the lesson along with meanings of difficult words. Given here is the complete explanation of the lesson, along with the summary. All the exercises and Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson


Class 8 English (It so Happened Book) Lesson 9 – The Comet-I


lesson 9 the comet i


The Comet-I Introduction


The Comet-I tells us a story about Duttada, an amateur astronomer who can’t stay away from his eight-inch long telescope, Dibya who helped him accomplish his secret ambition of discovering a comet. Once Comet Dutta is discovered, a few calculations by professional astronomers and scientists show that the comet will collide with the earth resulting in the end of life on the planet. Thus, they plan to call an international conference to resolve the matter.


The Comet-I Summary

The beginning of the story is set on a moonless night in December when Indrani Debi’s sleep is disturbed by a cool breeze. Upon checking the pillow next to her, she realised that her husband was not there (which she was quite already aware of). Knowing that her husband is forgetful about the practical problems of living, she took his pullover, wrapped herself in a shawl and walked towards the roof. She knew her husband would be there, hobnobbing with Dibya. Dibya Chakshu or Divine Eye was the name of the eight-inch long telescope belonging to Duttada. He was quite proud of its name whereas, his wife considered the telescope as a designing woman, so she preferred calling it Dibya only. Indrani Debi gave him his pullover while telling him that he better wear it if he wished to avoid bed rest the next day.

Duttada, like any other amateur astronomer, had a secret ambition of discovering a comet. He was quite optimistic about finding one with his eight-inch long telescope even though there were professional astronomers with huge telescopes. This was because experts are generally known to be busy with pre-assigned tasks and it was quite normal for them to miss a passing comet when they were already not looking for one. Besides, Duttada was positive about discovering one that particular night as he had been seeing a faint stranger in the background of old stars. Although he was absent-minded about daily chores, he was quite meticulous in his observations. And indeed, two days later Ananda Bazar Patrika confirmed the news. Duttada had informed the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), who upon confirming, communicated the news to the entire world. As per the accepted practice of naming the comet after its founder, the comet was named Comet Dutta. This brought some unwanted attention upon Duttada, who wished upon having not discovered it at all in the first place, when he had to attend so many receptions, ceremonies and functions. Her wife, Indrani Debi wished the same but because of other reasons. According to her, comets are known to bring ill-luck and she wished that a good man like her husband was not associated with the discovery of one. However, according to Dutta, it was only a superstition and in his defence, he cited the scientific studies that found no correlation between the arrival of a comet and the calamities on earth. He was not going to be completely right.

The next scene is set in the spacious dining hall of King’s College,  Cambridge where the butler gives the Provost an envelope. The Provost summons James, passes on the envelope to him and tells him that someone is waiting for him in his room. James makes his way to his sitting room and reads the note inside the envelope on the way. The note was written by John Macpherson, Defence Science Advisor, Her Majesty’s Government. The note asked him to come to London that particular night for discussions on an unavoidable matter. When James reached his room, he was greeted by Johnson, Security officer at Whitehall. Johnson was supposed to take James to London which he did in about ninety minutes. He then showed James the way to Sir John’s chambers and slipped out. Sir John came right on point and handed James a typescript. Upon realising that the typescript was the original manuscript of his findings that he had given to Nature to publish immediately, James became a little uneasy. Sir John told him that his friend, Taylor, editor of Nature showed him this before forwarding it to a professional referee. According to Sir John, if the findings were true, they should not be published. This was because it said that Comet Dutta would collide with earth, resulting in the end of life on the planet. If the news was published, it would create panic all over the world. James was of the view that suppressing it wont do any good as other experts would sooner or later arrive at the same conclusion. Sir John insisted upon exerting his powers to control the situation. They felt that more than two brains were required in finding a solution, so they decided upon calling an International Conference in complete secrecy within one week’s time. It seemed quite impossible to James but Sir John assured him and they both began discussing its details.  


The Comet-I Summary in Hindi


कहानी की शुरुआत दिसंबर की अमावस्या की रात में होती है, जब ठंडी हवा से इंद्राणी देवी की नींद टूट जाती है।
अपने बगल में तकिए की जाँच करने पर, उसने महसूस किया कि उसका पति वहाँ नहीं था (जिसके बारे में वह पहले से ही जानती थी)। यह जानकर कि उसका पति जीवन की व्यावहारिक समस्याओं के बारे में भूल गया है, उसने उसका स्वेटर लिया, खुद को एक शॉल में लपेटा और छत की ओर चल पड़ी।
वह जानती थी कि उसका पति वहां होगा, दिब्या के साथ उसकी दोस्ती थी। दत्तादा से संबंधित आठ इंच लंबी दूरबीन का नाम दिव्य चक्षु या दिव्य नेत्र था। उन्हें इसके नाम पर काफी गर्व था, जबकि उनकी पत्नी दूरबीन को एक डिजाइनिंग महिला के रूप में मानती थीं, इसलिए उन्होंने इसे केवल दिब्या कहना पसंद किया।
इंद्राणी देवी ने उसे यह कहते हुए अपना स्वेटर दिया कि अगर वह अगले दिन बिस्तर पर आराम से बचना चाहता है तो बेहतर होगा कि वह इसे पहन ले। दत्तादा में किसी भी अन्य शौकिया खगोलशास्त्री की तरह, धूमकेतु की खोज करने की एक गुप्त महत्वाकांक्षा थी।
वह अपने आठ इंच लंबे टेलीस्कोप के साथ एक को खोजने के बारे में काफी आशावादी था, भले ही पेशेवर एस्ट्रोनॉमर्स विशाल टेलीस्कोप के साथ थे। ऐसा इसलिए था क्योंकि विशेषज्ञ आमतौर पर पूर्व-निर्धारित कार्यों में व्यस्त होने के लिए जाने जाते हैं और जब वे पहले से ही एक की तलाश में नहीं थे तो उनके लिए एक गुजरने वाले धूमकेतु को याद करना काफी सामान्य था।
इसके अलावा, दत्तादा उस विशेष रात की खोज के बारे में सकारात्मक थे क्योंकि वह पुराने सितारों की पृष्ठभूमि में एक बेहोश अजनबी को देख रहे थे। यद्यपि वह दैनिक कार्यों में अनुपस्थित रहता था, तथापि वह अपनी टिप्पणियों में काफी सावधानी बरतता था। और वास्तव में, दो दिन बाद आनंद बाजार पत्रिका ने इस खबर की पुष्टि की।
दत्तादा ने इंडियन इंस्टीट्यूट ऑफ एस्ट्रोफिजिक्स (IIA) को सूचित किया था, जिन्होंने पुष्टि करने पर, पूरी दुनिया को इस खबर से अवगत कराया। धूमकेतु का नाम उसके संस्थापक के नाम पर रखने की स्वीकृत प्रथा के अनुसार, धूमकेतु का नाम धूमकेतु दत्ता रखा गया।
इसने दत्तादा पर कुछ अवांछित ध्यान आकर्षित किया, जो पहली बार में इसे बिल्कुल भी नहीं खोजना चाहते थे, जब उन्हें इतने सारे रिसेप्शन और समारोहों में शामिल होना पड़ा। उनकी पत्नी इंद्राणी देवी भी यही चाहती थीं लेकिन अन्य कारणों की वजह से। उनके अनुसार, धूमकेतु दुर्भाग्य लाने के लिए जाने जाते हैं और वह चाहती थीं कि उनके पति जैसा एक अच्छा आदमी एक की खोज से जुड़ा न हो।
हालाँकि, दत्ता के अनुसार, यह केवल एक अंधविश्वास था और अपने बचाव में, उन्होंने वैज्ञानिक अध्ययनों का हवाला दिया, जिसमें धूमकेतु के आगमन और पृथ्वी पर आपदाओं के बीच कोई संबंध नहीं पाया गया। वह पूरी तरह से सही नहीं होने वाला था।
अगला दृश्य किंग्स कॉलेज, कैम्ब्रिज के विशाल डाइनिंग हॉल में सेट है जहां बटलर प्रोवोस्ट को एक लिफाफा देता है। प्रोवोस्ट जेम्स को बुलाता है, उसके पास लिफाफा देता है और उसे बताता है कि कोई उसके कमरे में उसका इंतजार कर रहा है।
जेम्स अपने बैठने के कमरे में जाता है और रास्ते में लिफाफे के अंदर नोट पढ़ता है। नोट जॉन मैकफर्सन, रक्षा विज्ञान सलाहकार, हर मेजेस्टीज़ गवर्नमेंट द्वारा लिखा गया था। नोट में उन्हें एक अपरिहार्य मामले पर चर्चा के लिए उस रात लंदन आने के लिए कहा गया था
जब जेम्स अपने कमरे में पहुंचा, तो व्हाइटहॉल के सुरक्षा अधिकारी जॉनसन ने उनका स्वागत किया। जॉनसन को जेम्स को लंदन ले जाना था जो उसने लगभग नब्बे मिनट में किया। फिर उसने जेम्स को सर जॉन के कक्षों का रास्ता दिखाया और बाहर निकल गया। सर जॉन बिल्कुल सही जगह पर आए और जेम्स को एक टाइपस्क्रिप्ट थमाई।
यह महसूस करने पर कि टाइपस्क्रिप्ट उनके निष्कर्षों की मूल पांडुलिपि थी जिसे उन्होंने नेचर को तुरंत प्रकाशित करने के लिए दिया था, जेम्स थोड़ा असहज हो गया। सर जॉन ने उन्हें बताया कि उनके मित्र टेलर, नेचर के संपादक ने इसे एक पेशेवर रेफरी को भेजने से पहले उन्हें यह दिखाया था। सर जॉन के अनुसार, यदि निष्कर्ष सत्य थे, तो उन्हें प्रकाशित नहीं किया जाना चाहिए। ऐसा इसलिए था क्योंकि यह कहा गया था कि धूमकेतु दत्ता पृथ्वी से टकराएगा, जिसके परिणामस्वरूप ग्रह पर जीवन समाप्त हो जाएगा।
अगर यह खबर प्रकाशित होती तो पूरी दुनिया में दहशत फैल जाती। जेम्स का विचार था कि इसे दबाने से कोई फायदा नहीं होगा क्योंकि अन्य विशेषज्ञ जल्द या बाद में उसी निष्कर्ष पर पहुंचेंगे। सर जॉन ने स्थिति को नियंत्रित करने के लिए अपनी शक्तियों का प्रयोग करने पर जोर दिया। उन्होंने महसूस किया कि समाधान खोजने के लिए दो से अधिक दिमागों की आवश्यकता है, इसलिए उन्होंने एक सप्ताह के भीतर पूरी गोपनीयता के साथ एक अंतर्राष्ट्रीय सम्मेलन बुलाने का फैसला किया।
जेम्स को यह काफी असंभव लग रहा था लेकिन सर जॉन ने उन्हें आश्वासन दिया और वे दोनों इसके विवरण पर चर्चा करने लगे।


The Comet-I Explanation


Passage – IT was a moonless night in December. A burst of cool breeze from the window was enough to disturb the sleep of Indrani Debi. Half awake she felt for the adjoining pillow, although she knew the answer. Duttada was not there. “So he has gone to hobnob with that wretched Dibya! At least he might have bothered to close the door.” Even as she muttered her complaints, Indrani Debi could not repress her smile. She knew how utterly oblivious her husband was of the practical problems of living. Didn’t his doctor tell him to take special precautions against the cold? But he wouldn’t remember to put on a sweater even if it was lying on his bedside chair! How could he when Dibya had put her spell on him? She picked up the white woollen pullover, wrapped herself in a shawl and made her way to the roof, to break up his tete-a-tete with Dibya.

Word Meaning:
– have friendly talk/ spend time together
Wretched– used to express anger or annoyance
Muttered– say something in a low or barely audible voice, especially in dissatisfaction or irritation
Repress– restrain or prevent (the expression or development of something)
Utterly– absolutely; completely
Oblivious– forgetful
Tete-a-tete– private meeting/ talk between two persons

Explanation of the Above Passage – That particular day in December, when the night lacked the light of the moon, a wave of cool breeze coming from the window interrupted the sleep of Indrani Debi. In a semi-conscious state of sleep, she checked the pillow beside her even though she was well aware that her husband, Duttada was not in bed. She whispered to herself in an annoyed tone and said that her husband must have probably gone to spend time with Dibya. She felt that the least he could have done was to shut the door when he left. Even as she expressed anger or annoyance, she couldn’t suppress the smile that came on her face. She was well-aware that her husband was completely unmindful to the practical needs of the surroundings and the climate. Even his doctor had told him to take all the measures to safe-guard himself in the cold weather but Duttada, oblivious as he was, forgot to put on his sweater even if it was lying on the chair next to their bed. She wondered what magic spell had Dibya cast on her husband. Thus, she wrapped herself in a shawl, took the white woollen pullover and walked towards the roof to disturb him in his private meeting with Dibya.

Passage – She found them both huddled together eye to eye. At least Duttada was looking into Dibya’s eyes.  When Duttada acquired this telescope he was so thrilled that he called it Dibya Chakshu — Divine Eye. To Indrani Debi the telescope was like a designing woman who had ensnared her husband. So she just called it Dibya and the name stuck.  To Duttada the telescope marked the fulfilment of the ambition of a lifetime. As an amateur astronomer he had longed for enough money to buy a good telescope and for enough spare time in which to observe the heavens. He got them both when he retired with ample money. The telescope was duly installed and long were the dark nights that Duttada spent in star-gazing. At least Indrani Debi thought so.

Word Meaning:
– (here) bought
Astronomer– a scholar of the science of the sun, moon, stars, planets, etc.
Huddled–  crowd together; nestle closely
Designing– acting in a calculating, deceitful way
Ensnared– catch in or as in a trap
Amateur– a person who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity

Explanation of the Above Passage – On the roof, she saw both of them looking into each other’s eyes especially and more keenly, Duttada. Dibya Chakshu was the name of Duttada’s telescope. It meant ‘Divine Eye’ and he was delighted to call it that. On the other hand, Indira Debi thought of the telescope as a calculative and cunning woman who had trapped her husband. So, she preferred calling it Dibya only and the telescope continued to be called Dibya.
It was an achievement for Duttada to have bought the telescope as it marked the accomplishment of a lifelong aspiration. He was an amateur astronomer thus, all his life, he had yearned for enough money to be able to buy a quality telescope and sufficient time to use it to observe the skies, which he considered ‘heavens’. He was gifted with both time and money, upon retiring. Thus, he got the telescope properly installed and spent the dark nights in star-gazing. The nights felt quite long, at least to Indrani Debi.

Passage – “Here! Put on this sweater — or do you want Nabin Babu to order bed-rest tomorrow?” Like every other amateur astronomer, Duttada had a secret ambition that he would one day discover a new comet. For, comets can be new, coming as they do from the remote corners of the Solar System. Like planets, comets also orbit round the Sun but their orbits are highly eccentric. So once in a while a comet comes close to the Sun; it has a longish tail that is lit brilliantly by the sunlight and then it recedes into darkness not to be seen again for years, or for centuries. 

Word Meaning:
– unusual/ unlike the orbits of other planets
Recedes– goes back; disappears

Explanation of the Above Passage – Indrani Debi gave Duttada his pullover and told him to wear it unless he wanted the doctor, Nabin Babu, to advise him bed-rest for the next day. Duttada always secretly admired to discover a new comet some day, just like all the amateur astronomers. New comets can easily be found because they come from the distant parts of the Solar system. Comets also revolve around the sun but unlike planets, their orbits are unusual. When a comet comes too near to the sun, it can be seen with a tail like structure gaining its light from the sun until it goes back into the darkness for years or for centuries, till it can be seen again.

Passage – What chance did he stand with his eight-inch Dibya? Didn’t professional astronomers have gigantic telescopes? Duttada was optimistic… he knew that the professionals with their pre-assigned programmes would be looking at faint stars and nebulous galaxies. They might miss such an insignificant thing as a comet which they were not expecting to see anyway! Indeed amateurs had often discovered new comets which the professionals had missed.
And, it looked to Duttada that tonight was going to be the big night. For against the background of the same old stars Duttada had detected a faint stranger. He re-examined the charts with him, checked his Dibya for any smudges on the optics, did some calculations on his pocket calculator in torchlight — for, though absent-minded about daily chores, he was meticulous in his observations. 

Word Meaning:
– of very great size or extent; huge or enormous
Optimistic– hopeful; expecting the best
Faint stars– (of a sight) barely perceptible; unclear
Nebulous– hazy
Smudges– spots/ marks
Optics– Dibya’s eyes (glass) through which he detected the comet
Meticulous– careful and exact

Explanation of the Above Passage – Now, the possibility of finding a comet using an eight-inch telescope is quite questionable when professional astronomers have huge telescopes. But, Duttada was hopeful and positive about finding one as he was well-aware that professional astronomers have their hands full with the already ongoing assignments that might involve discovering unclear stars or studying indistinct galaxies. So, they were much more likely to miss an unimportant comet when they were anyway not searching for one. Besides, amateur astronomers have found new comets previously that have been missed by the eyes of professionals and experts.
Duttada was positive about that particular night being the special night where he’d discover one such comet. This was because he had noticed a faint newcomer amidst the old stars. He had rechecked all the charts, cleared Dibya thoroughly so as to ensure proper clarity and remove any spots that were there on its lenses and did necessary calculations using his pocket calculator. Although he was oblivious about basic things and routine chores, he was quite careful and precise with his calculations.

Passage – Yes, there can be no mistake. What he was looking at had not been there earlier and it did look like a new comet. Two days later Ananda Bazar Patrika came out with the news:

Calcutta Man Discovers New Comet 

(From our special correspondent) 

Shri Manoj Dutta, a resident on the northern outskirts of Calcutta* has claimed to have discovered a new comet. He has seen the comet on the last two nights and has informed the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) at Bangalore* of its whereabouts. The IIA runs a 90-inch telescope, the biggest in Asia, at Kavalur. If it confirms Dutta’s finding it will be the high point in his lifelong career as amateur astronomer. Duttada, as he is affectionately called by his friends and admirers, estimates that the comet would be clearly visible to the naked eye in the next few months. He gives all credit for his discovery to his eight-inch telescope which he calls Dibya.

Word Meaning:
Bazar Patrika– an Indian Bengali-language newspaper
Outskirts– the outer parts of a town or city
Calcutta*- now, Kolkata
Bangalore*-  now, Bengaluru

Explanation of the Above Passage – He was positive that he had made no mistake. Whatever he was seeing had not been seen earlier and it looked quite like a comet. Thus, after two days, news came out in the Bengali newspaper named Ananda Bazar Patrika with the headline “Calcutta Man Discovers New Comet”. The piece of news was written by one of their special correspondents who highlighted that Duttada or Shri Manoj Dutta, who lives in Calcutta has discovered a new comet. It has been further written that he had been seeing the comet since last two nights and had reported the same to Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) in Bangalore who has a 90-inch telescope at Kavalur, known to be the longest in Asia. The newspaper piece says that it would be the highest peak of his career as an astronomer if the presence of the comet is confirmed by IIA. According to Duttada, as he is called by his closed ones, the comet can be seen by the naked eye in about a few months. Duttada holds his eight-inch long telescope named Dibya as the one responsible for finding the comet.  

Passage – Thereafter it took just one week for ‘Comet Dutta’ to be recognised and so named. For the IIA confirmed the findings and communicated it worldwide and, according to the accepted practice, the new comet was named after its discoverer. 

Explanation of the Above Passage – In the following one week, its presence was confirmed by the IIA and shared with the world. As per the long accepted practice of naming the new comet after it’s founder, it was named ‘Comet Dutta”.

Passage – This brought in unwelcome publicity to the introvert Duttada. There were numerous receptions and functions to attend. Returning from one such ceremony Duttada muttered to himself in disgust, “I almost wish I had not discovered this comet.” To his surprise Indrani Debi agreed. “I wish the same, though not for the same reason”.  “May I ask why you wish I had not discovered this comet?” Duttada asked.  “Comets bring ill-luck and I wish a good man like you were not associated with the discovery of one,” Indrani Debi said with concern. Duttada laughed. “I see that even an MA degree has not cured you of your superstitions! There is no correlation whatsoever with the arrival of a comet and the calamities of the earth. On the contrary comets have been scientifically studied and their composition is well understood. There is nothing harmful about them. Well, you will soon see this comet of mine pass harmlessly by causing no anxiety to anybody.” In this last comment, however, Duttada was not going to be exactly right.

Word Meaning:
– one who is preoccupied with his/her own thoughts and feelings—not interested in things outside oneself
Disgust– strong dislike or disapproval
Calamities– disasters/misfortunes
MA– Masters in arts
Correlation– a mutual connection between two or more things 

Explanation of the Above Passage – All of this brought a lot of unwanted attention towards Duttada, who was an introvert and did not really like to be in the limelight. He was invited to a lot of receptions, functions and celebrations. Upon coming back from one such event, Duttada whispered to himself about wanting to not have discovered the comet at all in the  first place. (This was because he did not like the attention he was receiving.) Indrani Debi also wished the same, to Duttada’s astonishment but due to some other reason. Upon being asked by Duttada, she told him that comets bring ill-luck and she wished that a nice man like Duttada was not linked in any way with its discovery. She was concerned about him but her answer made her husband laugh. He remarked that even a Master’s degree could not change the way she thought about superstitions. He explained it to her logically that there is no mutual connection between the appearance of a comet and any disaster that happens on the earth. He further told her that comets have rather been examined scientifically and efforts have been made in understanding their composition. He assured her that they are not dangerous. In fact, he  told her to see it for herself pretty soon how it passes without causing any harm to anybody or making anyone fearful.

However, Dutta was going to be proved quite wrong


Passage – In the spacious dining hall of King’s College, Cambridge, the butler whispered deferentially in the Provost’s ear and handed him an envelope on a silver tray. The Provost beckoned James and passed on the envelope saying, “It seems you are wanted urgently in your room.”

Word Meaning:
– the chief manservant
Deferentially– respectfully
Provostthe head of certain university colleges, especially at Oxford or Cambridge, and public schools
Beckonedsummon (someone) by beckoning (making a gesture) to them 

Explanation of the Above Passage – Inside the big and airy dining hall of King’s College, Cambridge , the butler mumbled something in the Provost’s ears in a very respectful manner and then gave him an envelope kept on a silver tray. The Provost summoned James by making a gesture, gave him the envelope and told James that someone was waiting for him in his room. 

Passage – As he made his way towards the beautiful building, James opened the envelope. It contained a brief note:

Dear Dr Forsyth, 

The bearer of this note has been instructed to bring you to my office in London tonight. Please come without delay. I am making arrangements for your overnight stay in London. I regret the inconvenience caused to you and request you to keep your visit strictly confidential. Believe me, it is absolutely essential. 

Yours sincerely, 

John Macpherson

The signature carried the designation underneath: Defence Science Advisor, Her Majesty’s Government. 

Explanation of the Above Passage – On his way to the attractive building, James opened the envelope which contained a short note in it. It addressed him as Dr Forsynth. The note informed James that the carrier of the envelope is supposed to take him to London that night. It informs him to come right on time and that the arrangements for his one night stay in London are being made. The writer apologises for the trouble he is causing to James and asks him to keep the visit completely private. The note ends with a line saying that the meeting is regarding something extremely important. It is signed by John Macpherson, Defence science Advisor, Her Majesty’s Government.

Passage – A bowler-hatted man near the mantlepiece greeted him as James entered his sitting room. “I am Johnson, sir. Security officer at Whitehall.” He showed his identity card and continued, “I presume, you know why I am here, sir.”  “To the extent that is conveyed in this note,” replied James. He knew that it would be useless to ask Johnson for further details. “I won’t take long.” 

Word Meaning:
hatted– a person wearing a bowler hat
Mantlepiece– a structure of wood, marble or stone above and around a fireplace

Explanation of the Above Passage – In his sitting room, James was greeted by a man wearing a bowl hat standing next to the mantlepiece. The man introduced himself as Johnson, security officer at Whitehall. He gave proof of his identity by presenting his identity card and told James that by that time, he must be aware why he (Johnson) was in his (James) room. James told him that he was only aware about things that were specified in the note. James was well aware that it would not be useful to enquire about anything from him. Thus, he told Johnson that he’ll be ready shortly.

Passage – Johnson’s Ford Cortina brought them to Whitehall in less than ninety minutes. It took them another ten minutes to reach the chambers of Sir John Macpherson. Having introduced James to Sir John, the quiet but efficient Johnson slipped out.

Explanation of the Above Passage – Johnson’s efficient car, Ford Cortina took less than ninety minutes to take them to Whitehall. They took another ten minutes to arrive at the chambers of Sir John Macpherson and after introducing James to Sir John, Johnson moved out smoothly and competently.

Passage – “Dr Forsyth, my apologies for this imposition on your time!” Sir John advanced with outstretched hands. “To avoid any further delay, I will come to the point right away.” Sir John handed him a typescript. “Why! It is my paper to Nature. How did you get this original manuscript?” James was surprised and somewhat uneasy. Sir John saw his anxiety and continued, “Taylor, the editor of Nature is a friend of mine.” “I had asked Nature to publish it without delay since it is very important,” James looked puzzled. “I agree that it is important. So important in fact that it must never be published — that is, if what you say is correct.” Sir John lit his pipe. James would never have tolerated aspersions on the accuracy of his work, or the implied order that it must be suppressed. But he knew Sir John to be a respected scientist and was willing to hear him out. 

“Please do not misunderstand me, Dr Forsyth. I met Taylor today at lunch in the club where he showed me your paper — I still retain enough interest in astronomy, you know — and he asked for my opinion before sending it to a professional referee. I immediately realised that your result has profound implications, if it is correct.” 

Word Meaning:
– unfair demand that one is obliged to accept
Typescript– typed copy of a text
Manuscript– paper or book not yet printed
Aspersions– harsh remarks
Refereea person appointed to examine and assess for publication a scientific or other academic work
Profound– very great or intense
Implicationsthe conclusion that can be drawn from something although it is not explicitly stated

Explanation of the Above Passage – Sir John apologises to James with extended hands for interfering with his routine. He straightaway jumps on to the topic of discussion without wasting any time and thus, gives James a typescript. When James saw that it was the original copy of his paper to Nature, he asked Sir John how he acquired it in a disturbed tone. On seeing James all worried and uneasy, Sir John revealed that he has a friend named Taylor who is the editor of Nature.  On the other hand, James revealed that he gave his findings to Nature and told them to publish it instantly. He was surprised. However, Sir John was of the view that the findings were so crucial that they must never be published, provided that they are accurate. 

James was a type of person who would have never taken any criticism or ill remarks on the degree of correctness of his work or for that matter, an order to bottle it up. But he was well aware that Sir John was a respected scientist and wanted to give him a chance to justify his side.

Sir John assured James that he had no ill-intentions and that James must not take this in the wrong way. He told James that he met Taylor at lunch in the club that day. Taylor showed him James’ paper and asked about his views before sending it ahead to a professional referee. Sir John explicitly mentions that he still has an interest in astronomy and upon reading it, he instantly thought that if James’ findings are apt, they can have huge implications.

Passage – “Let me assure you, Sir John, that it is correct. I stake my reputation on it,” James could not contain himself any more.

Explanation of the Above Passage – Upon hearing a tone of doubt in Sir John’s words, James assured him that his findings are correct and that his reputation is dependent upon it.

Passage – “Do you realise what will happen if Comet Dutta collides with the Earth, as you predict it will?”

Explanation of the Above Passage – Sir John asks James if he is aware about the consequences that will take place if Comet Dutta hits the earth, which according to his findings, it will.

Passage – “The effects will be catastrophic! That is why I have taken extra care to verify my calculations. Barring rare circumstances, the collision is inevitable.” James was confident. But Sir John picked out the one qualifying phrase: “What are those rare circumstances?” “Well, it might collide with some asteroid before reaching here. Or it might just split up when near the Sun, or it might evaporate…” “But one can’t count on these fortuitous circumstances. We have to proceed on the assumption that Comet Dutta will collide with the Earth. Cometary collisions are expected to occur once in ten million years. But now we know that the next one will occur in a year…”

“Ten months, to be precise,” interjected James. “Thank you for the correction! Do you realise that we have only ten months of survival left for the entire living species on the Earth? Don’t you think we have to do something to stop all this?” 

Word Meaning:
– involving or causing sudden great damage or suffering
Barring– except for; if not for; with the exception of
Inevitable– certain to happen; unavoidable
Fortuitous– (happening) by chance
Interjected– interrupt

Explanation of the Above Passage – James told Sir John that if the collision happens, it would cause great damage and suffering which is why he has been exceptionally careful in his calculations. According to him, with the exception of a few situations, the collision was bound to happen. Sir John asked him about those few exceptional situations. James pointed out that the comet could collide with an asteroid before reaching the earth or it might break into pieces upon coming near the sun or just evaporate. But according to Sir John, one can’t be dependent upon the circumstances that might not even happen and that they must begin with the presumption that Comet Dutta will hit the earth. He mentioned that generally cometary collisions happen once in around ten million years but the next one could happen in a year. James corrected him that it could happen in the next ten months. Sir John appreciated his rectification and asked him whether what he was saying was correct, there were only ten months of survival left on the planet. He asked James if they should come up with a plan to prevent the collision.   

Passage – A fleeting smile crossed James’ face. ‘Just like a civil servant! As if we are facing here a minor breakdown of law and order,’ he thought to himself. Aloud, he said, “How, may I ask, can we prevent this natural catastrophe?’ “I don’t know; but we have no option but to try. I think we need more than two brains to handle this situation. It is essential to call an urgent meeting of experts from all over the world to think of a counter-measure and of course in total secrecy. Think of the panic in the world if this dreadful news leaks out.” Sir John glanced at the manuscript in James’ hand. 

Word Meaning:
– lasting for a very short time
Civil servant– a member of the civils service; government official
Counter-measure– step or action in the opposite direction
Dreadfulcausing or involving great suffering, fear, or unhappiness; extremely bad or serious
Glanced– take a brief or hurried look

Explanation of the Above Passage – Upon hearing Sir John, James smiled a little and thought to himself that Sir John is typically a public servant and is acting like they have been facing a breakdown of law and order. However, the words that came out of his mouth were quite different. He asked Sir John how they can prevent this phenomenon from happening. Sir John was also not sure about that at the moment but he was completely determined on finding one. According to him, they required more than two people to think about the solution and thus, thought that it would be right to gather the experts from all over the world in one room to look for the solution. This would be done in extreme confidentiality so as to avoid the panic in the world with this terrible news, Sir John said as he looked at the manuscript in James’ hand.

Passage – “My suppressing this paper will not hide the truth, Sir John!” James said. “There are others who will arrive at the same conclusion, sooner or later.”“No. Do not suppress it but tone it down. Add many if’s and but’s to make your conclusion appear not so certain… I will exert all my influence with friends in other countries to make them exercise a similar restraint for a while.”  “For how long?” “Until this wretched comet is safely out of the way. Let us spend some time now to plan the details of this international conference. Shall we call it in a week’s time, here?”  A week to plan such an important secret conference of international experts! James thought it an impossible task, but Sir John disagreed, and began to spell out details.

Explanation of the Above Passage – According to James, getting away with his paper or not allowing him to publish it won’t stop the news from coming in front of the world because someone else will arrive at the same conclusion. Sir John asked him to lower the news’ impact by adding if’s and but’s to make the implication seem uncertain. He even thought of using his network all over the world to stop the news from coming out. James asked him for how long he plans on keeping this a secret. Sir John told him at least until they deviate the comet. He further suggested that they discussed the specifications of the international conference and asked if they should schedule it after a week. James considered it quite impossible to plan for such a crucial meeting in a week’s time but Sir John disagreed and continued specifying it’s details.


The Comet-I Question and Answers


Comprehension Check

1.Why does Indrani Debi dislike Duttada’s “hobnobbing” with Dibya? 

A. Indrani Debi saw the eight-inch long telescope as a designing woman who had ensnared her husband. Moreover, Duttada spent long nights star-gazing with Dibya, the telescope. Thus, Indrani Debi did not like Duttada’s “hobnobbing” with Dibya.


2. She is complaining and smiling. Why is she smiling?

A. Even though Indrani Debi muttered complaints she could not repress her smile. This was because she knew how utterly oblivious her husband was of the practical problems of living.  


3. (i) What was Duttada’s secret ambition? 

A. Like every other amateur astronomer, Duttada had a secret ambition that he would one day discover a new comet.


(ii) What did he do to achieve it? 

A. To achieve his ambition, he got an eight-inch telescope duly installed and spent long dark nights in star-gazing.


4. What is the difference between a planet and a comet, as given in the story?

A. Like planets, comets also orbit round the Sun but their orbits are highly eccentric. So once in a while a comet comes close to the Sun; it has a longish tail that is lit brilliantly by the sunlight and then it recedes into darkness not to be seen again for years, or for centuries. 


5. Why was Duttada hopeful that he would discover a new comet soon?

A. Duttada was optimistic. He knew that the professionals with their pre-assigned programmes would be looking at faint stars and nebulous galaxies. They might miss such an insignificant thing as a comet which they were not expecting to see anyway! 

And, it looked to Duttada that tonight was going to be the big night. For against the background of the same old stars Duttada had detected a faint stranger. He re-examined the charts with him, checked his Dibya for any smudges on the optics, did some calculations on his pocket calculator in torchlight. Though absent-minded about daily chores, he was meticulous in his observations. 


6. Why does Duttada say — “I almost wish I had not discovered this comet.”? 

A. The discovery of the Comet Dutta and its recognition worldwide had brought some unwelcome attention upon introvert Duttada. There were numerous receptions and functions to attend. Thus, returning from one such ceremony Duttada muttered to himself in disgust, “I almost wish I had not discovered this comet.”


7. Why is his wife unhappy about the discovery?

A. His wife, Indrani Debi too wished that Duttada had not discovered the comet. This was because she believed that comets bring ill-luck and she wished a good man like him was not associated with the discovery of one.


8. How did Sir John get hold of James’ original manuscript? 

A. Taylor, the editor of Nature was a friend of Sir John’s. Sir John met Taylor that day at lunch in the club where he showed him James’ original manuscript of the paper and asked him for his opinion before sending it to a professional referee.


9. What is the important point the paper makes?

A. The paper highlighted some profound implications that pointed at Comet Dutta’s collision with the earth. 


10. Why does Sir John say that James’ paper should not be published? 

A. Sir John was of the view that James’ paper should not be published because the dreadful news would create a panic all over the world.


11. What do the two men finally decide to do?

A. Sir John suggested calling an urgent meeting of experts from all over the world to think of a countermeasure. They thought it was better to use more than two brains. Thus, the two men finally decided to plan the details of the International Conference that were to take place in a week’s time.  

Also See : 
It so Happened Book Lessons

Honeydew Book Lessons

Honeydew Book Poems


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