The Comet-II, Class 8 English It so Happened Book Lesson 10 Explanation, Summary, Difficult words
The Comet-II Class 8 English It so Happened Book Lesson 10– 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
- The Comet-II – Introduction
- The Comet-II – Summary
- The Comet-II – Summary in Hindi
- The Comet-II – Lesson and Explanation
- The Comet-II – Question and Answers
- NCERT Class 8 English MCQs with Answers
- Class 8 English Honeydew Word meaning of Prose | Chapterwise
- Class 8 English Honeydew Book All Poems Word meanings
- Class 8 English It So Happened Book Chapter wise Word meanings
Class 8 English (It so Happened Book) Lesson 10 – The Comet-II
-By Jayant Narlikar
The Comet-II- Introduction
The lesson ‘The Comet-II’ is in continuation of the previous lesson named ‘The Comet-I”. It gives us a description of the meeting and how the experts came to a solution. It describes how Indrani Debi gave in to her superstitions and organised a yajna to get rid of the ill-luck associated with the passing of Comet Dutta. Once the Comet passes away peacefully, Indrani Debi attributes it to her yajna, which Duttada refused to perform.
The Comet-II- Summary
The story continues as Sir John drops off James at the hotel after discussing the specifications of the meeting. It was hard for James to imagine the future collision on such a peaceful night. Thus, he even doubted his calculations for a second. Upon reaching the conference, all of James’ doubts regarding Sir John’s efficiency were gone, when he saw that all the listed experts were present including the special guest, Manoj Dutta. The experts checked and rechecked James’ calculations and concluded that the collision was going to happen. The experts dismissed defensive measures like living in underground bunkers. It was simply not a practical proposition. So the only course was to take offensive action. Comet Dutta could be marginally deflected from its path by giving it a push. Thus, they needed the bulk of nuclear power present on Earth. A gigantic nuclear explosion suitably placed, suitably directed and suitably timed could do the trick. This could be done by placing the nuclear payload in a spaceship, sending it to intercept the approaching comet and detonating it by a remote control. Success or failure, secrecy must be preserved. Finally a time-table was drawn up for the operation which was code-named ‘Project Light Brigade’. There were a few important dates like October 10 (dispatching the spacecraft), November 15 (rendezvous of the spacecraft and the comet) and December 15 (the day on which the collision was supposed to happen if the operation failed).
During this period, Sir John and Duttada had become friends and when Duttada asked about Sir John’s opinion on the success of the operation, Sir John told him that he was not going to buy any Christmas presents till December 15. Duttada stayed there for two more weeks and visited British Isles and observatories. Upon returning, he was greeted by a crowd of friends, social leaders, students and a few other uninvited people, whereas upon reaching home, he saw another crowd in a pandal that had gathered for a yajna. Indrani Debi, who knew that Duttada did not like crowds, summoned Sibaji Babu, Duttada’s brother to explain it to him. Sibaji Babu told him that it was to avert the ill-luck associated with the comet. Duttada burst out and refused to perform the meaningless rituals.
Since he returned from London, he had been in constant touch with Sir John. Thus, he received one such letter from him in mid-October saying that Project Light Brigade had begun. This made Duttada anxious but he could not share this with anyone and therefore he had to participate and pretend to enjoy the festivals and celebrations. He only found peace in the company of his eight-year-old grandson, Khoka and in star-gazing with Dibya. He received another message on November 18 from Sir John that said that he was not going to buy a Christmas presents on December 15. This made Duttada lose his lethargy and run to the rasgulla shop.
On December 15, millions of people from all over the world saw Comet Dutta which was also visible to the naked eye. When Duttada felt that the Comet had passed away peacefully, he felt it safe to say it to Indrani Debi that it did not bring any ill-luck. Indrani Debi was aware of how the ill-effects had been averted. This made Duttada anxious as he had never mentioned Project Light Brigade to her. Upon asking, Indrani Debi told him that it was because of the yajna they performed. Even though Dutta refused to do it, Guruji suggested that any of his descendants could do it. So, they made Khoka do it instead. Duttada imagined Khoka performing the rituals, saying mantras he did not understand and on the other hand, he imagined the panel of experts putting their brains together to avert the problem. It was hard for him to accept that both these images highlighted different aspects of the contemporary world. He understood the reasons behind the gap between rich and poor, educated and illiterate, privileged and unprivileged, but what he could not understand was the gulf between rationality and superstitions. He did not know if this gap would ever shrink.
The Comet-II- Summary in Hindi
कहानी जारी रहती है क्योंकि सर जॉन बैठक के विनिर्देशों पर चर्चा करने के बाद होटल में जेम्स को छोड़ देता है। जेम्स के लिए ऐसी शांतिपूर्ण रात में भविष्य के टकराव की कल्पना करना कठिन था। इस प्रकार, उन्होंने एक सेकंड के लिए अपनी गणना पर संदेह भी किया।
सम्मेलन में पहुंचने पर, सर जॉन की दक्षता के बारे में जेम्स के सभी संदेह दूर हो गए, जब उन्होंने देखा कि विशेष अतिथि मनोज दत्ता सहित सभी सूचीबद्ध विशेषज्ञ उपस्थित थे। विशेषज्ञों ने जेम्स की गणना की जाँच की और फिर से जाँच की और निष्कर्ष निकाला कि टक्कर होने वाली थी।
विशेषज्ञों ने भूमिगत बंकरों में रहने जैसे रक्षात्मक उपायों को खारिज कर दिया। यह केवल एक व्यावहारिक प्रस्ताव नहीं था। इसलिए आपत्तिजनक कार्रवाई करना ही एकमात्र रास्ता था। धूमकेतु दत्ता को धक्का देकर उसके रास्ते से मामूली रूप से विचलित किया जा सकता था।
इस प्रकार, उन्हें पृथ्वी पर मौजूद अधिकांश परमाणु ऊर्जा की आवश्यकता थी। एक विशाल परमाणु विस्फोट उपयुक्त रूप से रखा गया, उपयुक्त रूप से निर्देशित और उपयुक्त समय पर चाल चल सकता था। यह परमाणु पेलोड को एक अंतरिक्ष यान में रखकर, आने वाले धूमकेतु को रोकने के लिए भेजकर और रिमोट कंट्रोल द्वारा इसे विस्फोट करके किया जा सकता है।
सफलता हो या असफलता, गोपनीयता बनाए रखनी चाहिए। अंत में ऑपरेशन के लिए एक टाइम-टेबल तैयार किया गया, जिसका कोड-नाम ‘प्रोजेक्ट लाइट ब्रिगेड’ था। 10 अक्टूबर (अंतरिक्ष यान भेजना), 15 नवंबर (अंतरिक्ष यान और धूमकेतु का मिलन) और 15 दिसंबर (जिस दिन ऑपरेशन विफल होने पर टकराव होने वाला था) जैसी कुछ महत्वपूर्ण तिथियां थीं। इस अवधि के दौरान, सर जॉन और दत्तादा दोस्त बन गए थे और जब दत्तादा ने ऑपरेशन की सफलता पर सर जॉन की राय के बारे में पूछा, तो सर जॉन ने उन्हें बताया कि वह 15 दिसंबर तक कोई क्रिसमस उपहार नहीं खरीदेंगे।
दत्तादा वहां दो और सप्ताह रहे और ब्रिटिश द्वीपों और वेधशालाओं का दौरा किया। लौटने पर, मित्रों, सामाजिक नेताओं, छात्रों और कुछ अन्य बिन बुलाए लोगों की भीड़ ने उनका स्वागत किया, जबकि घर पहुंचने पर, उन्होंने एक पंडाल में एक और भीड़ देखी जो एक यज्ञ के लिए एकत्र हुई थी। इंद्राणी देवी, जो जानती थी कि दत्तादा को भीड़ पसंद नहीं है, ने दत्तादा के भाई सिबाजी बाबू को यह समझाने के लिए बुलाया।
सिबाजी बाबू ने उन्हें बताया कि यह धूमकेतु से जुड़े दुर्भाग्य को दूर करने के लिए है। दत्ताडा फूट-फूट कर रो पड़े और निरर्थक कर्मकांड करने से मना कर दिया। लंदन से लौटने के बाद से वह सर जॉन के लगातार संपर्क में थे। इस प्रकार, उन्हें अक्टूबर के मध्य में उनसे एक ऐसा पत्र मिला जिसमें कहा गया था कि प्रोजेक्ट लाइट ब्रिगेड शुरू हो गया था।
इससे दत्तादा चिंतित हो गए लेकिन वे इसे किसी के साथ साझा नहीं कर सके और इसलिए उन्हें त्योहारों और समारोहों का आनंद लेने के लिए भाग लेना पड़ा और नाटक करना पड़ा। उन्हें केवल अपने आठ वर्षीय पोते, खोका की संगति में और दिव्या के साथ स्टार-गेजिंग में शांति मिली। उन्हें 18 नवंबर को सर जॉन से एक और संदेश मिला जिसमें कहा गया था कि वह 15 दिसंबर को क्रिसमस का उपहार नहीं खरीदने जा रहे हैं। इससे दत्ता अपनी सुस्ती खो बैठे और रसगुल्ला की दुकान की ओर भागे।
15 दिसंबर को दुनिया भर से लाखों लोगों ने धूमकेतु दत्ता को देखा जो नंगी आंखों से भी दिखाई दे रहा था। जब दत्तादा ने महसूस किया कि धूमकेतु शांति से गुजर गया है, तो उन्होंने इंद्राणी देवी से यह कहना सुरक्षित समझा कि यह कोई दुर्भाग्य नहीं लाया।
इंद्राणी देवी इस बात से अवगत थीं कि कैसे दुष्परिणामों को टाला गया था। इसने दत्तादा को चिंतित कर दिया क्योंकि उन्होंने कभी भी प्रोजेक्ट लाइट ब्रिगेड का उल्लेख नहीं किया था। पूछने पर, इंद्राणी देवी ने उन्हें बताया कि यह उनके द्वारा किए गए यज्ञ के कारण था। यद्यपि दत्ता ने ऐसा करने से इनकार कर दिया, गुरुजी ने सुझाव दिया कि उनके वंशजों में से कोई भी ऐसा कर सकता है।
इसलिए, उन्होंने इसके बजाय खोका को ऐसा करने को कहा। दत्तादा ने कल्पना की कि खोका अनुष्ठान कर रहा है, वह मंत्रों को समझ नहीं पाया और दूसरी ओर, उन्होंने कल्पना की कि विशेषज्ञों के पैनल ने समस्या को टालने के लिए अपने दिमाग को एक साथ रखा। उनके लिए यह स्वीकार करना कठिन था कि इन दोनों छवियों ने समकालीन दुनिया के विभिन्न पहलुओं को उजागर किया।
वह अमीर और गरीब, शिक्षित और अनपढ़, विशेषाधिकार प्राप्त और वंचितों के बीच की खाई के कारणों को समझता था, लेकिन वह जो समझ नहीं पाया वह तर्कसंगतता और अंधविश्वास के बीच की खाई थी। उसे नहीं पता था कि यह अंतर कभी कम होगा या नहीं।
The Comet-II- Lesson and Explanation
Passage – BY the time they finished their deliberations and Sir John dropped him at his hotel off Regent Street, it was 1 a.m. There was hardly any crowd on the street but when James looked up from his window a star-studded night sky greeted him. Somewhere amongst these stars was Comet Dutta heading for a collision with the Earth. It was hard to believe the calamity of the future on such a peaceful night. For a moment James wondered if he had done his sums right
Deliberations– long and careful consideration or discussion
Off-street– not on a public road
Explanation of the Above Passage – It was 1 a.m. when Sir John dropped James at his hotel off Regent Street after they finished discussing the details about the International Conference. The streets were deserted but the sky was filled with stars that welcomed James when he looked at them from his room’s window. Amidst these stars, roamed Comet Dutta coming towards the Earth. It was difficult for him to imagine the occurrence of a devastating collision on such a calm, quiet and relaxing night. During that night, James even doubted his calculations for a minute because it pointed towards the occurrence of such unfortunate events.
Passage – Whatever doubt James may have had about Sir John’s efficiency was quickly dispelled when he reported for the conference and found that all the experts listed by him were there. Astronomers, computer scientists, nuclear physicists, space technologists, biologists, all were there. And as Sir John’s special invitee was present the man who had started it all—Manoj Dutta.
Dispelled– make (a doubt, feeling, or belief) disappear
Explanation of the Above Passage – When James appeared for the conference, all of his doubts regarding Sir John’s reach, power and efficiency disappeared when he saw that professionals from all over the world had made their appearance on such short notice. All the experts named by Sir John including astronomers, computer scientists, nuclear physicists, space technologists, biologists, were present at the meeting. Even Sir John’s special guest, Manoj Dutta, the man behind the discovery of the comet was also there.
Passage – The conference lasted one week and went on under total cover of secrecy. First the experts checked and rechecked James Forsyth’s calculation with the latest observations of Comet Dutta. He was right: there was no escape from the direct hit predicted by him. There was a small chance that the comet may just graze the atmosphere of the Earth and not collide. In that case the loss of life and property would not be total. But this slight respite was hardly reassuring enough for taking no action
Respite– a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant
Explanation of the Above Passage – The Conference continued for a week under complete confidentiality. The professionals began by verifying James’ calculations over and over again. They also checked it on the basis of their recent observations related to Comet Dutta. All of them concluded that his results were right and the comet’s collision with planet Earth was bound to happen. Even the probability of the comet only entering the Earth’s atmosphere without a hit was very low. But if that happened, the loss of life would be minimised. However, the chances of its happening were so small that it became unavoidable to take an action to deviate Comet Dutta.
Passage – Having decided that some action was needed, what form should it take? The experts dismissed defensive measures like living in underground bunkers. It was simply not a practical proposition. So the only course was to take offensive action. Comet Dutta could be marginally deflected from its path by giving it a push.
Defensive measures– military action or resources protecting a country
Underground bunkers– A bunker is a defensive military fortification designed to protect people and valued materials from falling bombs or other attacks. Bunkers are mostly underground, in contrast to blockhouses which are mostly above ground
Proposition– a suggested scheme or plan of action, especially in a business context
Offensive action– The primary purpose of the offense is to defeat, destroy, or neutralize an enemy force which in this case, was Comet Dutta.
Deflected– cause (something) to change direction; turn aside from a straight course
Explanation of the Above Passage – Once they concluded that they needed to do something to avoid the collision, the next question of “What?” arose. Thus, they needed to come up with a course-of-action. It seemed impossible to implement defensive measures all over the world like living in underground bunkers. Thus, the only option they were left with was to deviate, destroy or neutralize the force of the Comet. Therefore, they decided to slightly deviate Comet Dutta from its path by asserting a push.
Passage – The experts calculated that the bulk of destructive nuclear power available on the Earth would be needed to achieve this mammoth task. A gigantic nuclear explosion suitably placed, suitably directed and suitably timed could do the trick. This could be done by placing the nuclear payload in a spaceship, sending it to intercept the approaching comet and detonating it by remote control. Success or failure, secrecy must be preserved. Finally a time-table was drawn up for the operation which was code-named ‘Project Light Brigade’. The important dates in it were:
October 10: Despatch the spacecraft with the payload unless by then the comet is already destroyed by natural causes or has changed its path due to unforeseen reasons.
November 15: Rendezvous with the comet and detonation of the payload.
December 15: If the experiment failed this was the day the comet would hit the Earth. If it succeeded, this was the day the comet would pass by at a near but safe distance
Intercept– (here) stop or block
Detonating– setting it off; making it explode
Rendezvous– (pronounces rondivoo) meeting place
Explanation of the Above Passage – After a lot of calculations and considerations, the experts concluded that they would require the bulk of destructive nuclear power available on Earth to carry on this huge task. According to them, an enormous nuclear explosion at the right time in the right direction would accomplish the task. In order to achieve this, they could place the nuclear equipment in a spaceship and direct it to stop the approaching comet and by making it explode using a remote control. Irrespective of whether they were successful in performing this or not, they all agreed that it should be done in complete secrecy. They drew a time-table for the operation and code-named it as ‘Project Light Brigade’.
Few of the important dates have been disclosed-
October 10- Releasing the spacecraft with the payload if the Comet has not been destroyed naturally or has not deviated its path because of unknown or unpredicted reasons.
November 15- The day when the spaceship filled with payload will collide with the comet and the payload will explode thereby destroying/deviating the comet’s path.
December 15- The day on which the comet will hit the Earth if it has not been set off by their operation. Otherwise, the comet would pass by safely from a close but safe distance.
Passage – The success of the experiment depended on how massive the comet was. Nobody could estimate; everybody hoped that it was not very massive.
Explanation of the Above Passage – Whether their experiment would succeed or not was dependent upon the size of the comet. No one was able to estimate it but they all hoped for it to not be very huge.
Passage – “Do you think we will succeed?” Duttada asked Sir John Macpherson for his opinion. During the week the two had developed considerable affinity for each other. “Mr Dutta, I will give you an honest answer! I am not buying any Christmas presents till December 15.” Duttada toured the British Isles for two weeks after the conference and he had a pleasant time visiting observatories and exchanging views with amateur as well as professional astronomers. On his return he was greeted by the inevitable vast crowd of friends, social leaders, students and the usual hangers-on. Loaded with garlands and bombarded by questions from the press he somehow made his way to the waiting car
Affinity– a natural liking for and understanding of someone or something
Isles– an island or peninsula, especially a small one
Inevitable– certain to happen; unavoidable
Hangers-on– people in a meeting etc. (usually uninvited) who try to appear very friendly with important people
Bombarded– subject (someone) to a continuous flow of questions, criticisms, or information
Explanation of the Above Passage – During the week of the conference, Duttada and Sir John had developed a great bond with each other. Thus, when Duttada asked Sir John what he had to say regarding the success of their operation, Sir John told him honestly that he was not going to buy any Christmas presents till December 15, the day when the collision was predicted to happen. Duttada stayed for two more weeks after the conference and visited the British Isles and observatories as he exchanged views with amateur and professional astronomers. When he returned to India, he was received by a crowd consisting of friends, social leaders, students and other uninvited people. He was covered with garlands and flooded with questions from the media. Thus, it became difficult for him to make his way to the car.
Passage – Arriving home he found another crowd gathered under a pandal. He glanced questioningly at Indrani Debi. Surely she knew how he hated crowds. Indrani, obviously uneasy, offered the explanation: “I have arranged a yajna and called priests to bless you.” “But why? Just because I left the shores of India? You know it is no longer taboo! And in any case you know my views on these meaningless rituals.” Indrani Debi looked at Sibaji babu, the younger brother of her husband. Sibaji babu coughed and explained, “We have all been very disturbed since you discovered the comet. Guruji recommended a shanti yajna to pacify the evil spirit behind the comet. We are all waiting for you to perform the yajna.”
Pandal– a marquee; a large tent used for social or commercial functions
Taboo– something not permitted for religious, social/cultural reasons
Yajna– a ritual sacrifice with a specific objective
Pacify– quell the anger, agitation or excitement of
Explanation of the Above Passage – When Duttada reached his home from the airport, he found another crowd assembled in a pandal. He looked at Indrani Debi with the expectation of an explanation. Indrani Debi was well-aware that Duttada disliked large numbers of people gathered together. Thus, quite hesitantly, she told Duttada that she had made arrangements for a yajna and had even called priests to shower their blessings on him. Duttada asked her the reason behind this yajna. He told her if it was because he had crossed the Indian borders, then she need not do it because it was no longer a taboo. Even otherwise, he specified how she knows about his opinion of these rituals. According to Duttada, these rituals lacked sense and were meaningless.
Indrani Debi gave a look at her brother-in-law Sibaji babu. Sibaji babu coughed and offered Duttada an explanation behind the organisation of this yajna. He mentioned how disturbed they have been since Duttada had discovered the comet. This was because they all believed that comets bring ill-luck. Thus, their Guruji had advised a few rituals to bring peace and prevent the ill-luck the comet was supposed to bring. Sibaji Babu told Duttada that they had been looking forward to his arrival so that he could perform the yajna.
Passage – “May I know what specific advantage there is in this ceremony?” Duttada was outwardly calm. “The comet you have discovered will not cause any ill effects on the Earth.” At this remark Duttda blew up. “Don’t you know that this is all superstition? It could be condoned in the olden times when man did not know what comets were. Not so in modern times. Comets are known for what they are, their movements are forecast precisely by mathematical calculations and it is clearly established by statistical studies that their visits have no correlations with disasters on the Earth … All this is of course futile on my part to explain — you and the likes of you never read even the elementary books on Science.” Sibaji babu gently interjected, “But our wise forefathers recommended such yajnas.”
Outwardly– on the surface; on or front he outside
Condoned– accept (behaviour that is considered morally wrong or offensive)
Futile– useless;in vain
Interjected– say (something) abruptly, especially as an aside or interruption.
Explanation of the Above Passage – Duttada, trying to look calm from the outside, enquired about the advantages that the ceremony would result in. They told him that they have arranged it to eliminate any ill effects that the comet would have on Earth. Duttada could not contain himself anymore and thus, told them that all these were superstitions that he did not believe in them. According to him, these myths were justified in old times when comets had not yet been studied by man. But now, when scientists have studied comets, they are just known for what they are and their movements are predicted by mathematical calculations. He further mentioned that it has been confirmed by statistical studies that there is no mutual connection between the arrival of a comet and calamities that happen on the Earth. He remarked all of his efforts in explaining this to them are useless because they have never even shown interest in the elementary books on basic Science. He was, however, interrupted by Sibaji Babu, who said that these yajnas have been advised by their wise forefathers.
Passage – Since his return from London, Duttada was in regular correspondence with Sir John Macpherson. Their friendship had grown out of their appreciation of each other’s virtues. Sir John admired Duttada’s scientific outlook while the latter admired the former’s discipline and efficiency. Their correspondence never mentioned the Project Light Brigade although once in a while Sir John would hint at its progress in a subtle manner that Duttada would understand. Meanwhile, Comet Dutta was following its predicted path. In due course, it developed its tail. It circled around the Sun without breaking apart; nor did it evaporate. The scientists on Project Light Brigade, therefore, knew that the threat of collision was now very much real.
Correspondence– communication by exchanging letters
Virtues– behavior showing high moral standards
Subtle– so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyse or describe
Explanation of the Above Passage – Even after coming back from London, Duttada was in regular touch with Sir John through letters. Their bond had strengthened more because of their respect for each other’s high morale and ethical behaviour. Sir John liked Duttada’s scientific viewpoints whereas Duttada admired Sir John’s discipline and planning. They never mentioned anything about Project Light Brigade while communicating. However, Sir John would slip in a few hard-to-comprehend hints about their progress.
On the other hand, Comet Dutta was roaming on the path which was well-predicted by the experts. Even a tail got formed as it circled round the Sun without turning into pieces or evaporating. Thus, it made it perfectly clear to the scientists involved in Project Light Brigade that the predicted threats of the hit are real.
Passage – In the middle of October, Duttada got a letter from Sir John. In the midst of descriptions of the meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society, the unseasonably warm weather, the opening matches of the football season and a recent bye-election, Duttada spotted the sentence he was eagerly looking for: “The charge of the Light Brigade has begun. Let us hope for the best.” So the spacecraft had been launched on time.
Explanation of the Above Passage – Somewhere near mid-October, Duttada received a letter from Sir John that talked about the specifications of the meeting of the Royal Astronomical society, the unusually hot weather, the opening matches of the football tournament and a recent bye-election. However, in the midst of all these topics, Duttada was searching for a hidden hint on the progress of their experiment which, when he found, said that the Project Light Brigade has begun and now they shall all hope for the best. From this, Duttada was assured that the spacecraft had been launched right on time.
Passage – But will it achieve the rendezvous in time and at the right place? Will the remote control detonation work? What if the gigantic nuclear pile fails to fire? Duttada could not share his anxieties with anyone around him. He had to participate in and outwardly enjoy the Puja ceremonies, the Diwali celebration and other festivals. His sole daytime relaxation was in the company of Khoka, his eight-year-old grandson, and of course at night looking through Dibya.
Explanation of the Above Passage – With the launching of the spacecraft, a lot of doubts arose in Duttada’s mind. He began worrying about their collision with each other at the right place and the accurate time. He felt anxious and doubted if the remote control detonation would work or if the huge nuclear spacecraft would fire.
Despite all this going on in his head, he could not share it with anyone and thus, he had to participate and even pretend to be having fun in the Puja ceremonies, Diwali celebration and other festivals. The only moment he found peace was when he was with Khoka, his eight-year-old grandchild and secondly, when he gazed at the sky with Dibya, his eight-inch-long telescope.
Passage – He was regularly monitoring the comet, now clearly visible even to the naked eye. On November 18 a special messenger on a scooter from the British Council brought in an urgent telex message for him. The telex operator in Calcutta had wondered what was so special about it to make it so urgent. But on reading it Duttada lost all his lethargy and rushed to his favourite rasagolla shop. The message read:
“I am confident now of buying my Christmas presents on December 15 — John Macpherson.”
Explanation of the Above Passage – Duttada was continuously keeping an eye on Comet Dutta, that was now also clear to the naked eye. He received an urgent telex from a special messenger from the British Council who came to give it on a scooter on November 18. Even the telex Operator in Calcutta was left amazed on seeing how urgent it was that he began thinking what was special about it.
Reading the letter made Duttada lose his laziness and run to his favourite rasgulla shop. The message was by Sir John and it said that he was going to buy Christmas presents for his friends and family on December 15.
Passage – On December 15 Comet Dutta came closest to the earth — at a distance of 80,000 kilometres. Millions saw it and admired it. Only a handful knew how close they had come to total annihilation. When the comet had gone far away and was seen no more, Duttada felt it safe to make the following comment to his wife: “Now that the comet came and went, are you satisfied that no major disaster took place that can be attributed to it?” “I agree that there has been no major disaster; but there could have been some. Do you know how they were averted?” Indrani Debi said with quiet confidence.
Annihilation– total destruction
Averted– prevent or ward off (an undesirable occurrence)
Explanation of the Above Passage – As predicted, Comet Dutta came nearest to the earth on December 15, at a distance of 80,000 kilometres. Lots of people from all over the world saw it and adored it but only a few knew how close they were to a complete destruction. It was only when the risk had passed and the comet had gone so far away that it was no longer visible, that Duttada felt relieved to say to his wife if she was relieved now that the comet had passed peacefully without causing any destruction. Indrani Debi agreed that there was no major disaster but she mentioned that there were a lot of chances of there being one. She asks Duttada if he knows how it was prevented.
Passage – Duttada looked at her. Did she know? How could she? He had never mentioned Project Light Brigade to her. He probed cautiously, “I don’t understand what you mean.” “It is very simple. There were no disasters because of the yajna at our house.” “But I never performed the yajna. Don’t you remember, I refused to have anything to do with it?” “Of course, I do. But we found a way out — at least Guruji did. He said that if you were unwilling to perform the yajna, it would be all right if a descendant of yours did it. So we got Khoka to deputise for you. And it has worked! Isn’t Guruji clever?” Indrani’s voice had a ring of triumph.
Probed– seek to uncover information about someone or something
Descendant– a person that is descended from a particular ancestor
Deputise– temporarily act or speak on behalf of someone else
Triumph– a great victory or achievement
Explanation of the Above Passage – Duttada was surprised on hearing what Indrani Debi said. Thus, he looked at her and wondered if she knew about the secret operation, and how it was possible because he had never even mentioned the project to her. So, he decided to investigate carefully and told her that he didn’t understand what she was trying to say. Indrani Debi told him that everything went on so smoothly because of the yajna they performed at the house. Duttada replied that he didn’t perform the yajna. He asked her to remember how he had refused to be a part of it. Indrani Debi told him that she was well-aware about this and that they found a way to perform it without Duttada’s participation. Rather, she told him that Guruji came up with the idea that if he was reluctant to do it, it would also work if any of his successors did it. So, they decided to have Khoka, his grandson to fill in for him. She was quite proud of emerging victorious as she mentioned that the yajna bore fruit and how clever was their Guruji.
Passage – Duttada formed a mental picture of Khoka performing the yajna uttering mantras dictated to him which he did not understand, pouring ghee at specified intervals into the fire, offering flowers… And then the picture changed to an assembly of scientists at the conference analysing the problem, devising solutions and executing them rationally and efficiently. It seemed hard to believe that both pictures were different aspects of contemporary human society. Duttada was aware of the gulf that separates the rich from the poor, the educated from the illiterate, the privileged from the unprivileged. But this gap between the rational and the superstitious seemed to him far wider, far more sinister. Will human society ever succeed in eliminating it?
Duttada did not know the answer.
Explanation of the Above Passage – Duttada imagined his eight-year-old grandson performing the rituals as per Guruji’s instructions, saying mantras he didn’t understand, pouring in ghee regularly into the fire and presenting flowers. Then this picture was suddenly replaced by a group of scientists examining the problem, coming up with solutions and ways to implement them.
For him, it was hard to accept that both these scenarios represented two distinct sides of the modern day world. He was well-acquainted with the factors that divided the rich and poor, literate and illiterate, privileged and unprivileged but it was difficult for him to comprehend the intensity of the gap between logic and superstitions. He asked himself if humans will ever be able to remove it but unfortunately, he did not know the answer.
The Comet-II- Question and Answers
1.“For a moment James wondered if he had done his sums right.” Why was James doubtful about his sums and calculations?
A. It was hard to believe the collision of Earth with the Comet in the near future on such a peaceful night. Thus, for a moment James wondered if he had done his sums right.
2. What did the scientists at the conference say about James’s ‘sums’?
A. The scientists at the conference after checking and rechecking James’ calculations with recent observations came to the conclusion that his ‘sums’ were accurate and his conclusions were right.
3. Immediate action was needed, the scientists decided. Give one example each of ‘defensive’ and ‘offensive’ action mentioned in the text.
A. The scientists decided that immediate action was needed. The experts, however, dismissed defensive measures like living in underground bunkers. So the only course was to take offensive action which meant marginally deflecting Comet Dutta from its path by giving it a push.
4. “I am not buying any Christmas presents till December 15.” What did Sir John mean by that?
A. When Sir John said, “I am not buying any Christmas presents till December 15.” , he meant that he could not guarantee the success of their operation. The experiment had great chances of failure as well as it was dependent upon the size of the comet, which no one could estimate. Thus, he mentioned December 15 because it was the date when the collision was predicted to happen and the success or failure of their operation would only be determined on that day.
5. What is Duttada expected to do on his return from London?
A. Upon returning home from London, Duttada is expected to participate in and perform the yajna her wife had organised to prevent the ill-effects associated with the comet he had found.
6.NWhat is his reaction to the proposal?
A. Duttada was a logical man who did not believe in meaningless rituals. He tried to contain himself and be calm but upon hearing the views of his wife and brother, he blew up. He told them it could be condoned in the olden times when man did not know what comets were but not so in modern times. He further mentioned that comets are known for what they are, their movements are forecast precisely by mathematical calculations and it is clearly established by statistical studies that their visits have no correlations with disasters on the Earth. He thought all this was futile on his part to explain because they and the likes of them never read even the elementary books on Science. Thus, he refused the proposal.
7. (i) What does ‘Project Light Brigade’ refer to?
A. The only course left to prevent the comet from colliding with the Earth was to take offensive action. Comet Dutta could be marginally deflected from its path by giving it a push. The experts calculated that the bulk of destructive nuclear power available on the Earth would be needed to achieve this mammoth task. A gigantic nuclear explosion suitably placed, suitably directed and suitably timed could do the trick. This could be done by placing the nuclear payload in a spaceship, sending it to intercept the approaching comet and detonating it by remote control. Success or failure, they agreed that secrecy must be preserved. Finally a time-table was drawn up for the operation which was code-named ‘Project Light Brigade’.
(ii) What does Sir John say about the Project in his letter to Duttada in October?
A. In the middle of October, Duttada got a letter from Sir John. In the midst of descriptions of the meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society, the unseasonably warm weather, the opening matches of the football season and a recent bye-election, Duttada spotted the sentence he was eagerly looking for: “The charge of the Light Brigade has begun. Let us hope for the best.” So this meant that the spacecraft had been launched on time.
8. Did Sir John buy Christmas presents on December 15? How did Duttada get to know about it?
A. Yes, Sir John bought Christmas presents on December 15. On November 18 a special messenger on a scooter from the British Council brought in an urgent telex message for Dutada. On reading it Duttada lost all his lethargy and rushed to his favourite rasgulla shop. The message read: “I am confident now of buying my Christmas presents on December 15 — John Macpherson.”. Thus, this is how Duttada got to know about Sir John’s intention of buying presents on December 15.
9. Why, according to Indrani Debi, had the comet not been disastrous? Do you agree with her?
A. According to Indrani Debi, there were no disasters due to the comet because of the yajna at their house. Even though Duttada had refused to perform and participate in it, they found a way out — at least Guruji did. Guruji told them that if Duttada was unwilling to perform the yajna, it would be all right if his descendant did it. So they got Khoka to deputise for Duttada and it worked.
No, I do not agree with her. The comet had passed away safely without causing any disaster because of the successful implementation of the secret operation, Project Light Brigade.
10. Is Duttada’s general outlook
Choose the right word. Say why you think it right.
A. Duttada’s general outlook was rational. This was because he did not believe in any taboos unlike her wife who thought comets bring ill-luck with them. Duttada believed in scientific studies and statistical explanations that said that there is no correlation between the passing of a comet and the disasters that happened on Earth. Furthermore, he did not believe in the meaningless rituals. When Indrani Debi asked him to participate in the yajna that she had organised to eliminate the ill-luck the comet was to bring, he refused to be a part of it. Thus, he was more rational and logical than moral.
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