Where do you go looking for someone who is lost in space? Padmakumar Kochukuttan's ‘Sky above the orange tree’ is about an astronaut, Pawan Kapoor, who by quirky fate or technical snag, gets lost in the ever-expanding universe.
Snapped off his connection with the space shuttle and anything remotely human, Kapoor finds himself sucked into an abyss of vacuum. But even while being pulled away at lightening velocity into the unknown, Kapoor pauses to grasp the beauty of his scary yet unique experience.
Perspectives change and Kapoor eyes the mighty sun that has turned into a yellow tennis ball for him with renewed interest. Kapoor's only link with the world of mortals is his little daughter Kukku with whom he connects via a ‘talking doll’ - a device he had personally made for her. These are poignant moments when Kapoor talks part jokingly, part philosophically to his chirpy daughter who is yet to understand the meaning of lost. The author effectively conveys the predicament of a man, who is at once dying to return home even while realising that his was once in a light year (lifetime) experience.
Running parallel to Kapoor's journey into the unknown and beyond is the crisis that befalls his family back home in India, who are at a loss to handle the precarious situation.
The book also gives you a birds' eye view of the life in a space shuttle and about how it just comes down to your own instincts when faced with the unthinkable.
The author, a journalist from Kerala, also offers you a sneak peak into the workings of a space station that has to pull in all its resources to locate and bring back the lost astronaut. At less than 100 pages, the book is a breezy read.
The book doesn’t burden you with too many mumbo-jumbo on space jargon but tactfully weaves in the technicalities.
Though the author opts to call it a children’s book, the novella would hold the attention of any layman up for a good read. Like the book cover that features an astronaut hanging from the tentacles of a tree (probably an orange), the novella prods you to take a different view.
You probably won't look at the sky the same way after reading this.