In fiction, there is something deliciously satisfying in writing about alternative realities, or alternative futures, or even alternative pasts. The most famous is probably science fiction writer Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962), which talks of a world where Hitler won World War II.
It’s become even more famous since its Amazon Video adaptation in 2015. In today’s highly charged global political atmosphere, nobody’s calling Dick a Hitler or a Nazi for making the Axis Powers win fictionally because it’s a really fascinating thought-experiment.
But then when it comes to such fascinating alternative thought-experiments, the sky is really the limit.
What if there was no science and religion in the world?
Today, a lot of people have a grouse with both science and religion. Religion has led to many wars in the past and fuels many conflicts today, especially in West Asia and its reactionary terrorism has become part and parcel of living in the modern world. That’s at the global level. At the national level, it may still lead to civil wars, and communal riots at the local level.
Science plays a great part in fuelling war and, in fact, thrives on wars. The atom bomb. The machine gun. Chemical and biological warfare. Science and war feed off each other and have become a vicious cycle. The military-industrial complex of America marches on relentlessly to war after war with or without a reason.
But what if a world had no science and no religion? Would conflict really end? One of my acquaintances went on an environmental project to the villages of inner Mongolia in China where he stumbled upon happy “lotus eater”-type villagers who had no need for both advanced science and religion.
But then that’s the common people. Can the rulers of any world truly stay away from lethal power games?
What if there really are parallel universes?
The multiverse theory states that there may be an infinite number of parallel or alternative universes where there may be a marginal difference between any two. In one, you could be a ruler and, in another, a pauper. And in yet another, it may be exactly the same universe where you simply don’t exist. The most famous in this is the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics.
What if these parallel universes influence each other?
Another theory is that all the parallel universes influence each other. All your alternative versions also influence each other. This concept has also been explored in the science fiction action movie, The One (2001), starring Jet Li.
So, in one universe, Hillary Clinton became US president, in another Donald Trump got impeached, and in yet another he is still a successful billionaire totally divorced from politics. And in some quantum way, all the Trumps of all the universes are influencing each other.
Is that leading to chaos and confusion in Trump’s White House, and also why Clinton simply can’t shake off her loss? Now that’s a story for another book.
What if the astras and vimanas in the Mahabharata were all true?
We Indians have been brought up on books and TV serials about astras and pushpak vimanas. Did they really exist, and if so, how were they really created? The TV serials of the 1980s just showed two arrows of different designs and colours facing off. That’s it.
But if there really were astras, then how could such magnificent weapons have been created from scratch and how would they really play out? What would be the philosophy behind the making of these astras?
What happens to all the information in the universe?
What happens to all the information in the universe? What happens to all the information in cyberspace? What happens to all the information inside your head? What happens to the information inside the heads of the more than 100 billion people who have walked this Earth? Is it lost? Or is it saved?
What if the gods did indeed rule the Earth and they moved on?
What if the Gods did indeed rule the Earth thousands of years ago and left and wiped out all their traces. You can’t prove it because they were indeed Gods and could easily wipe out there traces without humans being able to figure out why.
The Great War on Prithvi…
I have written a mythological thriller, The Great War on Prithvi, which superficially deals with 16-year-old Vishnu Shastri caught in a parallel world called Prithvi where he deals with a mysterious guru with superpowers, a beautiful demented assassin called Shakti and a megalomaniac dictator called Duryodhan. However, at a philosophical level, the book tries to grapple with all the concepts and questions that I have listed above.
Whether I have succeeded or not is for the reader to decide.