“Sir, here are your keys.” The chick lady at the reception desk checked in the Khanna’s and directed them to their suite.
As Mr. Khanna inserted the key into the door lock, it creaked open and they felt slightly unusual. The Khanna family entered their suite and were mesmerized by the room décor.
“Arav, be careful, don’t touch anything.” – said Mrs. Khanna as the junior Khanna ran across the room.
“Yes, Momma. Look at this couch, this is so different and cool. Mom, Dad come here and have a look.” – exclaimed Arav.
All of them were stunned looking at the exquisite couch, for it resembled ‘the iron throne’. The antique furniture was a love seat, made of mahogany with intricate designs all over and the ‘Macedonian Star’ with numerous golden triangular rays at the center.
The champ touched the star and sat on the weird-looking couch. He pulled his parents too and as they wallowed in luxury; something turned, and Mrs. Khanna screamed, “Oh my God! No, No…. Let’s get out of this couch quickly.”
“Why, what’s wrong, Momma? It is so royal, looks like some great king might have used it.”
“Son, your curiosity and excitement have landed us in great trouble.”
“What happened Radhika? Why are you chickening out?”
“Uffo… Aho, can’t you see that icon or symbol or whatever it is; has started rotating after Arav touched it, and it’s shimmering. I fear if this couch turns out to be a ‘time-traveler’.”
“Hahaha… Stop being silly, Radhika. It’s nothing like that…ah…hey, hold on tight both of you…” – Mr. Khanna screamed as they heard a cacophony and soon, the couch started spinning faster and the trio had a terror-stricken look on their face.
”Help, help..” they yelled but all their efforts were futile. The couch stopped abruptly. As soon as Mr.Khanna set his foot out, the ground started shaking; he trembled and got back to the couch.
“Dad, look at these sentences that have appeared, it is magical. Yippe, we are in a magical room, dad! Momma, are we on a magical ride? Is this the surprise you had planned for my 10th birthday?” – bantered an enthusiastic Arav.
“Arav, please just shut up. This is not a surprise; we have not planned this. In fact, we don’t know what is happening. Just pray to Bappa that we should get out of this trouble asap.”
“Welcome to the Game of Life – The Next Level!
You have three lives pending.
If you choose the right actions, then you will be safe, else ‘game over’.
The game starts now.”
Mr. Khanna read aloud and before he could speak a word; the doors got locked and the couch started spinning again across the room.
The trio held each other’s cold hands firmly. A faint-hearted Mrs. Khanna started chanting ‘Shree Ganesha Asthaka’, hoping that Bappa will help them from this snag.
The couch came to a screeching hault and all three huffed, shrieked as they were floating on the blue waters. There was no ground beneath the couch but only water gushing from the melting ice sheets. The water level started rising slowly and steadily.
Mr. Khanna looked up and saw the ceiling showed the alarming levels of greenhouse gases and pollutants. There was no ozone layer and the sizzling sun pumped UV rays directly on them giving them sun-burns.
“Momma, what’s happening in this room? My skin is burning. I can’t see the door” – cried Arav.
Mr. Khanna saw only a single tree but that too got uprooted and a shiny huge mall stood in its place. They realized they can’t escape, neither from the scorching heat nor from the rising cold waters. The icy waters reached up to their knees in no time and half the couch was down under the blue waters.
“Aho, please do something. I don’t want to die like this.” Radhika cried.
“Radhika, seriously! Here, we are in an unknown muddle and all you think about is death. Can’t you think of any solution? This is exactly similar to the movie Jumanji. The only difference is, that was a movie and this is a real-life simulation.” – said Rajeev Khanna to his simple, pretty Maharashtrian wife.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you see the rising water levels at one end and the wildfires at the other? Did you notice the cycle of deforestation and urbanization? Everything is happening right in front of you, connect the dots, Radhika.”
“Is this a portrayal of what our future generations will endure?”
“Yep. See the waters closely; plastics have replaced the sea bed and there is less water, more micro-plastics. Several species of aquatic animals are extinct, water contamination is at just another level, natural disasters happening rapidly and whatnot. Half of the famous cities of the world have been wiped out. Look at the map, it shows what is happening right now all over the world.”
“Aho, you are the scientist. You know better. Let’s get out of this mess first and then once we are out, save this world and let’s make it a better place to live in.”
“Dad, what will you do now? Can we reverse everything? I hope this chair provides a magical wand and we could turn back everything.” – blurted the champ unaware of the grave mistakes of mankind.
“Okay, let’s see what are the options?” The message flashed again as he pressed START –
- Resuscitate your future.
- Resurrect the past.
- Awaken the present.
“Mind You, the time limit is 2 hours and the countdown begins now.
The present scenario won’t change no matter which option you choose.
You shall not have what you have right now after you make the choice.”
Mrs. Khanna was stunned and Mr. Khanna shut his eyes as they became moist. His forehead furrowed and he raked his hands through his silky hair.
The so-called faint-hearted Radhika was not at all faint-hearted. She sniffled and forced a smile, “Aho, I know what you are thinking. Do the right thing come what may. I know we will win this game.”
“We have just one chance, Radhika. And, if we fail, we will lose not just the game but our life as well.”
“Dad, this is just like the game show where kids go running inside the monkey temple to get the key within minutes?” – mocked Arav.
“Silly boy! This isn’t any game, it is a real-life game, son.”
“Dad, I know and I am well aware of our current climate trends. Theta had already initiated a war against people who don’t believe in climate change and many of my classmates have joined her league virtually. We have a gadget that helps in evaluating soil, water, and air; all 3 in one go. I can show you. Not just this, we have devised many such things in our science lab that helps in taking charge of global warming.”
“Sounds cool. How does this wacky gadget of yours work?”
“Dad, first select an option. We can tackle this game.”
“Son, I am so proud of you. I see an emerging scientist in you. Nevertheless, I am sorry that our generation has put your and future generations in uncharted waters. I wish we could change and do something for you all to live peacefully in a better world.”
After this power talk between the duo, Mr. Khanna made a difficult choice and selected Option 2.
The 10-year-old champ was not a little kid anymore. Radhika was pleasantly surprised hearing his dear son talk. She always knew he was passionate about science and gizmos but, never did she think that her little one could pull them out from such a sticky situation. She mentally made a note to herself to cast off the evil eyes from her son once they return home.
Radhika was a geologist and in her two-decade-long career, she had immense knowledge about the soil quality at different locales. She has worked extensively on natural disaster assessment.
“Mom, here is the detailed geophysical and geochemical report of soil across the world. You can check Earth’s history too and now that we have seen the future, you can show us how our present can influence our future.”
“Sure, Arav. Give me a few minutes.”
“Okay, Mom. Dad, let’s take the next steps, the clock is ticking fast.”
“Be careful, Arav. This is the only chance we have. One mistake and we lose one life, we need to take a calculated risk.”
As Rajeev chose Option 2 on the digital screen that popped up from the couch, it once again roared to life and spun around, but this time the trio was confident to win this game. The couch threw them in the air and all three landed with a thud.
“Aho, Arav… Are you alright?” – Radhika asked. The room shifted into a record room next to a geological site. They were shocked as they could see the soil condition from different parts of the world. Radhika took notes of the soil quality parameters and proposed a plan for building a huge forest that could help in stabilizing the climate, regulate ecosystems, protect biodiversity, and support sustainable growth. The place was drought-hit for years and this made them anxious.
Arav accidentally pressed a yellow button on the digital screen and once again, the couch spun. They now landed inside a factory and he looked puzzled… “Dad, Momma…where are you?”
“Arav, why did you press that yellow button. This place has such an unbearable, foul odour.” Radhika fumed as she coughed due to throat irritation.
“Radhika, we have reached level 2.” Rajeev murmured, as he explored the area and scanned its vicinity using one of Arav’s gizmos. Arav swiftly changed the flow of harmful wastes that were disposed of in the river waters. They forced the owner to shut down the plastic manufacturing company. They cut carbon emissions and cleaned the water bodies to a great extent and thus, accomplished level 2.
In level 3, Rajeev found himself in a chemical lab and saw scientists working vigorously. He witnessed the malpractices that endangered the ecosystem. He asked, “Arav, here take these samples.” Radhika silently took notes of all that was happening.
The trio checked the current status of their game as they just had 30 minutes left.
“Dad, let us use a lifeline.” – said Arav.
Rajeev agreed and called the environment ministry. He spoke to a few eminent scientists and higher officials regarding the predicament. He told them about the ‘Game of Life’ but nobody believed him and instead, mocked him.
A disheartened Rajeev looked at the clock and was now worried. The sea level rose to 5’ feet and glaciers were melting at the speed of light. The aggravated global warming and its consequences bothered him. He realized all of these were also the aftermath of greed and power. As mankind progressed in every sphere of life, there was a downfall in the environment, ecosystem, and the blue planet.
Rajeev felt a sudden jerk and everything started shaking, the building that stood tall collapsed right in front of his eyes. People started running helter-skelter trying to get a cover. The ground cracked open and the wobble was felt by Radhika and Arav too. All of them fell unconscious and when they gained their senses, they were delighted to see each other hale and hearty, but soon the colour drained from their faces as they were still in the same room.
“Aho, are you fine? Arav, my boy, are you hurt!” – Radhika asked. They both gestured that were fine. She thanked Bappa for keeping them safe.
“Radhika, Arav.” Rajeev pulled them for a bear hug.
After some time, he said, “All this was an illusion. All this while we were in the same room, same spot, and the SAME COUCH. We got a taste of our own medicine as we led our lives irresponsibly till now.”
“Dad, what about the landslide, earthquake, and the rising water levels? Still, we are floating but I guess we are quite safe.”
“Yes Arav, we got our reality check. We experienced everything in just 1.5 hours, which the future generation will be facing periodically without any prior warning.”
“Dad, do we have time to reverse the accelerating global warming process?”
“Arav, the damage has been done and hence, the repercussions have begun. We cannot ‘undo’ time or life. Sadly, there is a lack of awareness at some places, negligence and ignorance at the senior level, and consciousness at a minuscule level which fails to help.” Rajeev frowned and discussed what all they saw and how the environment ministry rejected his plea.
“Aho, let’s not think about the fruit and just sow the right seeds now. We are in the first year of the 21st century and we still have time to restore life.”
An eerie silence gripped the room for a couple of minutes.
“Aho, how does this game end? What are we supposed to do now? I hope we cross this level too!” – said a worried Radhika and shut her eyes, silently praying to her Bappa.
Rajeev’s face went blank as realization dawned on him and he raked his hands through his hair. He looked lost and was in a state of despair.
“Looks like we are stuck at this level.” – said a dispirited Rajeev as sadness clouded his features.
As they all sat on that couch sullenly, another message flashed –
“You have won a special power.”
Rajeev got up panting in the middle of the night with a jerk.
“Aho, what happened? Did you have a nightmare? It’s just 3 am. We are leaving by 7 am right?” inquired Radhika, and gave him a glass of water.
“Hmmm… Radhika, what is the room no that we booked in Holiday Inn?”
“I guess it’s room no. 321. Why?”
“Cancel that. We will check into another hotel and I don’t want to enter a room with that number ever.” – said Rajeev, wiping the sweat off his forehead and thanking Bappa that all of this was just a bad dream and his family was safe.
He thanked Bappa for his new role as environment minister and vowed to work towards creating a sustainable world for the next-gen.
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