Wish you were here!
By Christopher P. Winner
ndia should colonize Mars. The world is distracted. There's ISIS and the headless, Ukraine and the dead, Ebola and the sick. People are distracted, fretful. So who'd notice a little sly ambition?
India could move Delhi to the top of the planet, Mumbai to the bottom. Or it could found new cities: Newest Delhi; Outer Mumbai. It could put turbans and Sikhs and saris and spacecraft together in a grand parade of extraterrestrial color. It could export many languages to a planet with none. It could move garbage and dot.com industries to the Martian poles and spread hints of outsourcing to an iPhone-less solar system. As the first planetary landlord, India could be the envy of China, the new colonialists in a reboot of the 18th-century tea and cricket movement. The Indian prime minister could stand next to the American president and the Russian president and even the Bolivian president and say, "Here below we have India, the greatest democracy on earth..." (pause for effect), and then add: "And up there we have Mars." Americans, Russians and Bolivians would sulk over tea and Martian biscuits (imported from outland to homeland).
India could harvest rare earth, breed weightless chickens and produce tasty Martian tikkas. It could confer Hindu gods their just due, Shiva included, and award Muslims a western prairie with mosques and copycat Meccas. It could create a Martian constitution forbidding war and beheadings and encouraging all forms of whimsy. It could cure every disease but the common Martian cold, since what's a planet without cold, and Mars is, after all, further from the sun.
India could switch its call centers from dull buildings in the urban sprawl to a grandiose and Martian base with windows to the greater cosmos so that earthly customers would know just where their operator was located, making for more exotic introductions ("This is Ashok on Mars, how may I help you today?")
India could build elaborately fake coastlines and knockoff casinos and introduce a small tourist industry based on the inherent charm of countless craters. It could make up a rival like Pakistan to amuse its new residents. Or establish a mountain range where gravitational skiing is the sport of record.
Yes, India should colonize Mars. Probes are cute but it's time for the real thing. The solar system is up for the challenge. It lacks the necessary chaos and human onslaught to call itself truly whole. For now, it offers only sundry dippers and occasional asteroids, which have limits when it comes to winning over other galaxies. India's zest could fix all this and make Mars into a place even Venus and Jupiter envy, the two gossiping about who might be headed their way (with Neptune courting Bolivia and Uranus expressing a fraternal penchant for Uruguay).
And when Mars is fully Indian, the Olympics would follow, with beams and torches and ethnic acrobatics whose distracting marvels would leave Earth deeply envious and bored with its own silly, repetitive quarrels. The news would no longer focus on Ukraine henchmen, Ebola boils and Sunni extremists, but on sunny extremism, since Mars would have an unobstructed view of that pertinent star, New Indians lining up for a distant tan before scribbling postcards to eager relatives with an age-old greeting: "Wish you were here!"
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