Lessons in the air

While on a quest to grab a “fruit”, Hanuman makes friends with some invisible matter who, he learns, are not as weak as they seem...

Updated - March 07, 2021 11:29 pm IST

Published - March 07, 2021 11:24 pm IST

Hanuman wakes up from a deep sleep and is hungry.

Hanuman: Mom! Mom! Where are you? I am very hungry!

Hanuman looks around, but his mother is nowhere to be seen. The kitchen has only empty pots and vessels. Outside, he sees an orange tree with a single fruit hanging from a branch. Hanuman immediately climbs the tree to get the orange but, to his surprise, it seems to have mysteriously moved and hidden itself amid the clouds. Without a second thought, Hanuman jumps towards the fruit. He finds himself beginning to fly. Just then, he hears many voices.

Mysterious voices: Your dad has told us that you are very naughty and keep getting into trouble. So, he asked us to keep an eye on you.

Hanuman: Who are you? Why can’t I see you? Are you ghosts? Wait ... I didn’t know my father had the power to issue orders to ghosts!

Mysterious voices: Ha ha! No, we are not ghosts! And we are not talking about your father Kesari. We are referring to Lord Vaayu, the wind god, your celestial father. Your mother Anjana and your father Kesari prayed to Vaayu and then you were born.

Hanuman: Yes, yes! I know that. But who are you, invisible people? And how do you know me?

Mysterious voices: We are the army of Lord Vaayu. We know everything about you; you study in Class I at the gurukul .

Hanuman: That’s not fair! I know nothing about you. Tell me more about yourselves...

Mysterious voices: For starters, Lord Vaayu calls us the Vaayu Sena and people on Earth refer to us by several names like air, wind, storm, etc. People who have knowledge of science call us air molecules.

Hanuman: Oh! I have learnt about you. You are the third type of matter after solid and liquid. Am I right? And you are also the weakest!

Air molecules: Ha ha! Yes and no. Yes, we are a type of matter and, no, we are not the weakest. That depends on the perspective.

Hanuman: Really? Tell me more.

Air molecules: We have three basic properties. You already identified the first.

Hanuman: I did? When?

Air molecules: When you asked why you couldn’t see us. You can only feel us.

Hanuman: Oh yes. Even though I cannot see you, I can feel you holding me up as I fly. Interesting! What is your next property?

Air molecules: You have a shape: face, hands, legs and even a tail. But we don’t have a fixed shape. We can take any shape we want.

Hanuman: How is that possible?

Suddenly, a balloon appears in Hanuman’s hand.

Air molecules: Blow up the balloon and tell me what shape it is.

Hanuman (after blowing up the balloon): Round… sphere…

Air molecules: See! We do have a shape! Basically, we don’t have a definite shape, but we take the shape of the container we are in.

Hanuman: Amazing! So, what’s the third property?

Air molecules: Dear Hanuman, may we ask how much do you weigh?

Hanuman: I am so heavy that none of my friends can lift me. Even my father Kesari struggles to carry me. Hey... wait a minute! If I am so heavy, how come I am flying now? How can you tiny, invisible, shapeless creatures lift me up?

Air molecules: Ha ha! That is because, contrary to what you think, we are not weak and weightless. In fact, we do have mass.

Hanuman: I am confused...

Air molecules: Let us call our friends to explain it to you better.

Suddenly, two birds appear: one with an inflated balloon and another with a deflated one. They tie the balloons to either side of a weighing scale. The first balloon pulls the scale down proving that it is heavier than the second one.

Air molecules: If you are still not convinced, look at this big aeroplane. It’s definitely heavy. But it is able to fly because its powerful engines push us out at such great speed that we gain the power to lift the aeroplane up into the sky.

Hanuman: That is incredible!

Air molecules: Now, tell us, do you still think we are weak?

Hanuman: You have changed my perspective. It sure looks like you are the strongest and I am glad to have friends like you looking out for me. Now, since you are so strong, I need your help to get that orange hiding behind the clouds.

Air molecules (laughing): To reach that orange, we will need to travel a long distance.

Hanuman: I don’t care how far we have to go. I need to get to those clouds...

Air molecules: We are in the troposphere right now. You need to travel at least two to three kilometres to reach those dark, low-level rain clouds named Nimbostratus.

Hanuman: Don’t give me all those complicated names. I am very hungry. Please just help me reach those clouds….

The air molecules watch with amusement as Hanuman naively flies towards the sun, unaware of the trouble he is going to land himself in...

To be continued...

The author is the founder and CEO of Vaayusastra Aerospace, an IIT-Madras incubated ed-tech startup that offers Air Science workshops for children between five and 14 years.

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