Swimming in the air

Hanuman and Nala meet a wingless warrior who teaches them the science of flying.

Updated - February 20, 2022 07:45 pm IST

Published - February 20, 2022 07:39 pm IST

Sampati explains the science of flight to Hanuman and Nala.

Sampati explains the science of flight to Hanuman and Nala.

Hanuman and Nala are playing with the model planes that they have built.

Hanuman: Aren’t birds are the most gifted creatures in the world?

Nala: Why do you say that?

Hanuman: Because they can fly. For all other creatures, flying is a dream…

Nala: You can also fly, Hanuman.

Hanuman: Not really. If not for my father Vayu, the God of Wind, even I would be only dreaming about flying.

Nala: You are right, but knowledge can make our dreams come true.

Hanuman: Like your father Viswakarma, who built the flying machine?

Nala: Yes. Today, I am going to introduce you to someone special…

Hanuman: Who is it?

Nala: A gifted creature who can reach great heights in flight. He is also the one who made a sacrifice to save a loved one.

Hanuman: Is he a bird?

Nala: Yes, a bird. Come with me, I will show you.

Nala takes Hanuman to the top of a mountain. Far away, they can see a big eagle teaching combat to smaller eagles.

Hanuman: Is it Jatayu?

(In the Ramayana, Jatayu is the eagle who tries to stop Ravana from kidnapping Sita but is killed.)

Nala: No. Someone better than Jatayu.

Hanuman takes a closer look and notices something...

Hanuman: Nala, where are his wings?

Nala: This is Sampati. His missing wings are a symbol of his love for his brother Jatayu. Ask him yourself…

Hanuman and Nala go up to meet Sampati.

Nala: Hello, Sampati! Meet my friend, Hanuman.

Sampati: Hello, Nala! (Turning to Hanuman) So, this is the boy who stunned the Earth with his skill; by flying so close to the sun.

Hanuman: That was no skill, just a foolish act.

They all laugh. But Hanuman keeps looking at Sampati’s wingless body.

Sampati: Hanuman, I understand that you are curious about my missing wings. I will tell you about it after I finish training these young eagles in air combat.

Hanuman (eagerly): Can I watch?

Sampati: Of course! I am now teaching them the basics of Akasha Dhanurveda or mid-air archery fight.

Sampati turns towards his students…

Sampati: Students, our wings are not just mechanisms to help us fly. They are powerful tools. As you learn how to use them, you can even carry mountains. Now, who can tell me how our wings work when we fly?

Baby eagle: A bird’s wing is flat underneath and curved on top. This makes air pass faster above the wing than under it. This difference in airspeed creates air pressure under the wing, which lifts us up.

Sampati: You are right! What happens here is pure science. It’s like how we walk, and how fishes swim. We walk over solid matter and fly using gaseous matter. Fishes move in liquid matter. This effect in modern physics will be known as “Newton’s third law”.

Hanuman: Wow! It is as if rockets and aeroplanes also “swim” in the air.

Movements of a bird’s wings.

Movements of a bird’s wings.

Sampati: When the wings are raised, it is called “Upstroke”. When the wings push down, it is called “Downstroke”.

Hanuman: Sounds like the terms swimmers use.

Sampati: Everything in Nature follows similar principles of Science, and hence the similarities in terms.

Sampati dismisses his students and takes Hanuman and Nala to his palace.

Sampati: Welcome to Aruna’s Rajabhavanam.

Hanuman: Aruna? I have seen him.

Sampati: I know. You saw him when you were about to swallow Surya, the sun god, right? My father told me…

Hanuman: So, your father is the charioteer of Surya’s seven horses? Why seven?

Sampati: It is representative of the seven colours that make up the sun’s light. In modern science, it is called VIBGYOR. I will tell you about that soon.

Hanuman: Wow! I would love to hear about it. But please tell me what happened to your wings.

Sampati: The incident that made me realise the power of love? Come on in...

To be continued.

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

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