In this story from Jayant Narlikar’s “The Adventure,” Professor Gangadharpant Gaitonde finds himself transported to an alternate reality while contemplating catastrophe theory and its implications on history just before a collision with a truck. In this alternate reality, India is not colonized by the British; instead, the Marathas emerged victorious from the Battle of Panipat, leading to a different course of history.
Upon arriving in this alternate world, the professor experiences the country’s distinct lifestyle, social structure, and institutions, including the existence of the East India Company, the British-controlled Greater Bombay Metropolitan Railway, and the influence of the British on the country’s businesses and architecture. Eager to understand the differences in history, he ventures to the town library and reads his own series of history books, which he realizes diverge from the history he knows in his world.
Examining the final volume, he learns that the turning point was the Marathas’ victory in the Battle of Panipat. In this alternate history, Vishwasrao, the heir to the Marathas, narrowly escapes death, and the Marathas go on to assert their supremacy in northern India, restricting British power. This leads to an India that is never subjugated by the British, developing its own centers for science, technology, and democracy, although with British influence in certain commercial areas.
Gangadharpant then stumbles upon Bhausahebanchi Bakhar, which provides more insight into how the battle favored the Marathas. The professor unexpectedly returns to his own reality and shares his experience with his friend Rajendra, who tries to reconcile these events using quantum theory. Rajendra proposes that catastrophic situations offer various viable alternatives to reality, and at the time of the professor’s collision, his thoughts could have triggered a transition to an alternate reality resulting from the different outcome of the Battle of Panipat.
Although intrigued by this theory, Professor Gaitonde is bothered by why he made the transition in the first place, and Rajendra admits that this question remains unanswered. The story ends with Professor Gaitonde deciding not to participate in the Panipat seminar, as he had been exposed to an alternate, albeit hostile reality, in which his speculations had turned into reality. After being ushered off stage with a volley of projectiles, Gaitonde couldn't see the value of his presence at an event which could function without him too.
What alternate historical event led to a different reality in Jayant Narlikar's "The Adventure"?