I came across a writing prompt today:
“If aliens made contact with you asking for the best place to land, what would you tell them?”
Switzerland! Screamed my head.
Portland, said my heart that likes to think it’s well-travelled.
Somewhere in the mountains, quipped my analytical brain.
The more I thought about it, however, the less I wanted to recommend a place at all. Yes, of course, Portland is one of my favourite places. I spent five days exploring the city and I’d move there in a heart beat.
I felt rather the same way about Austin. It was hot and I got tanned on the first afternoon there, but I still enjoyed the greenery that filled my eyes and the breeze that kissed my freckled cheeks.
Seattle was nice too, with Pick Place Market being a great place for an afternoon walk and Alki Beach, a necessary reminder of human history.
Then there’s the place I call home—Trichy—with the Rockfort Temple, a massive rock that people claim to be half as old as our world itself. I had no idea—I just love scaling the mountain to look down at the city and feel ecstatic.
Or Chennai. Or Banaglore. Or Mumbai or Delhi—all the grand metropolitan cities in India.
Times Square perhaps, if the aliens don’t mind getting squashed in the thronging crowds. I can’t help but smile at the thought.
But, no. I would recommend none of these places to an alien visiting Earth.
I would instead ask, why come in the first place?
As I tried to identify the best place for a foreigner to visit, I found myself thinking about the least polluted, least ugly, and least offensive place. And that’s when I realised that although there’re plenty of places that fit the description, there’re also countless undesirable places—polluted, ugly, and so offensive that I wouldn’t wish it upon even my vilest enemy.
Our world’s hurting. It’s tearing at the seams and bleeding from within, and that’s only the physical damage. Aside from the tsunamis, the volcanic eruptions, and the random calamities we label “natural,” we’ve also become the termites that gnaw at the Earth bit by bit.
Just look around—children on a shooting rampage within the school campus, familial relationships crushing under the weight of egotistical self-worth, vulnerable people becoming targets of physical and emotional abuse—there’s no place on Earth left that an alien would feel welcome.
All the world’s travelogues, vlogs, and holiday destination businesses sell a Utopian dream of what the world should be. None of it’s true. I loved Chicago for its grandeur, but I also saw homelessness on every other corner. I cherish New York City’s cultural diversity, but there’re alleyways I couldn’t go past without fearing for my life.
That’s the reality of the world—it’s not a walk on roses. It’s a bleeding, sweating, rotting mess of human flesh.
And if aliens still want to visit, it doesn’t matter where they land because everywhere on Earth has a beautiful spread that’s also spreading thin. Alas, there’s a bitter pill to swallow as we look forward to closing another year on this Earth.