Oman Is Mars: An Alien All Along

By PRIYANKA SACHETI 
 

“We want to simulate Mars on Earth and so we need a place that looks as much like Mars as possible. And we found it here in Oman.”
—Alexander Soucek, lead flight director of the AMADEE-18 mission, in Phys Org, October 30, 2017
 

The first time my husband visited me in Oman years ago, he peered down from the plane window and received his first glimpse of the landscape: an undulating palette of browns, beige, mauve, and grays. This is Mars, he thought to himself. Mars on Earth. 

My husband and I were still getting to know each other at that point, so I just politely smiled while listening to his words—but the truth was that I was secretly offended. Mars for me then was merely a distant, red, barren planet, and my husband calling my beloved landscape, my home for more than two decades, Mars” did not sit well with me. We got married months later, and I learned that my husband had been following the Mars mission for years. I too began to learn more about our neighboring planet, soon to become a potential site of human habitation. I watched the film The Martian and read more about the discoveries of water that had flowed there once upon a time. And most importantly, much to my husband’s bemusement years later, I would learn that NASA scientists identified the southern deserts of Oman as geologically similar to the Martian landscape, eventually making it the site of a month-long Mars simulation in 2018, the AMADEE-18 mission. 

But all that was to come later. In that moment, I did not like him calling Oman “Mars.”

 

“We have come here as researchers and Oman has helped us to be one step closer to the Mars. Oman has proved that our decision to come here was a right choice, and I want to ensure that [rock] samples from Oman will surely go to the Mars.”
Dr. Gernot Gromer, field commander of the AMADEE-18 mission, Oman Observer, March 5, 2018

 
I moved from the gravel desert of Rajasthan, India, to a similar one in Oman when I was five years old. Then I had just a few blurred memories of Rajasthan and none of the land I was born in, Australia. My first visions of home were the startling blue skies that belong to Oman alone; the dry, scorching heat; the undulating dun landscape; twisting acacia trees; carved and painted metal doors; watchtowers pluming the hills; the sea in every imaginable shade of blue; and the ancient, soaring, gentle, giant mountains, which change colors and personalities throughout the day. Maps identify Oman broadly as a desert but that description belies the fact that the Omani landscape is composed of a gravel desert, salt banks, desert woodlands, and what one would call a proper desert. Growing up with a botanist mother, I also learned to see the gardens inside the desert, a reminder that it was as alive and lively an environment as any other; it was just that the theater of life in the desert was a more nuanced, delicate affair. If you peered closer into the seemingly bare hills and wadi beds, you would spot a garden growing in memory of a months-old flash wadi. If you turned over a rock, you would find a cool, hidden world vibrating below. And, finally, if you looked at the rocks themselves, you would see the reminders of the seabed they were once part of millions of years ago. 

When I was eight years old, I developed a mania for collecting rocks. Beyond watching TV—a weekly Hindi film, Arabic cartoons, and English shows—I whiled my time away reading, writing short stories inspired by my favorite books, and filling one sketchbook after another with watercolors. When I read Gerald Durrells My Family and Other Animals, I also decided to start keeping a nature journal in imitation of boy Gerald. I first tried bird-watching but gave that up pretty soon, too impatient and restless to cultivate the discipline of identifying, following, and contemplating a bird. I then decided to try identifying plants, accompanying my mother on seed-collecting expeditions for a paper she was working on, lugging along a desert plant guidebook to identify the flora. However, I was too young to pay attention to the almost invisible gardens adorning the desert around me. I yearned for the obvious ones which grew in the aftermath of rain, which however occurred only twice or thrice a year in Oman. The plant obsession arrived and vanished from my life as swiftly as post-rain desert blooms. 

And so rocks became my refuge, perhaps unsurprisingly if you consider Omans landscape. If you google Oman and geology, you will see a link superlatively describing it as a geological paradise, paradise truly being an apt word, given that it is derived from the Persian word for walled garden.” Oman in that sense is indeed a fantastical and gorgeous garden of rocks, a geologically fecund landscape pulsating with rock stories. The closer and longer I gazed at the landscape, the more rocks began to reveal themselves to me in startling, rewarding ways.

I grew up on a university campus encircled by mountains and built upon a hilly landscape. When I awakened in the morning, the first thing I saw were apricot-tinted mauve mountains in the distance. They changed color and texture all throughout the day, and I could never decide whether they looked their most beautiful during dawn or dusk. When I began exploring the hills studding the campus, I started to encounter so many interesting and diverse-looking rocks that it seemed natural to bring them back home. I felt as if I had giddily ventured inside a geological bakery, where the rocks appeared to be identical cookies and cakes… only to reveal a new flavor and texture and story in each. There were only so many that I could take with me in one go, though, which meant that there were always more waiting to find me when I returned. 

Unlike birds, which swiftly vanished at the slightest sound of your presence, or irritatingly evanescent post-rain plants, the rocks were always there. While at first I was casual about which rocks I picked up, I soon spent hours minutely examining and sorting through them, as if I were shopping for fruits or vegetables at a grocery store, before finally selecting which ones I would take back home. I would carry a rock even if it was heavy, simply because of how striking it looked, unwilling to leave such a treasure behind: What if I could not locate it the next time I came to the spot? Perhaps it was an almost perfect oblong shape, ancient leaf or shell fossils enameling its smooth gray surface, or a chunkier one marked by numerous striated layers, each brilliantly distinct from the others. Sometimes I would be curious to see the original hues of a dust-enveloped rock, and so that too would merit its coming home with me: I would then sluice water across it, witnessing an antique painting coming back to life and revealing its original shades and nuances. Many rocks were firmly lodged in the soil, and when I would finally pry them out, it was almost as if I was uprooting a tooth or a plant. I do not recollect whether I felt any guilt at doing so; in my singular passion and child’s self-absorption, I simply felt that I was entitled to pick up whatever rock took my fancy. Although I ascribed feelings to other inanimate objects such as my dolls or teddy bears, rocks clearly were just… rocks. 

If the front yard was a repository of my mother’s large, lovingly tended collection of plants, I annexed a spot in the backyard to store my burgeoning rock collection. Given that I collected the rocks from the hills dotting the university campus, it was fitting enough that I had created an ersatz hill of beige, dun, brown, gray, rust, and deep red, an alternative home for the rocks. However, if I ever needed to find a specific rock, I would have to carefully pull it out, lest the hill disintegrate altogether; on the whole, though, the rocks remained where they were, a visual memorial to my collecting habits. I arranged my most prized rock finds on my bedroom desk, where they shared space with other current precious possessions (a limited-edition rainbow-haired troll, a plastic pyramid paperweight filled with purple-ivory pearls, and shells). I remember the rock I was most proud of having found: a sliced geode (a hollow, vaguely spherical rock containing masses of minerals) whose insides were covered in radiant, diaphanous crystals, truly a gift from the geological gods.

My interest in rocks gradually became more academic the older I grew. When I turned ten years old, I started frequenting my school library’s natural history section, determined to thoroughly educate myself about rocks beyond their aesthetics and textures. What essentially and honestly fascinated me about rocks at that time was that they were just so old. They were pieces of history just as much as the artifacts found in an ancient Egyptian pyramid, another childhood obsession. Whether it was a rock or a gold tumbler one held in hand, these objects spoke of places and people and situations far, far away in the annals of time—and that notion was unbearably exciting for me. When I held a rock, weighing the heft of earth’s natural history, it was like holding a conch shell to my ear and seemingly hearing the sea swirling within its whorled walls: I was being permitted to hear and bear witness to a past beyond my scope of understanding or appreciation. And as it happened, given that so many of the rocks I found in Oman had once sat at the bottom of a sea, it would not be so inaccurate to say that I could hear the sea in them too.

I started compiling and presenting my finds in the form of rock reports: each consisted of a watercolor or colored-pencil rendering of the rock accompanied by a detailed description of its appearance, its mineral composition, its geological story, and the location in which it was found. I drew the intact, distinct layers of a textbook sedimentary rock, describing it as a rock layer cake. I faithfully tried to reproduce the long-silenced ferns and shells on the rock; I painstakingly tried to render the exact shades of browns and reds, working on them for hours. Perhaps, if I had been collecting rocks today, I would have blogged about or Instagrammed them, but in those dinosaur days, I used whatever spare paper I found. One of my proudest moments occurred when a university professor, an expert in Omani geology, invited me to present the reports and talk to a few of his students, generously acknowledging and encouraging the sheer enthusiasm I nurtured for rocks. 

In those days, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I did not hesitate to say: a geologist.

And then, just like that, I stopped. The more I grew into my adolescence, the less interested I became in the ancient stones around me. Whereas earlier I would have been able to identify them by type and age, they soon became mere rocks again in my increasingly uninterested eyes. I no longer went on rock-collecting expeditions or wrote reports—and as for the pyramid of rocks, it gradually diminished until there was nothing left of it. The funny thing is that while I distinctly recollect when and where I collected the rocks, I have entirely forgotten how I got rid of them. My guess is that they eventually found their way into the surrounding hills once more, back to where they ultimately and rightly belonged. Now, with the gift of hindsight, I wish I had thought to keep at least one specimen, a time-portal, in this case, of that period of my life and of Oman itself. 

Reflecting on those rock-collecting years, I wonder if the physical process of combing through the hills, picking out the rocks, and studying them bound me closer and closer to the land, the visceral extent of which I could only appreciate and sense in the years to come. Perhaps, then, I fancied myself a child explorer or adventurer, charting into what I thought were undiscovered territories, their secrets known to none: little did I know that they constituted so much of what I was. Even now, when I find myself feeling homesick for Oman, the first thing that comes to my mind is its landscape, specifically the mountains and hills. I think of countless road trips made in the interiors or even driving downtown to Muscat, journeying past the comforting bulk of mountains, literally the backbone of the city. The landscape I took for granted and gradually started to unsee is what I miss the most today. The irony is that many mountains are starting to disappear, even in Muscat and surrounding neighborhoods, to construct more buildings and human spaces. I fear that I will not even have these mountains to hold on to during my future Oman visits. The mountains have existed for billions of years, I tell myself; they will be around long after we have gone. The truth is that what I am actually fearing is not so much the mountains vanishing as my memories of them.

Before getting married and leaving Oman to move to the United States, I had lived in England to pursue my higher studies. It was only after arriving in a university in the West Midlands, surrounded by Indians from India and British Asians, that I realized that Oman, rather than India, was home. It was a realization that was nothing short of a revelation after all those years of living and studying in an international school in Oman, feeling unambiguously Indian all along. I still recall feeling bewildered when a girl who had newly joined my tenth-grade class was surprised to hear that I was Indian, having mistaken me for South American—the first of many times I was mistaken for belonging to other parts of the world. After arriving in the U.K., though, I began to question if my appearance was not in fact mirroring my inner dilemmas, fanciful as the idea was. When newly made university friends referred to me as an Omani, I would politely correct them—“I am Indian, living in Oman”—and then struggle to explain why it was that I was not an Omani and yet Oman was my home. I then began to understand why my identity was much like the sedimentary rocks that I had so loved to collect, each layer distinct and embodying a different era and environment that had shaped my personality. After almost four years of living an increasingly ambiguous layered existence in the U.K., I returned to Oman, newly aware that it was my home and yet not.

 
Though participants never lose sight of the fact that they’re on Earth, the experience sticks with them. The more Voggeneder recalls his time at AMADEE-18, the more he refers to mission support in Austria as ‘Earth’ and Oman as ‘Mars.’” 
National Geographic, January 25, 2019
 

If Oman is Mars, then who are the aliens inhabiting it? Of the five million people who live in Oman, two million are expats. I was one of them. But I had always considered myself a Martian, so to speak, never an alien; I felt like a native daughter. It was only after I moved to the States in 2012 as a new wife that I started to think about the fact that I was an alien—a resident alien in the United States by virtue of my husband’s J-I visa. I hated being called an “alien.” The visa part did not bother me: my life so far had been a consecutive series of visas, starting from a permanent-resident visa in Oman, a student visa in United Kingdom, and the visas necessary to visit most countries in the world by virtue of my Indian citizenship. The only countries I did not need a visa to enter were India and Australia, of which I was a default citizen by the accident of my birth. I visited India once a year but had not been back to Australia since I left it at age two, with no memory of my birthland apart from my parents’ extensive photo albums. And as for being an immigrant, had I not been that since the day of my birth? But I had never once been described as an alien, and I wore that truth uneasily, like an ill-fitting garment. 

We lived in the States for a year and half while my husband finished his medical fellowship in Pittsburgh. Afterward, we decided to move to India, where we presently live. Two years ago, I surrendered my Indian citizenship to become solely Australian for convenience, because the kangaroo-and-emu-emblazoned navy passport enables me to walk into most countries of the world and obtain a visa on the spot. Renouncing my Indian passport meant that I was now an Overseas Citizen of India, which allowed me to live in the country of my heritage on a permanent visa. To be honest, I found the return to living on a visa reassuringly familiar. 

But the Oman question remained. I had switched from a passport of my motherland to that of my birth land. But there was no passport for my homeland: Oman. On subsequent visits to Oman, I would have to apply for a tourist visa; my residency visa expired in 2013, when I ceased to be a resident. This was the beginning of my journey of becoming an alien in my homeland. “No, I am not a tourist,” I wanted to tell the immigration officers. “This is my home I am returning to.” But such declarations of sentiment and spirit do not find a home at bland bureaucratic borders. I would have to silently accept the sterile welcome and glide into my homeland, knowing a truth they did not. 

 
“Standing in the deserts of Oman, wearing a 99-pound silver spacesuit that glimmered in the sun, Kumar found that the suit’s exoskeleton restrained him and dulled his senses. […] There […] lay miles and miles of forbidding red dust. For a moment, Kumar felt as if he had jumped across time and space. ‘Those are really weird sensations,’ Kumar says. ‘Your senses are embedded—your thoughts are embedded—in the feeling of being on Mars.’”
National Geographic, January 25, 2018
 

Before we moved to India, where my husband would be pursuing a career in liver transplant surgery after having completed his training in Pittsburgh, we went on a road trip through the Southwest United States in July 2014. The spectacular geology we encountered in locations such as Bryce Canyon and Joshua Tree National Park combined with the desert environment made it a trip that would leave an indelible impact upon me for years to come. I had not thought about rocks or rock collecting for a long time, and those days spent driving through the incredible geological terrains began to reawaken memories inside me, rejuvenating what I had considered dormant, eccentric, even embarrassing childhood passions. Voyaging through those geological spaces became a powerful spiritual experience that I would describe as “haunting” for years to come.

The miniature rocky hills, the arid earth, the heat, and the cloudless blue skies all playfully conspired to perform the illusion that I was in my homeland. Once or twice, having fallen asleep in the car, I would wake up to searing sunlight, the car seat fire beneath my fingertips, a bowl of blue sky enclosing me while a fence of small hills ran parallel to the road. I am in Oman, my disoriented mind would say before the appearance of a giant McDonald’s billboard swiftly shattered my illusion. All those months living in the States, I had not been particularly homesick for Oman, but now, as our journey was taking us closer to India with each passing day, I found myself yearning for Oman all the time—and the appearance of the illusion was more painful than comforting.

During that same trip, having studied how age had carved the Grand Canyon into the natural monument it is today, we visited the museum which houses some of the rocks found in the canyon, many of them the world’s oldest specimens, dating back to billions of years ago. I touched them and thought with a visceral pang of Oman’s mountains, hills, and rock gardens. I affectionately thought of that ten-year-old self who would have jumped, literally jumped, to experience this moment, and I felt guilty for having both forgotten her and dismissed her brilliant passions.

Back in March of last year, I accompanied my husband on a research trip to Stanford University. My husband had been awarded a fellowship three years prior, but due to various personal circumstances, we had not been able to visit the States until 2020. This trip was our first time back to the States since 2014, and we were looking forward to what we anticipated to be a six-week sojourn in the Bay Area. The last few months had been challenging at various levels, and I was looking forward to finding calm and balm in the restorative beaches and hills of Northern California, particularly during the rejuvenating time of spring. In particular, I was looking forward to revisiting the geological landscapes that had so struck my imagination during our last trip, as our new location was relatively close to national parks in Utah and California.

But I was not to see a single park.

We had barely recovered from our jet lag when the World Health Organization announced the outbreak of Covid-19 as a pandemic. In the days to follow, India suspended international flight operations, announced what would be one of the strictest global lockdowns on a four-hour notice, and, more significantly for me, informed Overseas Citizens of India without warning that our visas were now kept in abeyance or on hold, in a state of indefinite suspension. It was the first time I had heard the word abeyance, and I would grow to dislike it even more than alien. We ended up staying for three and half months in California, shuttling from one Airbnb to another, watching Indian citizens fly home on repatriation flights I was ineligible to take because I was now a foreign citizen. 

All these years, I had been asking myself: What is home? I now wondered if I even had one. In the nerve-racking days that followed, I contemplated my options. I could travel to Australia, of course, but the land was, well, alien to me. Friends and family suggested that I return to Oman, where my parents were still residing, the pandemic incidentally having temporarily put on hold their plans to leave the country for good. Yet I could not travel there either, because Oman had also stopped international flight operations and no longer allowed foreigners on tourist visas to enter the country. Even in the eyes of my homeland, I was ultimately a foreigner, excising in a single glance the decades I had spent living there, my presence seemingly having left no trace behind whatsoever. Perhaps it was in that moment that I most acutely recognized that Oman was and would always be home—even if legally it was not mine. 

I inhabited a continuous state of disoriented terror for weeks, asking myself again and again: Where do I go now? While my husband ultimately knew that there was a way for him to return home, that he had a home, he could not leave me behind. So we waited. I stood by the Pacific Ocean, unseeing its glorious, tumultuous azure beauty as I willed the waves to take me home, somehow, anyhow. I sat on large, misshapen, bulky rocks jutting into the sea, thinking of their stoic fortitude, having withstood and yet been ultimately shaped by the power of the water over centuries. During one of my beach walks, I picked up what I later learned was called a hagstone, a portal to future and alternative lands. When the Indian government finally permitted those OCI individuals related to Indian citizens to board repatriation flights, a decision that I thought was nothing short of miraculous, I packed the rock in my luggage. When I now pick it up, I can feel the weight of all the fear and terror and unasked questions of those months. I can see my yesterday, and it disorients me.
 

“Oman, an Astronaut’s Home Away from Mars” 
Culture Trip article headline
 

You are almost home and yet not home is how I once described growing up in Oman. I even wrote a paper about it with an academic at Sultan Qaboos University. We talked to creative members of the Indian diaspora in Oman, asking them how living there had influenced their creative journeys. Responses varied, but most suggested that Oman was a temporary home and their ultimate inspiration and destination was their homeland, India, across the sea. Not one identified Oman as integral to their creative practice.

While in the U.K. for my studies, I had been surprised to meet a number of people who had no idea where Oman was. My self-absorbed eighteen-year-old self could not fathom the idea of people being ignorant of a place she had lived for most of her life: Had she been living an invisible life in an invisible place? It is close to Dubai, I would say. You know Dubai, right? As they nodded in relieved recognition, I would hasten to clarify, Dubai is nothing like Oman; Oman is nothing like Dubai. I would constantly seek to give them a window into Oman, but I never succeeded in conveying my love and attachment to the land or the very idea of the land itself. It became even more complicated when I would try to explain the exact nature of my presence in Oman: expatriate. We lived there for decades and suddenly left. We lived there and never really left. 

Over time, my introspection about my relationship with Oman became interlinked with my identity as a writer. I wrote about Oman for magazines and newspapers across the world—and yet, I constantly struggled to weave it into the more intimate landscapes of my poetry and prose. How to write about something which is intrinsically a part of you, like an organ or limb? How to write about a place that you thought you belonged to and yet did not give you a provision to do so? Sitting in gray-lit seminar rooms while studying creative writing in the U.K., I constantly struggled to write about Oman, but I did not succeed then either. Perhaps writing about Oman was like writing about my body: it was too intimate and tangled an experience, evoking insights that I was not ready to acknowledge and process. I instead found myself writing about India, a country that I only knew by way of annual summer vacations and popular culture. If Oman was my body, then India was a mirror reflection—and it was easier to write about the image than the bones of reality.

The truth is I moved away from Oman years ago, but it still resides inside multiple pockets of my memory, coins from an obsolete currency. And yet, when I turn my pockets inside out, the coins clatter upon the floor, shiny and polished as the day they came into being. Every time I visited Oman after I moved away, I would collect more coins to line my pockets, to nourish me until I could visit it next: the smell of petrol pumps; a petrol heat rising from summer-baked tarmac; a sweet, dry odor emanating from dim alleys; winter sunlight and new neem leaves; dry roses nestled inside date palms; and the soft slush of pebbles and sand. As long as I had those coins in my pocket, I knew I could somehow access Oman. However, now that my parents have finally bid adieu to Oman and the pandemic has altered travel as we know it, I do not know when I will next visit Oman—and my memories have become more precious than ever. I keep on taking them out to ensure that they do not rust sitting inside the pockets. You can never be too careful. 
 

“The Marmul Desert in the Dhofar Governorate is a brown flat expanse, where temperatures reach 51 (125), which makes it very hard, if not impossible, for animals and plants to survive. The surface of the desert is distinguished by salt domes, riverbeds, wadis, various types of geomorphology and structures that are similar to those on the surface of Mars.”
Culture Trip, July 25, 2018

 
I have mostly lived in cities that are surrounded by hills. I am currently living on a hill in Bangalore, 950 meters above sea level. Its elevation is among the reasons why the city enjoys the country’s most salubrious climate and its former British colonialist rulers chose it as a new capital of the area. Bangalore’s physical location also means it holds one of the oldest rocks in the country inside its famed green lung, Lalbagh Botanical Garden. 

When the Indian subcontinent broke away from the supercontinent Pangea, it drifted toward the Eurasian plate. Lalbagh Botanical Garden contains a distinctive protruding metamorphic rock formation, the peninsular gneiss. The gneiss is among the oldest rocks in the country and is part of the Indian Shield, which constitutes two thirds of the southern Indian peninsula. The gently striated Lalbagh Rock, now a National Geological Monument, finds lovers, families, dogs, and more reposing upon it every evening; a little cupola atop the gneiss indicates that it once marked the boundary of old Bangalore. Bangalore has expanded now beyond recognition. Yet the rocks are still very much here, a reminder of Bangalore as it once was and, indeed, billions of years before its very idea came into birth. I wonder if the Oman rocks and Bangalore rocks have anything in common. Of course they do. In fossil time, they are still one, simply siblings separated by the vagaries of tectonic fate. This thought comforts and startles me. I think of all the times that I have seen Oman in Bangalore, like flashes of a ghost: in Ulsoor Bazaar, a kilometer down from my apartment, the brilliant burst of bougainvillea; Muscat’s Ruwi High Street coming alive inside Commercial Street; and Arabic dancing over Kannada and English signs for perfume shops. Once, while walking in Bangalore’s Cubbon Park, I saw an Omani gentleman in a dishdasha and mussar, and I smiled in nostalgia and happiness, seeing my two worlds converge and more. If only I could have rushed up to him and said, Where are you from? Muscat? The interiors? Is it still very hot there? Where are you living in Bangalore? But I remained silent, watching the mussar and dishdasha weave in and out of the brilliant green before vanishing altogether. And then I remembered that the British colonialists had built Cubbon Park in imitation of the flowing green English meadows that they were so homesick for. How apt, then, that I was homesick in a garden of imagined memories.

 
“In a major scientific development, the meteorite ‘Sayh al Uhaymir 008’, which was found in the Wilayat ‎of Haima of Al Wusta Governorate, in 1999, is now sent to its original home, Mars, ‎through a Nasa trip to Mars.‎ This Omani meteorite is the first rock sent back by ‎humans to its motherland, Mars.”
Oman Observer, March 1, 2021
 

Last year, Mars was closest to Earth on October 6, and it won’t be so near again for a few years. Bangalore was still in the grips of monsoon in October, but I was able to venture out on a rare rainless night to gaze at the sky and see Mars at the point in its orbit when it was closest to both the sun and Earth, a phenomenon known as “Mars in opposition.” During the rainy period, especially as I breathed in the moisture-heavy air and heard rain droplets belatedly trickling down the trees, the deserts of Oman seemed as far away as Mars from me. Yet there was a way in which Oman did not seem so far away, perhaps because I was no longer as opposed to comparing it to Mars as I had been so many years ago. 

Like the continents that have gone on a shape-shifting journey over billions of years to arrive in their present positions, I too have gone on a journey of belonging and unbelonging across several continents. Or rather, more precisely, as a third-culture kid, I have come to accept that I belong everywhere and nowhere: as much as I had once resented the label, perhaps wherever I temporarily lay down my roots I am ultimately an alien. The inescapable truth is that the Oman I yearn for exists only in my nostalgia, the past turning it into a foreign country, as the saying goes; if I were to live there now, I would feel like an alien. And if that is the case, then, perhaps, the lines between Oman and Mars have become blurred more than ever.

One day, a meteorite that once belonged to Mars and temporarily made Oman its home will be returning to the red planet, ersatz and real Mars intermingling and becoming a new alien rock entity. It occurs to me that Omani rocks long ago became a part of me without my realizing so, shaping the bedrock of my identity. 

I was an alien all along—I just didn’t know it.

 

 
Priyanka Sacheti
is a writer and poet based in Bangalore, India. She grew up in the Sultanate of Oman and was educated at the Universities of Warwick and Oxford, United Kingdom. She has been published in many publications with a special focus on art, gender, diaspora, and identity. Her literary work has appeared in many literary journals, such as Barren, Parentheses, Jaggery Lit, and The Lunch Ticket, as well as various past and forthcoming anthologies. She’s currently working on a poetry and short story collection.

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Oman Is Mars: An Alien All Along

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