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The More Loving One

11 Apr

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

-W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973

Paradise no more

6 May

Reporting Live

For all those living in Hyderabad, India, Paradise hotel is synonymous to biryani and is one of the most visited restaurants in the city. Located in Secunderabad, the hotel was so iconic that it lent its name to the place where it is. I say ‘was iconic’ because it no longer is, for me anyways.

Last night, I was there with my family celebrating my mother’s birthday. After dinner, we came down and were waiting for our car to be brought around by the valet. There was this one woman who was selling mogra flowers, a street hawker, right near the restaurant.

Now Paradise for whatever reasons has bouncers as security personnel outside its premises. My husband, my cousins and I were just talking about what was an outright lecherous look of a bouncer towards this woman, when another bouncer walked in (at this point, the woman was surrounded by…

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Past of the Future : Sci-fi (5)

20 Oct

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

“Why are you so quiet today?” Hruman had put Ram in his bed. Keki was already at the dinner table.

“I am leaving SETI” Keki responded with immense sadness in her voice.

Hruman knew how much Keki loved it at SETI. She was immensely curios- using engineering marvels of humans to learn tiny bit more about the universe. She would often come at night with story of a rock from a planet billion miles away. Geology did not interest Hruman, but at times, he was surprised to see links between the events of universe.

“Why? Where are you going?” Hruman asked.

“I am joining PPC.”

PPC was not exactly a pleasant place to work. But then what was? At least this was not as unproductive as SETI. Hruman hesitated and failed to decide whether to congratulate Keki or express grief- even though it was quite obvious from her state that the latter was correct choice.

Keki did not seem to notice the indecisiveness of Hruman. “Planet-with-intelligent-life” Keki exhaled.

“Zorg 276?” It was Hruman who always referred to Zorg-276 as the “Planet-with-intelligent-life”, but today he could not mock Keki.

Keki nodded.

Earth had been able to establish contacts with the Zorg and had sent them a space craft with some earth object. But something went wrong somewhere. Either the considered the craft as an attack on their privacy, or they needed a new planet—translators were still trying to interpret their language. Only thing communicated in English meant they were attacking earth. While teams had been deployed to get in touch with Zorgs to talk them out, but Earth had started preparations for the first inter-galactic war.

SETI was at the receiving end of all this. Once the most celebrated institution on planet was now getting blames for this entire episode. “How quickly people change sides?” Hruman often humored himself. But this could not be the reason for Keki to leave. She was strong enough to take tons of garbage out of idiot’s mouths.

“But why PPC?” Hruman inquired.

Keki did not answer immediately. She was trying to put her thoughts into words. “I can’t deny my share of blame. Now it’s my responsibility to protect earth the best I can.”

Hruman tried to save Keki from self-loathing, “Listen! Whatever you did was your job-responsibility. No one can blame you for doing the best possible job! Don’t blame yourself. These media would say anything for Popularity Index.”

“You know me Hruman.” Keki looked Hruman in eyes, “I am not an idiot to throw myself at whims of media. But I know better. The earth needs protection. We can’t go in denial. I can’t go in denial.”

Chapter 6

Past of the Future : Sci-fi (4,6)

19 Oct

Chapter 3

(Short Story | Fiction)

Chapter 4

(Short Story | Fiction)

Hruman looked at his watch. 8 PM. 17th November 0000 hours, the test would begin. He had to convince his son at any cost. The operation will take a couple of hours, so he had a couple of hours at best.

“Can he do it? How? How can one convince other to do something so terrible?”

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

“Seedless mangoes, boy you must really want something.” Ramvan chuckled as he opened his pack to get his frozen seedless mango.

Hruman was not a fan of artificial frozen seedless mangoes. He loved natural mango and he thought these seedless mangoes were an insult to the masterwork of the nature. Ramvan, on the other hand no problems with seedless mangoes. After all, they artificially added the lost flavors just before the purchase. As long as it tastes same, what is the point in knowing and judging the source?

“Aren’t you going to eat yours?” Ram asked excitedly as he was finishing his mango.

Hruman was watching Ram eating very intently. He just smiled and swayed his head to imply no.

“Boy! What have you done!” Ram chuckled as he helped himself with the second mango.

Hruman could have gone on watching. But time was less, and Ram was in one of hid pleasant moods- “I am leaving”.

Ram continued eating- “OK, for how long?”

“Forever.”

Ram did not think he was serious, but his jaws paused and he looked at Hruman. He was not smiling or blinking. “My God! Was he serious?”

“What do you mean”, Ram was no longer eating.

“It means I am never going to see you again.” Hruman himself had not considered this gravity. But there was no other option. He tried his best to hide cracks in his voice.

“Where are you going? Are you converting to Homobots? Are you joining PPC?”

“No, no… I am not converting. I will remain at Human’s side.”

“So why you won’t see me?”

“Because, you are going to forget me”. Hruman’s eyes were wet now. But he was still calm and composed.

“What do yo….” Suddenly it struck Ram. The dots were connected. “You… you mean…” Ram did not want to complete the sentence.

“Yes.” Hruman paused. “Yes, your memory is going to be erased.”

Past of the Future : Sci-fi

15 Oct

Chapter 2

(Short Story | Fiction)

Chapter 3

(Short Story | Fiction)

“We have identified a planet with “intelligent life” 27.6 light years away.” Keki informed at the dinner table casually.

SETI had numerous false positives in past. That is why they have been keeping this news secret unless they were absolutely certain. Hruman was never a fan of SETI.

“Really!”, Hruman said in an almost-sarcastic tone without lifting his head from the bowl of soup. Hruman had promised in the beginning of the relationship that he will not make fun of SETI in front of Keki. But instincts never die.

Why to bother if there is someone else in this universe or this dimension? Our happiness and sadness are solely determined by our attitude and behavior. Where does an Extra Terrestrial life fit into this? Haven’t we got enough problems of our own?

Science has done wonders, now human could travel at almost 70% of the speed of light; communicate 10 times faster than that. With super-efficient solar cells, fuel and electricity was no longer an issue. With independence in electricity and lighting sources- new forms of decorations and arts have developed. But hunger and basic health facilities were still biggest problem of humanity. No innovation could handle that.

“You still don’t believe us”. Keki put her napkin on table and smiled. She had made peace with Hruman’s opinions. “How you cannot be least bit curious about finding what else is out there? What is the purpose of this… this “life, universe and everything”“.

Hruman and Keki had met 4 years ago- at party of a mutual geologist friend. They were so different- in their views about science about art. Interestingly, Hruman worked closer to science and ashamed of its limitation, while Keki was further from science, yet very hopeful and proud of it. And they would argue, for hours. Their idea of fun too was not same. Hruman’s favorite was one at Singapore- silent show- just lights of different frequencies powered by power sources of different frequencies- creating a mystic environment. Keki preferred sound over light. She would close her eyes, reduce noise to zero and create a silence for her. But these tastes were never an issue between the couple. They enjoyed the differences, they celebrated the opposition.

“The answer scares me.” Hruman put the spoon and joined the conversation. “I am not a very optimistic person; not about answer to this question.”

“Why?”

Hruman went back to soup, “because no system can produce something more intelligent than itself; something intelligent enough to understand the system.”

Keki too went back to her poha, “that’s not even an argument”.

Hruman did not want to ruin the night. He wanted to close the discussion. “Listen it’s ok to be curios. I happen to be curios… a lot actually! My only point is, we have so many problems to deal with; problems which should take priority. And why we are discussing this again.” His voice sounded like surrendered to boredom, “we have discussed this sooo many times.”

Keki smiled without looking up. Hruman was safe.

Chapter 4

Past of the Future : Sci-fi

13 Oct

Chapter 2

(Short Story | Fiction)

Hruman walked out of Zaffer’s office. He was obviously tensed. Though he had almost seen it coming, but is that anytime a source to solace? It all started last week. He blurted something at an 8 PM party with colleagues last Wednesday. He was called for a test by Planet Protection and Control team the very next morning. Normally these tests are scheduled twice a year. Knowing the schedule gives people to prepare well for the test. In fact, he is the in-charge of one of such secret society which helps people to train for the tests. Hruman had taken this test couple of months ago- absolutely flawlessly. But this time he was caught unprepared. Though the test result was not in critical zone, but he knew he had left room for suspicion. This is not good, this is never good.

This was year 2063A- 7 Earth years since the Homobots won majority at the PPC. Homobots, as he would say, were humanoid robots, but Homobots preferred to see themselves as Zen masters who had controlled all their emotions and who were able to focus entirely on one area- something essential- anybody would agree in a war time.

“How could you let this happen, Hruman? You of all people- you know how much is at stake here? You are a pro at this thing, in fact you designed some of its clauses. Do you know how much risk you have put us at?” Zaffer was too upset to stop. Hruman has been an asset to the organization, though he avoids showing any emotions, but he won’t mind admitting that folks like Hruman are the last hope of humanity in this all lost game. Though professionally he kept distance of Hruman’s affairs, but personally he was very fond of the man.

Zaffer finally paused to brief. He was expecting an answer from Hruman. But Hruman made no effort to move his tongue. He kept staring blankly under the table. Zaffer realized he could never make Hruman feel any more guilty. Hruman of course was not a child; he knew what was at stake here, probably better than Zaffer could ever think of. He sighed and offered a magneto-chemic cigarette to Zaffer. He knew Hruman had quit smoking long ago before this magneto-chemic cigarette was invented. This cigarette instead of sending pollutants into the air, it absorbed them- something which Hruman was never convinced of.

Even in tension, Hruman showed no interest in the offer. Zaffer went on smoking on his own. Time was pretty short, but he did not want to spoil the intensity of the moment. He waited to let Hruman take all in.

Finally Hruman mumbled- “Are they doing anything to Ramvan?” Hruman was well aware that his charges could mean a cryogenic sleep of over 35 years. But he was least bothered about that now.

“That is the problem, though I managed to convince them. He is son of Keki. You had him only for last 6 years.” Zaffer wanted to stop. He dreaded to even imagine Hruman’s reaction on what he was going to say next. “… That he is just a kid, his memories… could be erased.”

Zaffer closed his eye and waited for storm. “Thank you” that’s all Hruman could manage. Keki and Hruman had broken up when Ramvan was 3 years old. Keki had chosen to part ways and go to PPC- an idea which Hruman was always opposed to.

Hruman sounded to be somewhere very far. Zaffer was not sure if Hruman was thanking him or Keki.

“I will make sure that he passes the tests.” Zaffer could feel the pain on the face of Hruman. “How far would we have to go?” Hruman asked.

“Past 7 years, when Ram came to live with you. And…” Zaffer paused “and any other reference of you. The test is on Saturday morning.”

Hruman rose. “I will take leave. I need to talk to Ram.” He moved to open the gate without waiting for permission.

“And Hruman,” Zaffer raised his voice to stop Hruman, “we may have to dismiss you.”

Hruman did not even turn to react. He just nodded and left the room.

Chapter 3

…..

Love in time

29 Sep

Before we began (T-6)

“Listen, why don’t you just ask her out?” she asked. “Can’t be a little persuading?”

“Oh, I can be. But that will be like pushing her to a decision.”

“So you mean this is not fare to do things attract partners? It’s in the primal nature dude!”

“I know, I do not question that.” He went defensive. “I just know that the pure push does not last. There has to be a certain amount of pull, for pushes to work, more actually, in my case.”

“What do you mean in your “case”?”

“Well, I can’t push a lot. I can’t go to the ends of the world for her. I mean I can if she needs me to, but I can’t if she wants me to.  I can die for her, but I can’t promise to live for her with the same zeal.”

“So you are never going to ask her out?”

He was more unsure, perhaps he wanted the conversation to just end. “I may. But she is so distracted now to even notice me.”

“That would mean never. She is always going to be distracted buddy. Wouldn’t it be better if instead of wondering “what ifs”, you just go and ask her?”

He chuckled “Actually I don’t have any problem with wondering. Imagination holds me quite fine.”

“I don’t know man, but you are too young. You think you can live on like that. But life changes and you are left wondering, even regretting in your memory lane.”

She spoke as if she was somewhere far away, somewhere searching for words. He stared her blankly; he really did not know what it meant.

Airport Romance (T-0)

Sipping her coffee in Airport lounge, she glanced at the status display of flights. There was still good eight minutes before boarding. Eight minutes- enough time for Sunlight to reach the Earth- she thought. For humans- Too little? Too much?

“Isn’t it strange that we were in same college, same class for four years, yet we never talked for even half an hour! I would have liked you.” She smiled.

“Marginal utility offf..” he began in his usual sarcastic academic tone, but snapped short. “People are rarely bad. And the chances of them being bad to you are even lesser. But we do not take time to know each other and rely instead on physical appearances and heresy. In the end, we have nothing, we have nobody. More scary part is, we are alone… on the inside.” He sighed. “Why are we in such a rush?”

Her coffee was barely touched. The Jet announcer was making final call for boarding. She would have to leave.

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