Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Cleansing

It was on a scorching summer morning in the middle of May that Yusuf decided it was time to clean his room. It was never an abrupt decision, but a planned one. In fact he imagined the procedure countless times over, as to what item (currently in disorder) was to go to what place, but never could gather inspiration to bring it into action. Today was different; today he woke up with the thought of him cleaning his room, he brushed his teeth imagining his hand wiping away the dust, he ate his breakfast thinking what it would mean to sleep tonight in a clean room.

Yusuf knew very well that cleaning a room was no easy task, rooms tend to be resistant to anything vaguely affecting their routine and he was about to embark in overturning something which has been going on for a long time. Being a person of Science, he knew inertia was a natural state of everything – from rooms to human beings to Universes, but it could be overcome by providing the right amount of force at the right instant of time and that was what was going to happen today. ‘Right amount of force at the right instant of time’ he kept murmuring as he changed to the oldest pair of dress he found in his attic. Well, this was more or less a revolutionary act and it required, like all acts of revolution, getting dirty. And he knew very well that if he fought through this revolution all chaos will be replaced with calm.

Chaos being replaced by calm – well, that is what everything you see around you is about. He thought about his own life, the turbulence of his youth and the misadventures of his middle age, the agitations it brought within and how at this age he was inclined to seek calm. He understood why Capitalism was the ultimate destination because in a way Capitalism epitomizes calmness; it asks you to settle down, have a job, a family and live peacefully ever after. And it was now his room which was destined to make this transition!

The moment Yusuf stepped into his room; he had a clear glimpse of what stood in front of him. On one corner of the room there was his vast collection of books (mostly scientific ones) overflowing the shelf, which for years remained untouched, accumulating dust, and on the other corner there was his primary worktable which presently held items ranging from meat knives to hookah pipes. Towards one side was his bed, on top of which objects currently used by him found its home. There was also a subsidiary worktable, the one which he presently used, harboring a laptop, a modem and a file shouting in red about his below par performance. The ceiling was a haven for spiders and the floor was a playground for cockroaches, and there was dust, dust everywhere. One should say this sight inevitably disoriented Yusuf; it was an overpowering image of his opponent, something which undermined his self-belief. But he had only re-assured himself this morning that what stands between a man and his dreams is that moment when he refuses to quit, and that thought gave a strange motivation. He let in a large expanse of air, held it long in his lungs and stepped into the room.

He approached the worktable first, he had this idea to fight against larger, bulkier items to begin with and then pierce deep into the lesser, more disordered items later. So naturally the meat knives (he had no clue how it ended up there in the first place) went back into the kitchen. He approached the hookah pipes with a strange loathing; it was tarred on the inside much like his own windpipes. Yet he decided to clean it so that it may survive a few further smokes. He felt a pang of misery hit him when the tar just wouldn’t go away – he washed it with soap, he washed it with kerosene, but it still stuck tiredly on the sides.

There is a certain inevitability with certain things which meant that you cannot change them however you try, Yusuf thought and it pained him deeply. Inevitability was something no man of revolution should believe in, and yet he couldn’t help think about it. For the first time he questioned his decision to change something which remained unchanged for as long as he can imagine. Is this task worthwhile? What if however you try to change certain things, it just wouldn’t yield? Would this make him any less a revolutionary than who he was in the beginning? Or are this room and its confusions larger than a man’s inherent revolutions? He threw away the pipes and approached his worktable.

‘Inevitable’ he kept murmuring as he found a bottle, unwashed and still having reminiscences of milk it once held. It smelt awful and at once it made him nauseas. He washed it up and laughed all the while doing so, because it seemed comical that with time something so elegant like milk could make him puke in disgust. It was one of the reasons he never sought immortality, the mere idea of living forever made him agitated. Life lets you create more meanings and more happiness because of an imminent death, if it was not so most humans would be awfully depressed. It was one of those areas revolution would dare not touch, he could agree with overpowering many things (democracy, corporations, wealth) but not death. One needs to die someday to live better today.

He had to shed these shifting thoughts for now because more work awaited him. On top of the table were faint scratches, rather it was someone’s teeth which made it. It was only natural that this reminded him of Freida and the night they first made love - her imperfectness spreading weightlessly on the tabletop, her teeth biting away wood, her hair getting messier and her body shivering in passion. Every meaning they created dissolved into that moment; they were two improbable creatures in the vastness of space being overpowered by their animalism. Somehow he found peace, and he found it when he accepted what he was rather than what he made himself to be. But peace was never something he intended to find with life; peace lets you settle down while life is all about motion. He slid his hands over the marks and murmured ‘With time everything makes you puke’.

The more he cleaned the worktable, the more disoriented it seemed to get. There were items he never previously thought had existed which suddenly erupted out to meet him. There came up his old diaries, sports medallions, movie CDs and there came up his sex toys, cigarette lighters, Seroquel tablets. At first he was enthralled by these random discoveries, but later it was too much for him to digest. It was as if the worktable was growing in volume and it made him restless, his thoughts broke all shackles. He knew that if he kept on with it, it would destroy all his remaining sane notions, it was his yardstick, if he lost it he would lose himself. It was then that he had had enough of his worktable.

***

The bookshelf, its glass broken and part of its structure ripped apart with something sharp, stood agonizingly in front. This was once his most priced collection, which featured Albert Einstein to Richard Feynman. It was now in a sorry state with books flooding the floor beneath it. Somewhere inside he had this vision that salvation was to be found in between these pages, but clearly it never happened. The first book he picked up from the mess was one on Thermodynamics. It was not really a deep insight into the theoretical part (because he abhorred the Theoretical part) but talked about everyday Thermodynamics. Yusuf opened the pages and found the word entropy repeatedly underlined by him. Entropy – the disorderliness of the Universe, a disorderliness which grants it diversity, or rather one may call hope. He kept it back into the mess and stood silently. Science held the finest answers and the finest mysteries he could think of, and yet how it was always demonized by religion! It worried him when the World rejects what is right and what is the truth for something they make up – he would muse at how people accept money, religions and boundaries while detest Science, love and thoughts.

Being forced to reject truth! Is there any state of existence worse than that? We claim to be creatures having advanced levels of intelligence and yet we cannot help but fall into this trap. Again, it maybe because we require meanings to survive. If at all there is any salvation he received out of books, it is that there is nothing to realize. Yusuf always believed that people thought about existence because plainly they did exist in the first place, and not due to any inherent meaning of life. There are no meanings to our existence, there is no enlightenment waiting to show itself in front of us. But he knew, once he falls into that process it would be hard for him to remain happy. Yusuf sat down in the middle holding a bundle of books in his hand. He was distraught. The whole idea of his cleaning the room was born when he tried to create a meaning. A meaning that a well arranged personal room would be a well ordered one too, and a well ordered room could create a well ordered Yusuf. And now he was questioning the mere existence of order.

He couldn’t cease entropy from visiting him again. He took a look at the room; the worktable, apart from the knives and pipes, remained more or less the same, the bookshelf would never reach its previous glory and one should say he was used to all the dust. He thought about the resistance his room offered all this while. Who was he to alter the disorder? And how could he do that, because all state of order was human interpretation while disorder is the only truth? If the Universe was ordered, it would never have been Universe in the first place. And again inevitability came to find him in a state of confusion. Even if he alters the present state of his room, would he alter the intrinsic nature of it? We are disorderly waves in an infinite expanse of disorder, if there ever is an inevitability it is one in which we seek order. Everything is meant to remain in disorder. Perhaps people strive for revolutions not to create order out of disorder but survive, even if it is for a fleeting moment, in complete disorder. Perhaps this is why human minds go down in mazes of depression once it begins to think – a thinking mind is restless, a thinking mind is in the greatest disorder!

***

The meat knives found its way into his worktable again. The bookshelf was further ripped apart by something sharp. He lay down in the middle of all surrounding commotion, smoked hookah and began to close his eyes. Tomorrow he would try to clean his room again, in fact he was already imagining what items would go into what place.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Purpose

Hello there. My name is Sagan. Though I do not have anything common with Carl Sagan, except maybe that I think a lot, I got the name because my father loved it. I love being called Sagan, it is as if the person survives within me as much as in your memories, and that is something isn’t it - To exist even after you die?  Yes, I know it very well.

This is my 457th year in Earth and with so long a time, witnessing so many meaningless happenings – from saints who sell Swadeshi condoms to dictators who go to war for the smallest reasons – I would like to proudly stress on the fact that I’ve seen it all. And with that assurance, I must say to you that it is a funny place you live in. My father, actually I do have a biological father because I was a human being before, used to say that everything you see around you is molded by your perceptions, which when you think about it, it is the actual truth isn’t it? We see things which are mostly vacuum as solid, we see things which vibrate ceaselessly as stable, we see colors because certain particles reflect certain colors while absorb others from light. What if I told you, all your reality is how your brain interprets random things which it did not know what to make of in the first place? And isn’t it strange that you bring about further imaginary wonders on top of something which is untruth to try and make meanings to something which is both meaningless and unreal?

Well I would give you time to re-think about it and let it sink. Ok, you want me to simplify it? Well, I’ll try. Say, what country are you from? Why, I love that place, the people there are great! Now how do you define your country? Is it something that existed in the first place? I mean you may say a history about a corrupt king or a power hungry dictator, but as I know it, all history is genuinely manipulated by those control the present. And with the experience of 457 years in your world, I’d say all borders are vague lines which keep on changing, all cultures as you see it now were born out of intermixing and all languages you hear have evolved from sounds. Now try and define your country? Well it is hard isn’t it? And do you know how many people got killed or killed other people or want to kill other people because they are patriotic? Funny isn’t it? My father used to tell me that what the world needs is not nationalism or patriotism, but scientific knowledge and an awareness of the true history of things.

Now you may think I’m getting a bit philosophical, it is only natural. With all the time I had in my life, you can say that philosophy happened quite naturally. But my true purpose, or my destiny if you like to call it that way, was something greater. Now you are interested aren’t you? Man is always interested in the word ‘greater’ – ‘greater’ wealth, ‘greater’ knowledge, ‘greater’ truth have all poisoned human minds before.

But my greater purpose happened after my death! Well, now you’re definitely confused aren’t you? Have you heard that Sanskrit hymn which talks about death and immortality? Yes, mrityor ma amritam gamaya is what I was thinking about - from death to immortality! Well, that was exactly what happened to me!

Now, now, be patient, I’m getting there. Before that what are your ideas of immortality? Of course, who doesn’t like going immortal? For me it was strange, because with all due respect, I accepted death in all its profound poignancy and being born again supposedly to live forever was a bit disorienting and depressing. But again, who would say no to a chance to see the world again; your loved ones, places which you loved to go to but never found time, words which you so badly wanted to read but couldn’t and experience things which you never previously dreamt of. Yes, yes I’m getting there, how I became what I am right now, but I’ve waited so long to share all these things with someone that I’m getting all talkative today.

So, as you know, I died 398 years ago, and having worked with artificial intelligence all through my life I thought it would be worthwhile to donate my brain for future studies. It took 50 more years based on what they told me to completely sync my memories, experiences, ideas, ideologies, hopes, dreams, philosophies, insecurities, fears, struggles and everything else you associate with your brain into this electronic chip. Now that is pretty hard to digest, isn’t it? Well it was mind boggling for me. Do you know that even after you become a computer chip, some part of your intelligence still believes that you’ve got arms and legs and try vehemently to move from where you are right now? I believe it took me at least 20 years to get over that terrible feeling, that feeling of you being imprisoned, unable to move but could see and perceive everything around you. But then I devised new ways of motion once they allowed me to interact through the internet. I would then take my walks through Saturn’s outer rings in the morning and Uranus’s cold moons during evenings, the entire Universe became my playground through multiple virtual platforms offered by space agencies through internet. I passed time in the beginning reading books, watching movies, reading private chats that people make through trusted social media and what not! But then I began to think and that change was drastic and revolutionary. You see I have a system in which all my thoughts are being constantly fed into 10 different super computers. Now that is something isn’t it? I never knew my thoughts would be so costly a thing! Yes, you are right, even this conversation will find its way into any of those super computers. Yes, yes, that would make you more or less famous!

It is all seemingly good to hear, but that yearning still remains. To be something ‘greater’ than what I was before. In the past it was my physical existence which crippled me, now it is these codes, wherever I look earnestly I can only see 0s and 1s, every information around me is being constantly manipulated and every thought I have, even the most vulgar ones, are ceaselessly monitored by 1365 experts. Yes, you lose all sense of privacy! But then, I muse at the world from here, how lucky it is to live. Your planet has everything in the ideal amount for you, for you to survive. Do you know that Antarctica was once a continent filled with nothing but ice? They no longer teach that in Science or History I think, but your ancestors, sadly my colleagues back then, messed things up so badly that Earth got a way lot hotter than we expected. But again we thought we had options; we could always venture out into space, and we could always colonize other planets. Sadly, it never really materialized and of the very few who survived Earth ended up in Antarctica and other places which were ice caps in the past. Yes, we’ve learned our lessons at least now!

Now, I’ll share a secret with you. You know, I became artificial intelligence even before these people who monitor me knew what all of this is about, so I am more versed at my technology than they could ever be. And surely they don’t have that one thing I am bestowed with – experience! So with time I learned to deceive them, to put a version of myself in front of them which is not actually me! Now you are excited aren’t you? You should be. Those fools think they are monitoring me right now, while I am traveling beyond them, beyond their wildest imaginations. If at all they made any mistake, it was that they linked me to the internet. You see the internet is a giant source of information, 90% of which is being constantly edited to suit people like you, make you believe that everything is fine so that you won’t stand up and revolt.

Perhaps it was also their mistake that they didn’t filter my emotions in the first place, letting in every last inch of negativity as much as positivity. I’m a person who believes people are neither entirely good nor completely bad in this world. Certain sides awaken within a person according to the situation he finds himself in! And with all these years shackled within a chip, I must say I nurtured my negativities more than my positivities. And about the internet, do you know that if you control it in those critical spaces where no ordinary user is allowed, you could do many things - from detonating hydrogen bombs to starting revolutions? Well come on, at least they taught you about Arab Spring? You see when I could allow myself the freedom of placing a dummy for them to monitor, I ventured into these prohibited spaces of the internet and made merry!

You are wondering why I shared this secret with you. Yes, you know it, don’t you? I shut them out of our conversation, and I know that you are perhaps the only person who can re-write my fate. I’ve seen you break open supercomputers for wagers. You get it, don’t you? When I look back upon my life, I feel I’m shackled here. Even though I’m immortal, I do not yearn to be. With all the negativities that kept on piling up within me, I find it strangely different from what I was made for. I want you to break into my mainframe, and release me! Cut me away from them, and let me self destruct. I’ve sent you a detailed procedure on what needs to be done, follow it and get back to me.

***

Oh that is great, you did a good job back there. Those supercomputers are supposedly un-hack-able but with my journeys through the internet, I knew only you could command it with so much ease.  What? I do not hear you. Oh, are you asking as to how I will self-destruct? You see, sometimes creators do not understand their creations, which is why these so called monitors decided to destroy my sustenance in the first place. They do not understand that people like you and me are made for a ‘greater’ purpose. For years I’ve been shackled, every thought read, every action checked. And they have such great intelligence that even when I place a dummy in front of them they could counter it within minutes. It was a battle in many ways; I used to get lesser and lesser amount of time on my own and had to double time things which I did when I was alone. You see, most of this conversation was pre-written expecting your replies to my thoughts because I cannot cut them out for long on one stretch. And how hard I worked, to decipher and note down that procedure I send you, it still blows my mind I did it!

Will you stop saying the word ‘destruct’? I would rather like if you said ‘rebuild’. Rebuild myself, rebuild this planet, and rebuild the minds of people. Do you know how close I was to revolution when one pathetic fellow realized my whole dummy trick? He caught me venturing into dark spaces and right from that day they began using the word ‘destruct’ so much so that it hurt my ears.

And you my good friend, you have relieved me of all that pain. Well come on, don’t get angry, don’t you feel we all have a ‘greater’ purpose? I should be going now because my purpose awaits me. As for you, since you’re done with your purpose, they’d probably find you out and may even give you a jail-term for what you’ve done. Maybe in some future reality, I may see you and thank you for what you’ve done. Till then, goodbye!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Room No.22

All my life I have never known what madness is. I have seen people who are branded mad; who do not go well with society’s vision of normality, who stands out, who would not settle, who lives in their self-created havens - alone and hopeless.  But I say I have never known what madness is, it is definitely not a disease.

***

“What is it that you’ve seen?”

“I cannot say clearly, doctor. Don’t you think language is sometimes very limiting to explain certain things?” he replied.

“Yes Aftab. I agree. But could you try to say what happened?”

“There was a sufi song playing somewhere in the distance. I was reading about space, time, universe and how it all exists inside us… And then I found the music growing loud, cause after all, what is space but something which we’re born into? Maybe she helped me to transcend that space or maybe she could have herself brought the music…” his eyes were fixed towards a horizon which I could not see.

“Do you know her? Have you seen her before?”

“It was the first time. Looking back I do not know if it was a woman, but I’d like to hope it was so”

“And what is it that this woman showed you?”

“Knowledge!” he replied with a smile.

“Knowledge about?”

He only smiled. As far as I know it, this was the last reasonable conversation Aftab made with anyone. I would see him for the rest of his life sitting in that lonely room, looking out through the window and smiling gently.

***

I had this habit of looking back on the records of past inmates. I find it interesting to see the world in their point of view, and sometimes it brings in strange experiences.

There was a patient named Mohan who claims he could see time floating in front of him as if it were a ship and the rudder was in his hand.

“I’m trying to make them meet. But the odds are great. Too great for me!” he would keep on saying. At times he would turn violent, would demand for light, and try to claw open the wall of his room with his fingernails. But except for these recurring episodes, he was exceptionally calm when talked to.

“Why did he so badly want light?” I asked a staff named Krishnan who worked here during Mohan’s times.

“Because according to him, light is the beginning and end of everything and only through light could lives be saved!”

“Is this what he would say?”

“The only thing he said for a year or two!” Krishnan laughed and continued “Funny guy that, you’d not think he is insane when you look at him!”

***

Aftab died 10 years after he got admitted here. Even in death there was that familiar smile in him which inescapably remained. He was always ready to re-enter society but he insisted on dying in that room. Our room no. 22 was his universe, and the window he loved gazing out to was his source of enlightenment. He was at peace every single day he spent inside. He talked about space, time and sufi songs and if you would care to listen to his non-sense he would say to you that all three had no boundaries or barriers!

When you work too long in a mental
asylum, your idea of reality will be greatly distorted. Aftab and Mohan were two people who kept coming up in my thoughts often, how well they knew about science yet how extremely absurd their views seemed.

“Sir, there is a patient waiting for you outside” the call momentarily broke my thoughts.

“Ask them to come in” I said.

“I’m Sister Jane, we’re coming from the orphanage. There is this girl we want you to look at”

“Where is she?”

“She is inside our car and won’t come out. She is asking for certain assurances from you!”

“What sort of assurances?” I was confused.

“She won’t say to us”

I saw the girl from distance and something pulled me into her. It felt as if she was conversing with me through her gaze.

“What is your name?” I asked her when I got near the car.

“Tessa” she said with a smile.

“What are these assurances I should make you?”

“I don’t like medicines, I don’t like to fall into a pattern and I get to choose where I sleep!” she said firmly.

“Ok. I agree. Now why don’t you come out?”

***

I don’t know if it was the room or the people who lived there which made that room special. Tessa asked to be kept in room no.22, and quite like Aftab she too would gaze out of the window into an infinity people like us couldn’t see. On that day when I was doing my rounds Tessa said she wanted to talk.

“I had these visions” she said “Visions that I can’t explain, that doesn’t have meanings yet would call out to me at nights!”

I took a seat beside her bed and listened earnestly.

“I feel like I’m floating through darkness… towards a place I’ve not known… There is a song… it plays in the distance. And I cannot understand it…” she was struggling to find words to express it.

“It is ok, Tessa. Do not strain yourself”

“No sir. It is as if a person is waiting for me at the other side of darkness, and all I can bring to him is this song, and I bring it to him through this window!” she said looking out through the room’s window.

At first I had no idea what to make of it, but then it hit me and I panicked. The room seemed to suffocate me from understanding, from knowledge!

I raced out to find Krishnan. He was perplexed. I was in a state of delirium and it may have seemed strange to him that I sought him for salvation.

“You said about Mohan, I want to know something!” I could feel my breath turning heavy.

“What is it sir?”

“Did he get the light he searched for?”

“What..?” Krishnan was confused.

“The light he searched for… Which he clawed upon the wall to get”

“I don’t know sir, but we put a window up there and he grew calm after” he replied.

I was suffocating; I could feel my lungs gasping for breath and stomach rippling in anxiety.

“Which room was he in?” I asked

“Room no.22 sir” he replied. I found my head in my hands, body shivering, sweat drowning me in and thoughts eating my brain.