Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I know a guy who fought through cancer. Now I know what you are thinking… and that you know where this is going… and I don’t blame you… stories of heroic fights against cancer have served as the source of inspiration for a lot of people, and Lance Armstrong and Steve Jobs are to be thanked for that… and I fully respect them for it… but this guy I know was not like them… he felt fear, anger, sadness, and all other emotions that we are ought to feel while being stared in our face by death… he was middle-aged, recently married, had a kid, was a freelancer, and boom! One day you go to the doctor, he runs some tests on you, and before you know it, you have a death penalty handed out to you along with a six-second sympathetic expression and a hefty bill.

I never got to ask him how he felt the moment he came to know about his predicament, but from what I do know about him, I can imagine how he felt… in one word: sad.

Sadness is such a shallow emotion in popular media. If I am a sport star getting interviewed on the TV after losing a match and I’m asked “how do you feel?” I can’t possibly reply “I feel sad.”

Why? Well if I do, the reporter would be like: “You lost the World Series and all you feel is sad? Come on buddy, give me some emotion, give me drama, and say that you want to kill that bastard who missed your pass...”

Well, is sadness not an emotion then? Well ‘sad’ has turned out to carry a loser-ly connotation to it these days. If I wear a t-shirt that says “I am sad” people will look at me like a piece of trash and offer me a cocktail of sympathy and disgust.

But anyways, that guy was definitely sad… things were looking much better for him before he was diagnosed, so it was pretty understandable. Now, what can we learn from a sad guy with cancer?

A lot!

So this guy, after knowing he had cancer tried to slow down his life. He thought, well screw all this stress, I’m not the president of  this country, all the responsibility I have is towards my family, and since I don’t even have a boss, I can’t even stick it to the man… so let’s live more slowly… let’s live fully!

Fair enough, let’s live fully… decision made… now how to do that? This guy didn’t like all these self-help books in the market… part of his job was to offer people help when they needed some ideas and encouragement, so he knew very well that all these books were just glorified junk. So he turned to meditation, yoga, spirituality and all that good stuff.

Result? Zilch. Didn’t make him feel any different, apart from giving him a backache due to a bad session one day.

But he wanted to live slowly, so he thought, well, my job is to spend time with people, talking with them about their problems… and I need to be empathetic, articulate, insightful and flatter my clients, so why not actually be all of that without any pretension. If I don’t want to flatter them, fine, I’ll just say it out loud… no point in keeping elephants in the room. Worst comes to worst I’ll lose the client and get some bad market rep. That’s OK… definitely beats cajoling hogwashers for a living!

So he paid more attention to what people said and it completely transformed his life. He started with his child, and even though it could only gargle its own saliva as a form of communication, he still paid attention to that. What he found, was astounding. He noticed that people completely change when they see you are paying attention to what they are saying. They no longer have to resort to things like “You know what I mean” or “Oh it’s nothing very important but” while communicating with you. That totally blew his mind. He would totally open up to all his clients about their strengths and pitfalls, sometimes their stupidity, and they would love it! And for a moment he thought it was because of the fact that all his clients knew he was battling with cancer and had shaved his head and stuff... but what surprised him, was that he had an hour long conversation with a new client over the phone, and that client also loved his feedback.

So I ran into him once during that phase and the first thing he told me was “You need to floss more.” I was surprised and he clearly saw that all over my face and said “when you have a salad, some leaf bits stick on your teeth and you keep trying to get them off with your tongue. It’s really irritating.”
I said thanks and moved along to attend a meeting. What was I thinking all through the meeting?
“God… I’ve had lunch with this guy maybe four times, and he noticed that, what about other people? Do they also find it irritating? What is a good way of asking that without coming across as a weirdo?”
And to be honest, “Do you think it’s irritating when I try to lick out salad bits from my teeth?” is a fairly odd question to ask!

But what that helped me realize, was that this awkward question made me think about other people’s feelings. How they feel when I do something out of habit. Maybe my parents never called me out because they thought it was fine… but what about other people? What are some of the small things they do which I find irritating? So I started carrying around a pocket notebook in which I documented every single idiosyncrasy that irritated me. About everyone. Then, I started this practice, where I would buy a blank card, write that irritating habit the person had, and give them that card on their birthdays. How many people hated my guts for doing that? 100%.

How many people thanked me a couple of weeks later? 98%

Why did they feel this way? Why did I feel this way when I was called out for my habit? Why do we all feel immediate hatred, later on followed by immense gratitude when someone gives us genuine feedback?
It all has to do with our notion of perfection. We all want to be perfect. At some stage in life we are filled with this feeling that we are perfect. It all stems from the “no child left behind” mentality. Each child is special, each one of us has special talents, we are all unique individuals… well, I think they left out the “don’t be fixated with your own uniqueness and look at other people too” part. Yes, you are unique, your naval lint has a different density than mine, your shirt sleeves always end up above your wrists, and your favorite movie which was made in 1932 post-war Romania bombed in the box office everywhere except in the island of Tonga.
Great! Awesome! I am so happy for you about that!

But is that sliver of uniqueness your real and complete identity? And I think you know where I am going with this… look at all the Vegans, Evangelical Christians, Heavy Metal fans, Apple fanboys and others who wear this one thing one their chests like war insignia. If you fought in the Vietnam War, saved the lives of three soldiers and received the purple ribbon for it, fine, brag about it as much as you can. We will still respect you because you did something heroic and compassionate which lesser humans couldn’t. But please, don’t give me all that crap just because you believe in a certain philosophy that makes you think of every person unlike you as a berated heathen.

Anyways, our perfectionist tendencies make us deeply apologetic about every flaw in us, and as evolved chimpanzees, all we can do in such a case is fight or flight. Now since fighting for perfection is an eternal struggle, and we all realize that, we generally choose the path of flight and simply ignore the imperfections by labeling them unimportant… it’s kind of like how our eyes just ignore the fact that we have a nose because it’s present in our field of view all the time and is hence redundant data… we create this image that under the special circumstances we subsist in, we are perfect enough and anyone else in these circumstances couldn’t be more perfect than us… What we don’t realize here is that we are making ourselves perfect for the world, and not for ourselves...

I think that is a really hard concept for us to wrap our heads around, and I found it fascinating how widely pervasive this bewilderment is… we never really realize that the perfection we seek is not because of a personal goal, but it’s because we want to appear perfect in other people’s eyes! In all practicality, the personal goal here is not an infinite skill set, but the admiration and acceptance of others in our society, which is essentially another trait that predates modern society to the cavemen era. It is kind of like the notion of charity… a lot of people who donate to charities do so to earn the title of a philanthropic person… it says out loud that I am not a shallow and mean person, I care about others. What this very act shows is that we are not philanthropic and charity was just a way to buy social admiration. I know that sounds amazingly offensive to a lot of people, but think of it this way… In kindergarten, does donating money exalt you a higher social status? I don’t think so… does owning the newest toy in town make you popular? Probably yes…

What I mean here, is that social donations are not a universally accepted norm for gaining a higher social status, but it’s just that in certain societies it is… just like owning a motorbike with a meat-grinder in place of the transmission is in some cults… And that’s why a lot of people donate… but how many of us actually donate because we think of the smiles and joy that will be permanently fixated on faces of the people we helped? I would say a minority. Why is that? Because a donation without any social recognition doesn’t make us perfect and socially respected, so it doesn’t really matter…

Think about this for a minute, because when you do, you will realize instinctively that the point of this whole long example is that the pursuit of perfection makes us inhuman, it kills our emotional segments and makes us apathetic to all the imperfections that make us human. Hence, feedback has so much power, because it breaks the fragile layer of perfection we cover ourselves with and strikes the core of our emotional center… and eventually makes us more compassionate because we can then see other people as more than just judgmental, two-faced bipolar creatures… we can then see them as imperfect humans like us, seeking validation like us, pursuing their ambitions and failing while at it like us, and people who are irked by little habits of others for some strange reason they are unaware about… just like us!

And that is really the magic of compassion and feedback... it spreads like wildfire through small, unselfish displays of affection. If I say that clicking your pen continuously while someone is speaking is highly distracting and pisses people off, and if I say that with a smile on my face, I bet 98% of the people will never do that again and will look around at others and feel apologetic about everyone they irked with this habit. What I’ve found is that most people will not only stop that habit, but they will also change a lot of other habits… they will ask others for feedback more often than before… and will also develop a deep urge to give profound feedback to other people. That is really how compassion ripples through, and to think of it, it all starts with one sentence filled with awkward content, enshrouded in a smile.

You might be wondering about what happened to the guy with cancer. Well, he survived and I met him during a get-together and asked him how he feels. He said “I don’t feel sad anymore.”
I asked him “Oh, so you must feel happy now?”
He said, “no, I was sad before but I am not sad now, but I am neither happy because I fear I will go back to my old stressed out life style and won’t have enough time to enjoy the small things in life.”

It was amazing how the same person, who taught me how to live fully with just one sentence, didn’t realize the importance of compassionate feedback himself. I told him: “You can completely change a person’s life just by attentively listening to them and by giving them honest feedback. Feel blessed when that happens to you, and hold on to it like you held on to dear life for the past few months, because even if you are lying in the deepest trench of depression or are being pulled apart in multiple directions by your numerous responsibilities, that single piece of feedback will set you back on the right track, and it will make you realize that beneath the branded suits and placid demeanor, lies a beating heart that longs for some compassion… and amazingly, you taught me this without even intending to do so!”

He was really surprised on hearing that, and to really drive the point home, I quoted a favorite from Calvin: “Life is full of surprises, but never when you need one…”
I don’t think he quite understood what I meant by that, but I do hope that you all do…

Oh and that 2% who never thanked me for my feedback, were some unfamiliar girls on facebook who unfriended me after I wrote “Your status messages are too whiny” on their wall for their birthday. But I still do believe that in some part of cyberspace, some people are having a happier day because a girl on their news feed is not posting about how much she hates her life and everyone in it for not commenting on her new profile picture.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Churn after Reading

Recently a friend of mine asked me what I think about ‘True Love’. I said, “I don’t really know… there are many definitions of it.”

My friend said that I should give the most rational and non-mush-coated definition I knew.

I thought a bit and said: “If someone were to ask you, what would you die for, and what would you kill for, and if the first answer that came to your mind was the name of a person, then that according to me is true love.”

After that was dealt with, what I said got me thinking. Given the recent terrorist attacks and that entire anti-corruption furore in India, the youth and other common folk seem to have developed radical interest into the debilitated state of affairs (or affairs of state, if you may). Yet, I can’t help but think, what if someone were to ask all these ever-motivated people, all the ever-nosey media, all the ever-condescending authors and all the ever-twittery celebrities: What is that one thing they are ready to die for, and what is that one thing which they are ready to kill for?

I don’t know what they would answer, but I know fo-sho that it certainly won’t be India…

Now I do know (from my brief and questionable knowledge of history) that there was indeed a time when the vast majority of the said individuals would have actually said “India”. What interests me most, is why, when, and how did this huge transformation take place?

I don’t claim to have perfectly-acceptable-by-one-and-all answers to these questions, but the first step towards understanding a mystery or figuring out an unknown force, is asking the right questions…

So let me ask you a question…

      Have you washed your hands today?

…and before we move any further, by the powers of subtle-product-placement bestowed in me, here’s a small message from our sponsors:

***Heartfelt apologies to my Devanagari illiterate friends... the following content will probably look Nordic-witchcraft-like to you, but hopefully it makes much more sense to the Devanagari literate… hopefully…

आज 15 अगस्त है,
पूरा देश स्वतन्त्रता के जोश में मस्त है,
फ़ोन पर, देशभर, बधाइयाँ बंट रही हैं,
नुक्कड़ की दुकानों में पुरजोर बर्फियां कट रही हैं...
राजपथ पर परेड देखने को भीड़ उमड़ रही है,
64 साल की हो चली है आज़ादी,
अब इसके चेहरे की झुर्रियां साफ़ दिखाई पड़ रही है.

अभी इस वक़्त, दूर एक अनजाने गाँव मेंदेश का निर्माण हो रहा है...
और अभी इस वक़्त ही, राजधानी में संविधान अपने प्राणों से हाथ धो रहा है,
उस गाँव में सरिया, बालू, cement और पसीना एक होकर,
नदी की ऊर्जा से बिजली उतपन्न करने का संघर्ष कर रहे हैं,
और दिल्ली के आलिशान ऑफिस में बैठे बाबू और साहिब,
Civil Engineer के design को अपने ही अंदाज़ में 'optimize' कर रहे हैं...

"देख लीजिये, हमारी constituency में बाँध टूटा तो पार्टी की घणी बदनामी हो जावेगी...."
"आप चिंता करिए जी, पांच साल के पहले बांध को ज़रा सी भी आंच नहीं आवेगी.."
"पर पांच साल बाद टूटा, तो भी लोग हमपर ही इलज़ाम लगावेंगे?"
"अरे.. तब उसका कारण हम ruling party का खराब maintenance बतावेंगे!"

और मजदूर बेचारा तो ये सोच रहा है,
की ये बाँध उसके गाँव में साल भर पानी, बिजली और खुशहाली लाएगा,
पर उसे क्या पता की आज गोधुली के पहले ही,
कच्चे cement से जुड़े एक भारी पत्थर के नीचे दबकर वो शहीद हो जायेगा...

आज 16 अगस्त है,
आलस भरी छुट्टी के बाद आज दफ्तर फिरसे व्यस्त हैं,
पर ये क्या? आज tiffin के साथ सुबह का paper नहीं आया है?
ओह अच्छा... हमारी तरह कल printing press ने भी आराम फ़रमाया है...

क्या आपने इस ज्ञानवर्धक newspaper को पढ़कर कभी ये सोचा है...
की आपकी plate तक खाना और घर तक बिजली पहुंचाने के लिए, रोज़ पचासों किसान और मजदूर मरते हैं,
और आप उनकी मौत को बस एक statistic की तरह पढ़कर, अपने current affairs के ज्ञान का उद्धार करते हैं??
पर इतना जान लीजिये,
की सिर्फ ऊँची सोच और नेक विचारों से देश नहीं बनता... देश बनाने के लिए खुद अपने हाथ गंदे करने पड़ते हैं......

Something like... this..

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I was in love then.. and the air felt so different.. I used to stay up all night thinking about her, imagining... envisaging crazy things, and wondering how things will turn out when I express my feelings to her and she accepts.. but what if she doesn’t? Oh but she will.. didn’t the bunch of random things she did for me (which any human being would have done for one of their acquaintances) like offering a Band-Aid when I fell from my bicycle or calling back saying "I'm sooh Sohrry" after seeing 7 missed calls from me, indicate that I meant something to her?

Maybe.. something special too?

And basically, if I didn’t, that could only mean two things.. either I am over-reading into things or.. she isn’t human..

So I forgot there was an activity such as sleeping or maybe even eating.. frankly I didn’t even feel like sleeping.. and at 4am in the morning I used to think that its late enough and lied down to rest my back on my bed. But my mind.. and my heart.. never rested.. restlessness is such a profound feeling.. you can never truly experience it without falling in love.. you might feel restless about your exam results, about your favorite teams performance in a tournament, or maybe about what you will be holding in your hands after ripping open your Christmas presents.. but you aren’t experiencing restlessness per se.. because none of the outcomes are in your hands (the exam results might be, but I choose to think otherwise).

In this case.. everything depends upon how you behave, how you dress in front of her, how you talk to her, how you treat her friends and her dog, how many questions you answer in class, and God knows what else.. you keep fine-tuning all these little things, so that, the one instance she looks at you during class, you aren’t found with your index finger inside your nostrils, poking away with perplexed fascination..

After half an hour of resting my back on my bed, I would give up, and go out for a walk or a jog, and I tell you, the air felt so different at that time of the day.. the Sun used to come out by the time I was on top of the partially constructed parking garage located right across the street from her house.. I used to sit in the same corner everyday, that strategic spot which offered maximum visibility and minimum exposure. When the Sun came out, I would start my day by peeking through the window into her sunlit room. She would get up, stretch a little, cuddle her dog, and after about 15 minutes, she came out to jog. After she would go beyond the horizon of my sight, I went along my own separate way, back to home.

I was always in a dilemma that whether or not I should join her on her jog. Wouldn’t that be a fantastic way of getting closer to her? Imagine commencing your day by meeting a person every morning.. how romantic a thought! It’s probably the precursor of being married.. The very thought just thrilled me.. but what kept me from doing so.. was this one question she might ask, that why do I come to jog in her neighborhood when I live like 4 miles away. Till now I had no good answer for that and I had determined that unless I come up with a good answer for it, I am not revealing myself.

So I would jog back home, imagining all the while that I am jogging along with her, and kept saying things that I would have said to her, if she were alongside me. But she was there, maybe not in person, so what? She was with me..

I smiled a lot those days, I sang a lot, and the sun seemed so much brighter then. The road on which I used to jog back was lined with trees on both sides.. I shouldn’t call them trees as they were more like stick figures rather than dense masses of foliage, but yet they seemed beautiful in their own scantiness.. they reminded me of myself.. inadequate creatures desperately trying to grow taller and taller, so that one day they could touch the Sun.. even though they knew they never could, they never stopped trying (as a kid I thought the trees were in love with the Sun.. what else can explain this amazing phenomena of something going against the mighty force of gravity and standing there high and tall for hundreds of years?).

The trees gave me motivation and every time I felt things are hopeless, I would turn to them for inspiration.

So after a lot of time had passed and I had fell in and out of love with her a considerable number of times, I finally decided to express myself to her. To bare it all. When she came out to jog that morning, I joined her and she recognized me. She asked me how I was in the neighborhood even though I lived on the other side of town. I said I was visiting my grandparents who lived nearby. We kept jogging, I started talking and I noticed something very odd.. for someone who goes out jogging every day, she had pretty bad stamina.. she started huffing and puffing in under half a mile and I found that pretty weird. She said she wanted to stop. We sat down on a thin patch of grass and she was noticeably out of breath. I asked her if she’d started jogging just recently, and she said that she goes out to jog every morning.

To which I asked if she has any medical problems and she instantaneously spat back “It’s not a problem OK?”

She looked at me and noticed that I was visibly startled and she said (in a much repressed tone) “or at least I don’t think it is..”

“What’s wrong?” I asked

“Can I trust you with something? Please say yes..”

“Ya sure.. with absolutely anything.. I cross my heart and I..”

“Its… this very weird feeling that I get.. every morning.. ”

.. and then she continued.. and it was the most heart-breaking thing I’ve ever heard in my life.. She said she had feelings for this girl who lived on the other side of their house.. and every morning she woke up and saw her sleeping, she would feel this strange attraction towards her.. and she would run away from her house and come to this deserted place where she would sit and cry and try to convince herself not to think about her..

I stopped paying attention to what she was saying after about 5 minutes.. The only thing going around in my head then, was the amazing irony that the very day I’d decided to reveal myself to her, she revealed herself to me..

I gave her every inch of superficial concern and apathy I had and consoled her, saying it is very hard to deal with these feelings etc. I never talked to her after that day. I also became an atheist.

Quite amazingly, after many, many years, I met her a few days ago on a running track near my house. We talked briefly and then went along our own ways. I noticed she has much better stamina now. Now I know, God exists and he has a wicked sense of humor. That girl she had feelings for, is now my wife.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We made Contact

“The sky crumbled.. the stars shattered under their own weight.. the screeching noises burned like an inferno and blood boiled off the streets.. the ground was obliterated and the oceans turned to dust.. We made contact.. we finally made contact.. why did we do this to ourselves..”

That’s the only thing I could make out from that weeping woman’s voice in that tape. ‘We made contact’.. what kind of contact was she talking about? Whom did they contact that caused such mayhem?

There was something deeply intriguing and piteous about the way that woman was speaking.. what diabolical distention transpired inside this unknown planet that led to the creation of this tape? I had to find out.. I absolutely had to..

After a little tinkering, I found that this tape had some more information recorded in it. I guess it came from a voice recording device which she had used for her vocation. I put it into the translator and transcribed the entire thing. This is what came out of it.


“If a butterfly flaps its wings in the southern hemisphere, then two years later it can cause a hurricane in the northern hemisphere”

This is how he began his address to us, talking about the vagaries of chaos theory, and with that, trying to mesmerize an audience dominated by 20-year olds, some of whom would consequently start their thesis under him.

He had a certain charm to him, quite possibly that of a troubled genius, but there was something more too.. One could see how those numerous lines on his creased forehead deepened as he spoke. His voice not only had gravity, but also emotion, emotion that indicated that he cared about the words he spoke, and maybe, sometimes too much for his own good.

He was definitely not a person who was supposed to be found at such a downbeat university. He clearly deserved a spot amongst the elite academicians of the Ivy Leagues. His remarks were incisive and his tone had this alluring accent, that would make one beg to hear more of his speech. But only if he spoke more. That was the thing about him, he was a reluctant speaker. On the rare instances that he would speak, no one else could. His voice would overpower the entire ambience of the room and if you closed your eyes then, you would almost presume that there was a divine presence in that room.

I wasn’t a physics or math major. I wasn’t even in the same college. A friend of mine had told me about this mystical professor of hers, whom she said I would have loved to listen to. She wasn’t too far off.. I actually enjoyed every word he said and just like every other journalism major, who has that itch on stumbling upon something interesting, I too wanted to find out more about him…

Later that night, I knocked on his office door. He responded with a firm “Hmm?”.

“May I come in, Sir?”


“I was present in your lecture today and even though I’m from a non-science background, I felt an incredible interest in the theories you proposed..”


“Errr.. You might be wondering what I am doing here in your office at this odd hour and most probably I’m wasting your precious time. So without beating around the bush any further, let me get to the point.. I want to interview you, and I believe that this interview will be interesting enough to satisfy my degree requirements. ”

“So was that comment on my lecture just contrived coyness to create a context for this offer, or was it an earnest remark?”

“Uhh.. it was most certainly an earnest remark.. I mean you were wonderful and I can show that to the whole world how..”

“Your powers of articulation disappoint me.. I would rather die in oblivion than to be packaged and presented in a glorious spotlight which I’m undeserving of.”

“Oh no no.. you misunderstood.. I mean it wasn’t your fault.. and it’s just like.. I think we got off on the wrong foot..”

“I appreciate imagination and absolutely loathe, trite hackneyed clichés.. You have 12 words at your disposal. If by virtue of them you can convince me then I would certainly consider your offer, otherwise I would need to escort you to the nearest exit.”

“Hmmph… In all my life, I have never met a guy like you”

“It’s extremely generous of you to refer to this old bag of bones as a ‘Guy’.. haven’t heard that in a while..”

“Only coz its true.. not all journalists who..”

“When would you like to commence?”

“Anytime that you wish to!”

“I play Billiards every Friday night. You can join me there.”

“But.. err.. I don’t play.. I mean I don’t know how to play!”

“Don’t you worry about that. The only game I play, is the A-Game..”


We started with the game and true to his word, he cleared the table in his first round. I was amazed at how well he anticipated the game and how he almost knew beforehand where the balls are going to be positioned after their motion ceased. He was electric. After he was done with it, I got him a drink and said:

“You are a special person.. I guess you know that.. so why are you wasting your time here? You should be in some top scientific congress or the Presidents committee or something. Why are you squandering your talent here?”

“You want to know why I teach here? Why I work in a small office when I should be delivering lectures at science congresses? Why I care about so deeply, and work so meticulously, on something as obscure as the implications and consequences of the flapping of a butterfly's wings?

It’s because I had once endeavored to save the world.. and not like your average teenager who has a fetish for it.. I dedicated my entire life to it and had almost achieved it.. if only for....”

“Wait.. Save the world? Save it from whom? Butterflies?

“Even worse.. Save it from itself..”

“That doesn’t make much sense. Why exactly did you want to save the world?”

Because I was angry.. and outraged...

Why were You so angry?

Because I believed that our society is Hobbesian. I essentially saw people as bad creatures.. They have no faith in the power of humanity. They have all been failed by other people many times in many different aspects of their lives and take it out on others. For most people this rule of paying it forward is good enough to keep their life in balance. But not for me. Hence I wanted to revamp the way this world runs.

How did you try to do that?

I duplicated the human thought process.

Do you mean artificial intelligence?

You may term that as that, but it’s not actually that. You see the human thought process is highly random. There is so much randomness in our behavior and how we respond to different stimuli.. that stock markets or weather systems look like a joke compared to it. Essentially, modeling the human thought process is just a highly non-linear and extraordinarily convoluted problem of chaos theory. For centuries now, Psychologists and sociologists have been trying to figure it out but to no notable success. I knew there was something wrong in their approach and I had to fix that.

And what was wrong in their approach?

Vision. A Korean proverb says that if the human body is sold for 100 bucks, 80 bucks is just the price of vision...

They all lacked vision.

Vision meaning, hindsight, foresight and also most importantly, the bird’s eyes view. Basically, you can never model the vagaries of a dynamic system while you are a part of it. You have to get out of it, look at it from a higher standpoint, understand the intricacies and flaws and then get back into it. All this time, all these philosophers tried to predict human behavior from the data they gathered, but the data was always insufficient and incongruous, coz the boundary conditions and the initial conditions weren’t known. Now to model the behavior of a chaotic system, the knowledge of the initial and boundary conditions is required to a very high magnitude of precision. If you model it without them, then your results would be as chaotic as the system you are modeling. Often this was the reason that most great thinkers took their own lives. Their thoughts formed a deadlock. They couldn’t think anymore. And a person who can’t think anymore is already dead. The body is still warm and moist, but that is of no use to anyone. Hence they accepted the fact that they failed and bailed out. I knew this beforehand and hence took a different route…

I discovered, human intelligence is the cause of all problems in this world.. and hence I had to factor out the human intelligence variable from my model. The reason being, unlike every other things nature created, this one creation, was imperfect. So I set my initial conditions to be the point in time when human intelligence was zero.. by zero, I mean human behavior was a purely end-to-end, knee-jerk reaction type mechanism. Now, as far as the boundary conditions were concerned, I had to limit the expanses to which the human mind could foray into. Because many a times, what gave people the illusion of intelligence, was the fact that they could predict things in a manner others couldn’t. What this actually was, was a trite coincidence we prefer to refer as 'luck'. I know everyone can’t be lucky all the time, but then that’s exactly what probability says, a few people would be lucky in majority of the cases, like winning a lottery, only this time the grand prize was the aberration of intelligence. And these few people started thinking they are more intelligent than others. Hence their deviance in thoughts increased and as they passed on their ideas to others, they initiated a kind of chain reaction. And as you might now, a gamma decay is the most random process in this universe. The most. Mind that. Even I with my supreme intelligence can’t model it and even a million of my clones working together for all eternity, couldn’t. So you can see where the chaos in human thought arises from. Hence, the trick here was to create a controlled chain reaction, ideally a linear one, but a process with non-linearity of a couple of degrees would also work fine. So I created a system with these controlling conditions put in place, created a grid pattern with a band of colors that corresponded to the degree of intelligence in a thought, Blue being the most unintelligible one and red being the complete opposite. When different thoughts mixed, they produced a new color, and those colors upon further interaction created a new one. Now the thing was that these thought patterns were so designed, that they should be attracted to bluer shades and repulsed from the red ones..

But wouldn’t that eventually create a system of low or maybe no intelligence?

Yes I’m coming to that.. that’s the trick, that the reaction has to be sustained, and neither should it attain a state of exponential decay, nor exceeding critical mass, to blow up the entire system. I used a clever little trick for that. Morality. Humans are notorious for immoral behavior. Probably the only species that indulges in it..

You know why?

The other species do not even have a concept of morality. For them killing another creature is a form of survival instinct. They don’t kill someone for pleasure or because they think of it as a 'game'. Now morality is the second most important contributor to 'thought chaos' after intelligence. How morally or immorally a person would behave in a situation, is so hard to determine that I couldn’t dare to predict that. But one thing I can always predict, which is when given a choice to do something moral or immoral, there is always a little voice that urges you towards the immoral before you can even consider the consequences of the moral option. Modeling that perfectly was essential for me, as that turned out to be the stabilizing agent. Interactions with red areas was deemed 'immoral' and those with blue ones 'moral'.

And after some simple psychoanalysis, I could determine the coefficient of morality, as to how many instances of moral behavior can be expected and upto what degree. The distributions, if chosen correctly, fitted together beautifully, and a perfect state of morality was attained. Some thought elements would always interact with blue ones.. Most with 'kinda' blue ones.. Some with blue-ish ones.. some with cyan, some with purple, and a fraction, with ruddy, cardinal, Red. It took some calibration, but eventually it turned out to be so elegant a model, that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was I a genius or was this creation the outcome of the great chaotic thought system we are all a part of? I didn’t know, but I knew one thing was for sure, a chaotic system has enough entropy for it to last till infinity. If a sub-process could negate the chaos, or in other words, add stability to it, the super-chaos-processes would try to subdue it. Maybe even annihilate it. But that didn’t happen in this case. This was clearly a way out of the chaos. The society I created was perfect. And I mean I go loony just thinking about it.. Even if the sub-parameters hadn’t been quantified, I would have still pursued it to my deathbed.. It’s so easy to get obsessed by your creation and the will to make it perfect can overpower your greatest ambitions. Hence I stopped perfecting it further, and once I had reasonable belief in the system’s stability, I moved onto my next task.. Implementation. This was so much easier said than done… What I needed for this task was a colony of people, whose memories I would erase, then set them off in a place secluded from modern civilization, feed their thought process through my developed model, and see how they actually behave. The risk here was, my resources were very limited.. if the system got unstable and my subjects started killing each other, or on the other hand, became so brain-dead that they couldn’t properly perform the most basic bodily functions, then I would be doomed and wouldn’t be allowed to perform another test, on grounds of a public massacre..

Where did you get you ‘subjects’ from?

I got the test subjects from military camps, underground agencies, third world countries and etc. etc. I set the entire thing up and there was a certain government body that supported me in my endeavors. The first day of the experiment began smoothly, and then disaster struck.

What happened?

The weather went bad. I had to do these experiments on a certain location which was an island. Now islands have pretty bad weather. So my subjects started falling ill because of it, and coz in the initial stages they lacked the intelligence of how to protect themselves, we had to go in and construct temporary shelters and camps for them. Now obviously, we the top authorities wouldn’t do this, so we called in staff from other parts of the globe, made sure not a single one of them knew the language of the other and constructed the entire camp up. Now the dilemma was what we do with these people who had a fair idea what was going on here. Well, since we already had the numbers, we thought why not get more data by creating more subjects.. So that’s what we did.. Erased those guys up and started fresh again. Only this time we faced another problem. The newer subjects, were as unintelligent as the older ones, but they had a bonus with them.. They had ability.. they were trained to do certain kind of work which didn’t require intelligence, but just a lot of training.. You know like how people who are not naturally ambidextrous can still play the Piano.. and how workers, with no knowledge of architecture or the greater design, still created the Great pyramids? Similarly, it was ability, something your intelligence has no part in determining, that screwed us up for the second time. One thing led to another and by the time we could stop the subjects, a lot of them had been killed by the 'able' ones.. Who could take a stick and wield it like an axe to knock down someone without any knowledge of the physics behind it.. Anyways that’s not the point. The point is, that the experiment kept getting messier and messier, more and more gruesome, we kept going over budget and behind schedule, and I could see two forces at play here.. one was that of the involved bureaucracy.. a section of whom were worried about the consequences of this experiment being discovered and the 'moral' implications they would have to face and the effect it would consequently have on their political status. As much as this force was tangible, I was as equally unaffected by its outcomes, because I was more interested in the dynamics of the second force at work. You might have guessed it.. "Universal Chaos"

This chaos was really smart.. it knew that it couldn’t stop me in my tracks analytically, as my model was perfect and the sustenance was spot on.. And Chaos could in no ways, without bending its self-imposed laws, violate the premises of my model. So it took the other way round.. it had so many other chaotic systems at its disposal, that it kept using them one by one to keep offsetting my models from its desired path.. Because it knew.. that even my model was essentially a chaotic one.. and any little change in its initial conditions, would cause a huge change in the final outcome.. Just like if I strike this ball at a point that is just a cats-whisker away from this one, my eventual board setting and even the outcome of the game would be entirely different..

So you mean to say that the Chaos theory is a 'it'? And that 'it' consciously messed up your diabolical experiments?

I wouldn’t have believed it if someone else told me about it and sometimes I find it hard to understand how could something so imprecise have such well crafted processes.. I started believing in terms like "meant to be" and "destined" et al. but still a part of me refuses to believe what happened and what is happening..

What is it that’s happening?

Well.. We never stopped the experiment.. In that little island.. those subjects are still present and living (I hope) a random kind of life.. who knows what kind of intelligence they might have developed or if they still dwell as cavemen.. I have no way of monitoring their daily processes..

Wait.. I don’t get it.. What exactly happened at the end?

Well the project got trashed.. all contacts from that island were cleaved, all deployed personnel revoked, funding removed, and I was most disgracefully rebuked.. All my grants were cancelled and I had to step down from my esteemed, tenured, state professorship.. The subjects were supposed to be brought back, but I convinced them that it would be a bad idea and somehow coaxed them into letting the experiment run.. and that no one would know about it.

Hmm.. that’s really sad.. but as much as I have known you till now.. I know you are not the kind who would accept such a harsh decision so easily.. There must be something that you would have done to turn things in your favor.. A man as calculative as you can’t leave things uncertain..

Hehe.. You’re right.. I was wrong to have underestimated your powers of analysis in the outset.. Yes I did figure out a way to stay in touch with them, albeit I don’t know how well it fared out.. but I know it eventually will..

What exactly did you do?

You know how I told you my subjects were moral creatures and a majority of them would behave morally so that their intelligence can be controlled? Well.. while leaving that place, I pulled the plug on morality and made them completely immoral.. so that their intelligence would increase to unexpected bounds.. And I’m pretty sure, that once they discover by virtue of their limitless intelligence, that they are not alone in this planet, they would try to make contact.. and I would come to know about them. The price I had to pay for it was that the results would be entirely unpredictable.. but you know.. there’s a certain joy in seeing an experiment go wrong when it was actually intended to go wrong.. Gives you a sense of control.. albeit a false one.. but at least you know you didn’t entirely screw up and that, maybe if things would have turned out better initially, who knows, you might have ended up changing the world! If they don’t make contact, then that would mean my predictions were wrong.

So.. doesn’t it worry you sometimes.. What might have transpired there? I mean even someone from a non-statistical background can say that this 'system' can have infinite possibilities..

Yes.. You are right.. It does both- bother me, and have infinite outcomes.. And I had worked on modeling this problem for quite some while.. I came up with a bunch of distributions that nearly estimated the approximate behavior.. and what I found was that in all cases.. the subjects would turn out to be more intelligent for their own good.. and I deduced, after a point, all of them would be supremely intelligent, and the great irony lies in the fact, that if everyone is a genius.. Then no one is.. And they being immoral creatures, would only choose one path.. that of self-annihilation.. So I don’t really expect them to be still alive.. But if they are.. then that would mean I screwed up and that I was wrong all along and the only option left for me then.. Would be suicide.. it’s too much of a burden to live with you know.. too much of a trauma when something you believed in your entire life, even when the whole world kept saying otherwise, turns out to be wrong.. The anguish is just unbearable.. I would most certainly..

Hey.. Shut up you.. Why is it that all you geniuses are so self-obsessed? There are other things to live for in life.. and it’s not just you guys who are subjected to unbearable stresses of expectation.. We all are.. it’s just the same for us too.. We bleed too when you gash us.. it’s just that you guys are so caught up in your abstract epiphanies that reality becomes a joke for you.. You keep predicting stuff right? Then tell me.. What are the chances that a 20-something journalist can fall in love with a 50 something escapist, esoteric and eccentric professor? Slim right? Yet this great anomaly has occurred and you can’t do a thing about it.. if you can’t live for yourself.. Live for me.. I am here to share your burden.. Even alleviate it.. and who knows.. Your past knowledge may somehow interact with some other co-incident inspiration and you can regain your seemingly lost prestige.. And you know how you said that nothing in life is certain.. I beg to differ.. I can say this with utmost confidence, that you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.. Give love a shot dear.. Trust me.. it’s worth it..


This was the last tape we recovered.. The entire planet was wiped out minutes after this conversation took place.. And as strange as it seemed in the beginning, this confirms the fact, that the attack was initiated, from a little speck of an island, inside this very planet… “Humans”.. what a queer race they were.. too good for their own good.. waging wars on each other suspecting them to be foes, while never realizing the fact.. that their greatest enemy.. was within them…