Sunday, May 13, 2007 0 reflections

The truth about Aliens

The truth about Aliens
© 2007 / a short fiction by ShaKri

THIS DAY WAS NO DIFFERENT from the ones before. At exactly 18:33 Earth time he sat down to eat in his transparent forty-feet square. The feminine being who was the supervisor for his floor walked in as usual and took her seat outside the brightly lit box. One of her jobs was to ensure he ate his food properly without any leftovers.

‘You know,’ he said biting into a juicy piece of spiced chicken, ‘I have done this for a while now. I know how it works. You don’t have to be here. It makes me nervous.’

She smiled back as she had always done at his attempts at being funny.

‘You sit there and watch me eat,’ he continued with focus on the transparent tray in front of him while sniffing loudly under the effect of the spice, ‘and I begin my rain of questions. You respond when you feel like and in a few minutes it is all over.’

She slowly nodded in approval.

He chuckled as he quickly wiped his nose and looked at her. ‘The irony of this whole thing though is that you listen to me closely each time despite being able to read my thoughts even before I have had them! I have to appreciate that.’

She broke into a short lived giggle as she continued listening to his ramble.

‘Well…’ he said burping a little ‘back where I come from…it is customary to talk during a meal. Supposed to be a therapeutic thing. Helps in the digestion or something. Doesn’t it?’

‘I suppose,’ she responded with a deep set sight and a perfected tone.

‘Whoa!’ he screamed as he slapped his left hand against his right wrist.

‘How about that!’ he continued looking at her smiling eyes ‘…the big boss decides to speak without tedious coaxing. Sitting there humoring the ‘little one’. That can only mean one thing. Is it the fifteenth already?’

‘Yep. You know how it is, little one.’

‘Hmm…’ he slowly said as the coleslaw entered his system.

‘Well,’ she continued breathing deeply, ‘you are the eighth one we have brought here for our case study. And by the protocol we have here, we don’t keep your kind if it does not want to be here. We explain to it where we are and what we do, but then it is up to the specimen to decide to stay or leave. We believe in democracy too.’

‘Oh yeah,’ he said winking back a little, ‘quite the contrary of what we feel about you guys, eh!’

‘Yes. Besides everything else your kind seems to think of about life outside your little watery marble.’

‘Hey now!’ he retorted amusingly, ‘don’t call my beloved home a marble. It is a place filled with something unique and something….’

‘Yeah yeah,’ she interrupted faking a yawn, ‘…love? Is that your only cliché argument for calling yourselves unique? We have that here too. That is why you have enjoyed it so far.’

‘Uh…’ he responded with uncertainty ‘…sure…we can go with love.’

‘We can read your thoughts, little one. I know you were referring to the reproducing fest your species calls S-E-X.’

He roared another guffaw as he slapped his thigh in glee.

‘Man…I love this place. You see why I don’t want to leave it? What conceivable reason would a human have to leave a place where one does not have to hide anything? Where every pleasure of life is given and there is no pain or grief! Where freedom of speech actually means freedom from speech! This is paradise. For me anyway’ he said with a euphoric tone in his voice.

‘Yes…’ she observed ‘…I realized that when you took off your clothes on being told where you were and never put them back on.’

‘Hey,’ he sat back as the food tray was retrieved ‘you can’t kill a guy for making a smart choice, now can you?’

‘Yeah,’ she said getting up and coming closer to his box ‘…about that…I have been told to give you some new information.’

‘Of course. What is it today? That you guys have a fifth gender?’ he asked wiping his mouth with a crisp napkin.

‘No. Nothing about us this time. It is about your…how did you call it … ‘smart’ choices’.

‘What about it?’ he probed as he picked his teeth with a well carved toothpick.

‘I am afraid we have not been completely honest with you, little one.’

His cheerful shades of bliss descended a little. ‘Go on…’ he said getting up and walking towards the speaking shadow.

‘You see,’ she continued with the same confident pitch ‘you folks – humans – have been sending us signals for almost…oh…a century now. In fact more than that. I remember the first reports of satellite waves originating from your land interfered with our communication radar over a hundred and fifty Earth years ago. It was a day of absolute celebration, little one. Our question for thousands of centuries of whether or not there was someone else co-existing with us, was finally answered. We planned to respond since you were the first sphere to contact us. We even prepared a few messenger fleets to travel and visit your land as cultural ambassadors. Rigorous research was done in order to find out more about your people and to establish a common code of communication. We realized it was the idiom English that you respond to the best. So we even had an elaborate plan to make this the most memorable experience of our existence. An actual interaction with an intelligent species from another part of the galaxy…’

She paused for him to absorb this information.

‘OK…’ he shrugged indicating her to go on ‘…so what happened?’

‘I remember it like it was yesterday. One of our assistants - who was also scheduled to be on the visiting team - came with the news.’

‘News? What news?’ asked the ‘little one’ with a big question on his face.

‘We found out some things about you that suddenly made us reconsider our decision. We found out you believe in war. That was the biggest one. We did not understand how an intelligent and superior seeming race could possibly believe in subjugation and tyrannical occupation of their co-existing or weaker kind. We realized there had been innumerable disputes over the years that had resulted in only one thing – sorrow. The emotion of avarice and power-hunger was so rampant in your place that it quite frankly shocked us. Your self-absorbed, judgmental, racist, pretentious, shallow, war mongering juggernaut of a species lost all its appeal. We saw footage of you people brutally killing those who had something true to say. You hate those who preach to you yet you people are always the first ones to opine about everything. And why not? You know it all, don’t you? You are hypocritical and contradictory without even realizing it.

‘The infinite seeming thirst for your finite natural resources seemed to ascend at an alarming rate. Your intolerance to others of your kind who believe in a different faith grows twice as much with each speech someone gives about peace and harmony. Sure…this emotion of yours seems to slowly improve with each generation but just the fact that you people allowed its existence seemed irrational to us. You people call your second gender – woman – the fairer kind just so that you can be unfair to her at every given opportunity. You take one step forward but three steps backward with every new innovation that makes an appearance.’

He continued to listen with his mouth shut and eyes wide open.

‘Should I go on?’ she asked to ensure all this explanation was worth it.

‘Uh…yeah …what else?’

‘Alright. Illiteracy, poverty, pollution, slavery, rights abuse and corruption. Despite having existed for so many centuries your kind could not get a firm control on any of these. With each passing Earth year, you people publish your greatest achievements all over the place while hiding the most heinous atrocities you have levied upon each other. Man-made prisons overflow with beings awaiting justice by another man. Your idea of equality is to make the rich richer and keep the poor scrubbing your filth. Your writers, your reporters, your media…everyone is used as a formality with varying degrees of what you call success. Tell me, little one, what kind of a success can be complete if the same mistake is committed over and over again? Your governing bodies decide who belongs where and that hierarchy keeps some happy while others weep blood. You do not trust anyone. Not even yourselves. Is it not?’

He let out a deep sigh. He had no real answer but he had to say something.

‘Listen…we know we are not perfect. We have our share of flaws and shortcomings. We are defective and different. But that is what makes us unique! That is what is special about us! Do you fail to realize how amazingly diverse we are? The literature, the arts, the music, the personalities, the sciences, the economics….oh my good Lord! What a vibrant society we are!’

‘You see,’ she smiled back disapprovingly. ‘You have just given me a reason for why we never bothered to respond back. None of what you have heard so far has anything to do with a human’s inborn personality. Everything you heard so far was learnt, applied, taught and then abused. What is so diverse about this? How is a corrupt Asian different from a corrupt European? What differentiates a malnourished infant in Africa to another in Latin America? They both will die similar deaths soon while calling for their mother in separate tongues. Is this your idea of being different? Listen closely, little one, making boundaries and speaking a different language is not what we call diversity. Co-existing with tolerance and respect despite this difference is what really matters to us. But you already know that. Yet the root of your people’s troubles seems to stem out of ignoring this. You could not care less about things that do not affect you personally. The day it does you are up in arms against the very system that you proclaimed was your protector.’

‘But…’ he suddenly interrupted ‘…that’s just it! We need someone like you – a higher and much advanced kind to come and help us with this inconsistent redundancy we have with mistakes! We want to learn how you people co-exist in such harmony despite having four genders and a million communication modes! We need that knowledge that will help us progress and develop into a much evolved…and safer place like yours! Utopia!’

She laughed out loud. A clear and piercing hiss that puzzled the naked specimen in front of her.

‘My friend was right’ she continued ‘…humans are hilarious. Let me tell you what will happen if we do come over. Chances of that happening now are so remote that you might actually be the last one of your kind we will bother observing for a very long time. Yet, listen to it.

‘Some facts we had not realized when we first began our findings about your place. The first section of your kind to become financially cozier is your media. Television, Internet and the rest of them. They will make it the biggest story in your land’s entire history. They will add all sorts of incorrect and alarming inaccuracies about us, our lifestyle, our beliefs and even our way of reproduction. Our impressions will be on every T shirt and shopping bag on Earth. You will make us meet all the important men and women of your land. Interviews, photo shoots, music videos and hell, even one of your entertainment movie streams will have us parading ourselves. Of course, being humans, you will want to know what we expect in return. Needless to say since your monetary value has no significance here we will have to think of something that suits us best. Right now, little one, we have no idea about that.

‘The ones who do believe we exist will have a field day with this news and paint every wall with that stereotypical ‘Question answered! We are not alone!’ slogan. How much more predictable can you folks get! Of course, the flip side also exists. How can those who can’t stand their own kind tolerate us! They will file lawsuits demanding our immediate expelling and possible execution. Threats to bring down any governing state that supports our arrival will be made as citizens of the land hold firearms at their heads outside secretariats and parliaments. The chaos that this will evoke will only lead to more mass hysteria as the common man suffers. More pain to the common man. No. We cannot allow us to be the reason for that, little one.

‘They will take out a million-man march and protest against our landing while crippling every working unit in that place. The consequences of this event will be so catastrophic; you have no idea. An entire planet will come to a standstill because a few guests from another land came by to say hello. You will make us sign deals that mean nothing to us and try your best to steal everything we are capable of. With time, power hotshots will make us brand ambassadors for a beverage or an under garment and will make millions at our expense. They will sell the same bathing soaps with another texture and color while proclaiming we keep our skins young forever using the same formula. Artists will write songs on us and shoot music videos of them serenading in front of our look-alikes. Since you guys find salvation to your petty lives with self-gratification you will give each other meaningless awards and proclaim you are the kings of the universe. Your roads will be named after us and maybe an entire entertainment center will be designed just for us. A man whose millions could not help survive a dying village will ensure our names are made history for all of mankind’s future. Should I continue?’

The ‘little one’ was no longer enthused about the conversation. He sat back and looked into the nothingness that surrounded him as he reflected on the words coming out of the feminine voice.

‘Huh,’ he responded after a brief pause. ‘So you have ignored us all along,’ he finally said after a few Earth minutes of inexplicable silence.

‘That is correct. We might have still visited you after all had you not made us look like monsters and flesh-eating demons in your entertainment streams. The villain. The one to despise. That just hurt our feelings, little one. What was even sadder that you people were so clueless that what you were really showcasing as fiction … was an image of yourselves. Violent, self serving and intolerant. So we dropped the idea altogether. You have to admit, we saved you a lot of grief. And definitely ourselves too.’

‘Well…’ he said walking back to his seat ‘…looks like you have given up all hope on us. Sort of ironic for a much advanced and wise kind like yours, don’t you think?’

‘Ironic? You think we should come there and tell you what to do and how to be? Even we realize that you people are not that dense. Another preacher with a message is the last thing you want. You already know what you have to do yet you don’t for reasons of your own. The day all your reasons become one, little one, we would love to stop by. Not visiting you has brought us displeasure too. Especially since we were so excited about it ourselves.’

‘Hmm….hey…what about those videos of UFOs and crop circles and what not? Were they all a fake?’

She smiled. She knew this was a long awaited question from the little mortal.

‘Most of those videos are figments of your imagination, little one. And the ones that are real are ships that lost their way while traveling. They were there by mistake. And the crop circles…well…it’s a message we left for you in all our idioms. A shame indeed that you have not yet deciphered it despite your knowledge.’

‘Message? What does it say?’ he asked once again with sincere curiosity.

‘Those symbols mean – Do Not Bother. The day you people crack that code we will consider a step taken in the right direction.’

‘I see,’ he said looking away with a faint grin. ‘Fine. When can I go home?’ he asked for the first time since his arrival.

‘What a surprise!’ she exclaimed without hiding her glee. ‘The little one wants to go home! Whatever happened to smart choices?’

‘You don’t think it’s a smart choice for me to get back and tell my people about all this? Don’t they deserve to know? You wont help them, fine. Why can’t I try?’

She shook her head in amusing disbelief.

‘Amazing!’ she said getting up to leave, ‘I guess what they really study here is your ego. It never ceases to grow, does it? Fine! From your mouth to their ears. If you can get them to believe you, then you can definitely make a difference. But then Earth is the last place we will look for traces of hope, belief and trust. We have found vegetations with more abundance of those things.’

He looked back morosely with just one more obvious question left.

‘How did you choose me? Why me? Out of so many billions…why me?’ he asked in quiet desperation.

‘Oh! Finally! We were surprised you had never asked us that before. We had a mass raffle. We always do before we are assigned Earth missions. Your name was the first one we picked.’

The bright rectangle opened up again for her to leave.

‘We will wait, little one,’ she said as she began her exit. ‘We will patiently wait for the day your place becomes a true metaphor for life – the word you seem to be proud of being the sole owners of. We will wait.’

She left the area as silently as she had entered. She left the ‘little one’ to his thoughts as he sat there.

Naked. Alone. Alien.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 1 reflections

Close encounters of the child kind

© 2007 / Slice of Life by ShaKri

BEFORE ANYONE WOULD ROLL THEIR eyes at his remarks, Sagar knew it was coming. The hidden, sometimes obvious, smirk of ‘we know better than you’ that young couples with diaper coloring infants gave him was now getting old. Being one of the very few single men he knew, he had to spend a good part of his socializing with these married and ‘Oh so wise’ people. Just by being themselves, they were sending a message that would annoy the hell out of Sagar. The way they spoke of their experiences, their humor that was nowhere near funny but forced Sagar to giggle at them like it was the funniest thing he had ever heard et al. O! Reader, it was a drag. Patronizing wives and half-hearted conversations later, Sagar would come home and fall on his understanding bed and talk to it to ensure he was still sane. That he was right in the way he felt.

But let us first see Sagar’s side of things before we too join the vast population of ‘eye rollers’ he is so familiar with. The only feminine presence and influence in his life was his mother. A doting father and a chummy brother were the only close associates he had had to grow up with. Being the nomadic kind, his family had seen all of the country’s major hot spots. Also the fact that Sagar’s only sibling was just about a year younger did not help the much talked about rivalry factor. There wasn’t one. His years of exploration had never seen his friends circle grow too well since his head was always in the arts. He painted, sang, would sketch some fascinating caricatures of everyone around him, spun tales in ink and dabbled with poetry. He was a true Piscean. Living in his own world of goblins and superheroes, Sagar’s skills came to him as naturally as eating.

He spoke when spoken to and did what was asked of him. At home when a dozen relatives came with their cacophony and gossip, Sagar would sit in a corner chatting with his cousins and explaining to them his latest cartoon character creation – ChocoBoy. Apparently a spin-off of Spiderman except ChocoBoy would shoot out streams of chocolate laced with walnuts and almonds. The wide-eyed cousin clan – needless to say – loved ChocoBoy and his creator. Nothing else mattered. Sagar just did not care about the rest of the world around him.

And this might as well have been a long drawn truth for him had he not been on the West-bound flight at the tender age of twenty-two. No sooner had he kept his colored crayons down to wipe his nose that he found his hands wiping his mouth with a Lufthansa-logo bearing napkin. His transition from a confused teenager to a responsible adult was so quick, that he missed out on several things. Job, career, family responsibilities kicked in so well that Sagar’s world of stories and glories faded into a mirage of the horizon where reality is no longer real. It just appears to be.

The added heat in this already spiced up curry-pot of Sagar’s social life, was these unexpected encounters with children.

He still remembers with an odd frown the first time he had had the ‘pleasure’ of meeting one. He had been invited during his first month abroad to an Indian couples’ family. The one thing Sagar knew was this – couples don’t care about single people. They call them over just to keep things well buffered. Do they really care what the single folks do with their time? No chance. Will they genuinely pay attention to what the singular soul has to share about his day? Doubtfully. So needless to say along with him were two more set of couples were invited. To keep things, as Sagar called it, balanced. In his heart of hearts he knew the truth as much as they did – couples enjoy other couples’ company. Period.

‘What will he cook tonight? Poor chap. Let’s call him and feed him. We might even allow him to talk and pretend to listen! He can walk away feeling he was cared for!’ was how Sagar envisioned their planning process.

Yet there he was, sitting in the well lit, décor-heavy living room on a couch that was softer than the skin on a young woman’s thigh. Ah! A feel that never fades. Feeding himself well roasted samosas and listening to the idle chatter the folks were relentlessly pounding him with, he was happy he was getting something out of all this. Good food.

But then it came. Initially he did not know how to respond. But when the tiny pair of eyes and soft hands came to him for a ‘handshake the uncle’ routine he suddenly knew two things. One, he was now officially an Uncle. Two, he had never shaken hands with an eight year old before. It was like he was suddenly being introduced to someone from a completely different universe. He knew nothing of the protocol he was expected to follow.

Mumbling a simple ‘hello there…child…’ he smiled back at the gawking face and shook an awkwardly angled limp hand. Instead of moving on the face continued looking back at him in mute wonder. ‘Good lord, kid! Move on!’ he screamed from within while decorating a well placed grin on his lips. And it did. After a little coaxing from the watchful parent. ‘Phew!’ sighed Sagar as his pleasant evening had just turned into a bizarre one. His cautious self-respecting demeanor had been thrown into the open pitted against a human being who was about a third of his age and a fourth his height.

‘OK guys…’ crooned the proud mother ‘…now Bela baby will play a tune for us!’

Sagar could not believe this was happening. One more surprise! He suddenly regretted having accepted the invitation. Those samosas weren’t worth this, he said to himself. ‘Mom makes better ones,’ he summarized with a subtle pout.

And so the kid hopped onto the piano and began its recital. A popular, well known, loud and predictable tune from a Bollywood movie. Sigh! If only the kid had enthralled Sagar with a Mozart he would have gone and kissed the kid’s feet with genuine respect. Instead he sat there for four grueling minutes surrounded by air filled with the same ten second tune repeated a dozen times. At times off key and at other times with inexplicable gaps of silences filled by the mother’s comforting ‘Go on sugar. Go on sweetie…’ word waves. He looked around and found the other couples nodding their heads and genuinely appreciating the piece. He was immediately convinced – marriage makes people tone-deaf.

He came home that day at around 2am (o! the dinner was after the recital so they did not begin until 11pm.) and threw himself on the assuring bed once more.

‘Jee-zus Christ! What a night baba…uff…’

‘Really?’ asked the bed reassuringly.

‘Oh! Yes. I thought it would never end. It is official. I hate kids.’

‘Oh come on,’ debated his bed knowing him too well ‘you are going to be a parent one day too. And you will know what to do. Kids are great.’

‘O! Shut up,’ he continued as he flung away his shoes and wriggled out of his tired jeans, ‘…you weren’t there. I am not doing THAT again. Phew. What a night…kill me…just kill me now…’ he murmured as a deep veil of sleep held him in place.

Much to the bed’s notorious glee and to Sagar’s infinite seeming grief…he did it again. Several times. The only major allure being of a gastronomic nature. He sat through dances, songs, more piano recitals and of course, games involving him having to ‘hop’ from one spot to another with a lot of patience. Once he even had to carry a nine year old since the father insisted. Sagar had actually enjoyed it the first seven seconds before his hand started getting heavy and pain engulfed his entire arm. He let the kid down only to find another one looking back at him with its hands up in the air. ‘Me! Me!’

‘I seriously hope that bed was right,’ he said to himself as he threw a punch in the air to get rid of the gnawing sprain ‘or else I am taking it out and burning it with my own hands. I don’t mind sleeping on the floor.’

‘Yeah yeah…hang on…’ he said picking up the next one only to shockingly realize it had soiled its trousers and a strong whiff of massive disorientation entered his fragrance-friendly nostrils.

Sagar now no longer hated just kids. He also wasn’t thrilled about parenting either.