A Special Visitor


This is a nice short story written by Bhopul (Debarnab Chatterjee of Class XI, 2019) on a hypothetical scenario where a special visitor takes his class for a day. 

That day had started like any other day. School had always been a fun experience for us, but we had no inkling of what was to happen that day. It was probably the biggest surprise we were going to get in our lives.

Homo Deus class was about to begin. We took our booklets and sat down, waiting for Ma’am to come and start her discussion. Today’s topic of discussion was about the future of humanity due to the rise of artificial intelligence.

Ma’am came into the class and told, “Today I am not going to take your class. Today somebody else is going to take your class. Somebody more interesting. Who can it be? Guess?”.

Urgi’s hand shot up.

“Who is it, Urgi?” Ma’am asked.

“Sir, right?” Urgi answered.

Mule too raised his hand, albeit a little sheepishly.

“I don’t think it is Sir. Sir very frequently comes and discusses bits and parts of the booklet with us. I think it is somebody from outside. Probably one of Sir’s friends,” Mule said.

“Wait Mule… Sir comes and discusses only bits and parts of the book with us in this class. He doesn’t discuss the whole time. So probably he is going to take our class today for the entire two hours,” Mollie contradicted.

“Okay…No need for so much of speculation! You will get to see who is going to take your class today, very soon,” Ma’am shouted, silencing the whole class.

Just then the door opened and a man walked in with Sir. At first glance I didn’t understand who the man was. But now that his face could be seen, I saw that the man was none other than the author of Homo Deus: Yuval Noah Harari himself.

Harari had always been present in our classroom. The man Harari may not have been there, but his ideas had dominated our classrooms.

My other friends, having understood the magnitude of the situation, gasped in surprise. After all it had been our dream to have an interactive session with Harari, or at the very least meet him.

Harari was wearing a grey blazer, which seemed too big to fit his measurements. He wore matte black shoes. He was wearing spectacles behind which twinkling and radiating intelligence, were two eyes.

Sir introduced us to Harari and told him that we were very big fans of him. On hearing that Sapiens and Homo Deus were a compulsory part of our school’s curriculum, he smiled broadly. He seemed delighted when he heard that some of us have also read “21 lessons for the 21st century.”

“Will you please introduce yourselves to me?” Harari asked. Everyone began introducing themselves by telling their names and the class they study in.

I had the impression that he was going to be an authoritative figure; after all, he was the author of such great books. But he seemed to be just the opposite — it seemed as if he didn’t like so much attention. He seemed satisfied to be here but he seemed awkward at the same time.

Ma’am gave him the booklet. He seemed to be impressed by the format of the booklet. He asked us what we were supposed to discuss. But the whole class seemed to be against the idea of discussing Homo Deus. We were more interested in just talking to him, talking about him.

“Can we not have the discussion today and instead just discuss about different stuff?” Urgi asked Ma’am.

“That’s not a very bad idea,” I said, voicing my support for Urgi.

“He’s here for a day. So shouldn’t you discuss his book with him rather than just talking?” Sir said.

“His book already explains his ideas beautifully. So shouldn’t we just use this opportunity to get to know him better?” Aritra said.

Sir seemed to accept this proposal, albeit with a bit of reluctance.

Immediately after Sir and Ma’am had taken their seats and Harari had taken the microphone in his hands, there was a show of hands. I could see that Mule was raising his hand with an impish grin on his face. He was the first one to ask — “We read in an interview that you don’t kill mosquitoes, but just catch them and send them out. Why do you do this?”

“I’m against the killing of animals in general, mosquitoes included.” Harari replied to Mule’s question.

“Why did you write Sapiens in the first place?” Arnab asked.

“Well, as many of you may be knowing, I teach at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am a professor of history there. So, in one of my classes I had wanted to teach them about the history of humanity. As a reading material for the class, I had written some notes for the students. Later on these notes were compiled and published as the book ‘Sapiens’, that you read today.” Harari replied.

“You seem to be against the usage of smartphones and internet. But, do you yourself use smartphones?” Penta asked.

“I’m not really against the use of smartphones. They are the most revolutionary invention of this century — so far — and the internet has immense potential for doing good to society. However, all technology really does is to provide leverage. It will do good or bad depending on what we want it to do. Since it is in the interest of the most powerful people of this age to use technology to exploit, that is what it does. I’m not against the internet; it is merely a tool. But to answer your question, no, I don’t use a smartphone,” Harari replied.

Everyone was quiet for some time after Harari’s reply, trying to absorb and understand what he just said. I broke the silence by raising my hand, and asking, “How do you manage to undergo the two-months long rigorous Vipassanā meditation?” Urgi whispered to me, “Good question. We can’t survive without talking for two hours in the computer lab. How can he survive for two months?”

“I come to Mumbai to do Vipassanā meditation for two months every year. I find meditation to be particularly soothing. It helps me track my thoughts and helps me to understand myself and the world better. Once you start following your thought, meditation will seem easy,” Harari replied before seating down.

Now Sir came forward and told that Harari had to leave Suri to catch his flight to Mumbai. Harari had come here en-route to Mumbai, where he was going to do Vipassanā for the next two months.

Harari told that he was delighted to interact with us and would have liked to spend some more time, but he had to leave due to his tight schedule. He further mentioned that if possible, he would like to be here with us next year too.

***

Though this account is fictional, and Harari has not been here in the school in flesh and blood (and unlikely to be here in the future too, as he hates travel), he has always been teaching us. So are other stalwarts like Richard Dawkins (whose book Magic of Reality forms the basis of our First Science Lessons), Carl Sagan and Neil Tyson (through their TV series Cosmos), Jawaharlal Nehru (his writings inspired our First History Lessons).

If you want great teachers, you just need to reach out to them through their books!

Twitter@school: An ode to our tweets


This is Sir’s writing about how some of his and (earth’s) tweets capture the history of the school. 

I remember I was once coming back from Calcutta with a couple of students and Sayoni — and on the way we typically stop to have tea at a place called Balaji Food Park. Nothing special, just a roadside restaurant, like many others that dot the NH2 near Shaktigarh.

As we neared, we put the location in the map so that we don’t miss it and drive by. Very soon, Google announced, ‘You have reached your destination’.

‘Not really, Google! This is not our final destination. But what do you know anyway!’ I said.

But then Sayoni said, ‘But isn’t every destination that you reach a temporary one?’

We pondered for a while to decide how to respond to this deeply philosophical point — and then as always, said, ‘Tweet it!’

Most of our tweets happened like this: during the course of regular conversation. We never sat in front of the computer thinking, ‘well, let’s write a good tweet now.’

Sometimes you all have been collectively witness to those conversations — during the common meeting. Several of the incisive lines about the IIT and people’s obsessions with engineering careers came effortlessly as I spoke in front of you, most memorably:

And also:

Tweets flowed during our morning tea meeting with some of you, during our long walks on the tennis court road in the evening, during our weekend adda at the Theque, and in the classrooms.

But most often, they flowed from frustration, desperation and suffering, as most good art does. As we contemplated how ‘our dream of creating perfection will always be foiled by the imperfect world,’ we wrote, deriving an unlikely lesson from the sublime movie ‘Black Swan’:

Just a few days after, on 18th Dec, on a similar melancholic evening, as we pondered the ingratitude of the people while we work hard to improve their lives, we understood how Dr Struensee felt in his final moments:

Well, December 2017 was clearly a bleak month, for some reason we don’t remember now. That should give us some persepective. Things pass, as Buddha said.

During some other despondent times, we contemplated whether there is any point to all this at all, whether we will ever make any difference in spite of our superhuman efforts, and wrote this:

Class 12 sometimes had to bear the brunt of this frustration. Once after I scolded the current class 12 severely, and as always, regretted it later, not because they did not deserve it, but because I love them:

While we are on the topic of scolding, I must mention that my scoldings can be brutal, but they are also beautiful, if you are not at the receiving end of it. In the common meeting you have been witness to one of the best lines delivered during a rebuke:

Though, I personally, have always tried to be an example that you canfollow, and that is the spirit behind writing a lot of these tweets: so that you can learn to analyse the world around, have deep conversations, learn to form elegant sentences. My philosophy about teaching was most succinctly explained in this tweet, which I have always tried to personally live up to:

In terms of my own inspiration, there have been many sources. I have been inspired by Yuval Harari’s intellect, Richard Dawkins’ reason, Roger Ebert’s openness, Mahatma Gandhi’s brilliance, Willy Wonka’s humour, Shakespeare’s insights and Rumi’s poetry — just to name a few.

But my favourite hero is a local one: Vidyasagar. As I fought against many entrenched beliefs to build this school, I found inspiration in this courageous man because of whom many of you girls are even able to receive this education. Though his efforts were superhuman, by elevating him to the level of a god, we have made him distant. As a result, most people have no idea about the amount of struggle and frustration he bore in a lifetime, the amount of resistance he encountered and overcame.

I must thank my other Bengali hero, Sunil Gangopadhyay, for giving us a glimpse of the real Vidyasagar, through his seminal novel ‘Sei Somoi’. Sunil’s Vidyasagar was not a god, but a man of flesh and blood, who we can empathise with. It is Sunil who made him accessible and a source of inspiration to me. While reading Sei Somoi, I wrote these two tweets:

Inspirations can sustain you through difficult times, but during other times you need coffee and adda to revive yourself! The coffee shop Theque, though much reviled as a cause of poor results of certain students of our school, has been the place where we spent many good hours, having great conversations.

Many tweets were coined sitting right there, particularly the ones related to smartphone obsession. Once in Theque, we saw the couple on the next table are not talking at all with each other, each busy swiping and scrolling on their smartphones, and I said:

In spite of all this criticism of smartphones, I was soon considering gifting a smartphone to one of our high-performing school staff. Goody Goody protested by writing this gem:

In case you are wondering, the smartphone was finally gifted, in spite of this elegant protest.

These tweets capture only a minor fraction of the colourful history of the school, but I do hope they capture some of the energy, enthusiasm, inspiration, despondency, frustration and fun of building it. We experienced life to the fullest, with all its rainbow of emotions in the last ten years, and the tweets are but a reflection of that rollercoaster ride.

The outcome of all this emotion, effort and experience is nicely captured in this tweet:

May I always keep it so, with your help and support.

Making Things Official


Mule (Parthib Chandra of Class XI, 2019) has shown the talent of writing great short stories every now and then. This is another exceptional piece of writing by him. 

Flashes. Shutter-clicks.

They don’t care about this. They don’t give a shit if I jump. They stare at me because I am a matter of entertainment. A welcome deviation from those frozen routines.

Car honks. Look up, oh my god…

“This is the Evening Republic News, and I’m your reporter, Rohit Dutta. We have a man standing on a window ledge, ten floors above ground, about to jump and take his own life. There is a huge crowd here on Park Street, as you can see, waiting for the man’s decision. We have rescue parties coming, but wil…”

A gust of wind. Fear.

What am I afraid of? I should be afraid of what my life was becoming — or rather, being made into. I should be afraid of these vile, greedy dogs who would love to tear me to pieces at every opportunity. I shouldn’t be afraid of nothingness.

Old men: “What has even become of this world, people taking their own lives left and right…”

They disapprove. This is “sin”. I have no right to take away a life, even if it is my own, because it is a sacred gift. But of course, it’s quite alright to confine it in a twenty-by-twenty cubicle for half the day, have it slave everyday in a white shirt in front of some glowing silicon magic contraption in said cubicle, make it bear the stench of a million people compressed like garbage in a metal cuboid travelling across half a city, home to work, work to home, and, god, what a home.

What a home.

I had bought that china tea set because it caught her eye, and she was the noor of my eyes, and I had just gotten my first salary. Little did I know that that china set was destined to become, one day, an airplane, flying across my dining room, crashing on the wall, as I watched my life go tumbling down like the twin towers. There was nothing left. There used to be happiness, but now there was nothing left.

Happiness?

There was happiness in friends, in family, in thought, in myself. There was happiness in the world, in the birds, the trees, the walk in the park we took every Saturday licking ice-cream or sipping Star-bucks. Then everything changed. Reality became an illusion, what was true now had to be imagined. Friends became Facebook, family went far away, thought had no time, myself became machine. The world started passing in side vision. Life started passing in side vision.

Dead. Just dead. All dead.

The world used to be an amazing place. Fun used to be an amazing thing. Not a day went by without my kid brother coming home from school and asking me, why this, why that, how can this be, not a day went by when he didn’t want to learn, make sense of the world. Not a day went by without at least one of my friends calling up to discuss some literature, some movie, some insight they collected from somewhere. Not a day went by without enrichment, joy — the good kind — and wonderment. And now everyone’s gone, dead, just pleasure-seeking-bots. My son isn’t like my brother. My colleagues are not like my classmates. My boss is not like my teacher. I’m not like I was. The whole world is dead, because nobody loves it anymore, nobody cares anymore. Me too; no denying that. I’m gone too, I’m dead too.

So, just, no point keeping the charade on, I guess. What? I’m only making things official here.

Memory-Lane


This is a very entertaining story by Sohom Mukherjee (Urgi of class 11, 2019) where he talks about a non-school day in our old school building, the Karidhya Campus, reminiscing the sweet memories of those times. 

The bus was rumbling down the road, carrying inside it energetic children who were all too busy chattering among themselves. I was one of them.

The day was warm and we were heading towards school. There was Bhau and Koka sitting two seats ahead of me and laughing, presumably because of a joke that Bhau had cracked. I was sitting in the back seat with Vulture and Motu. Motu, always excited about fast cars, was telling me about a car and how it reached from 0 to 60 in three seconds. I was not really very interested in this, especially right in the morning, but I was listening to him anyway.

The bus started slowing down and when I looked out of the window I saw the yellow school building. Today was Saturday and we were primarily going to the school to play. The bus came to a stop in front of the massive black gates and people in the front seats started getting down. Me, Motu and Vulture got down last.

Immediately after getting down I started running towards the main building. Then I remembered suddenly that Sir might catch me running and make me hold my ears. I stopped in my tracks and looked around to see if Sir was anywhere nearby. After confirming that he hadn’t seen me, I sighed with relief.

I and all the others then walked into a room in the corner and kept our bags. By this time a lot of non-school transport people had also arrived, including Sampad, Soumi and Nikhil.

Our school building was unlike other schools. It had a courtyard in the middle and surrounding this courtyard were classrooms and few other rooms. These other rooms included a games room, a library, a computer lab and also Sir’s offices. It was in this courtyard that we all gathered, awaiting Sir’s instructions on what to do. In reality, however, we didn’t really want much instructions, all we wanted was for him to pronounce the magic words, ‘You can play now’.

After some time Sir came out of his office and Bhau bravely asked him what we would do, knowing fully well that Sir knew that all we wanted to do was play the whole time. Sir announced that we would read for the first one and a half hours and then we could play for the remaining two and a half.

I could see some disappointed faces, and one such face belonged to Nikhil. To be honest I was both disappointed and relieved. I was relieved because I would feel a bit guilty if I played the whole time from morning to noon. But at the same time I was disappointed because I did want to play the whole time and was not really in a mood for much else.

Everybody headed towards the library to collect a book and I followed them. But instead of reading in the library Sir told us to read out in the open, sitting in the corridors which ran in front of classrooms. This was so that he could catch us if we started talking in the reading time.

I went into the library and picked a big looking book called, ‘India after Gandhi’. This was so that others would get impressed looking at me attempting to read a big book. I was about to sit down and start reading the book when Sir called out to me.

‘Urgi, go keep that book and choose a simpler one, you’re too small to read that now’.

‘Yes Sir’, I replied.

Instead of impressing others I had made a fool of myself. I went to the library and kept the book back. This time I chose a very thin looking book, it was an abridged version of Martin Luther King’s biography.

When I went out Sir was still there and when he saw the book I had chosen he said, ‘That book is appropriate for you’.

I sat down and started reading the book. But reading it wasn’t my top priority though, I wanted to read it fast so that I could put a tick on the box called ‘have read’ for this book. I then wanted to move on to the next book and do the same. So I read the book very fast, but in reality it was more like flipping pages. I was done within twenty minutes. But I couldn’t change the book without Sir’s permission and so I waited for him to come out of his office and he did after some time.

‘Sir, I’ve finished this book, can I take another ?’, I asked him. But instead of answering me he came over and took the book from me.

‘You’ve finished this book ?’, he asked and I answered yes.

‘Then tell me what was the most famous thing Martin Luther King said’.

I had no clue about what the answer was but I had some vague memory about something about an elevator.

‘He said that blacks and whites weren’t allowed in the same elevator’, I answered. Then I immediately heard a few chuckles and knew I had said something wrong and so I quickly corrected myself.

‘Oh sorry, that’s not what he said, he said that blacks and whites weren’t allowed to sit in the same seats in a bus’.

‘You’ve read nothing, go read this book again’, Sir said.

So I started to read it again and this time I had the intention to read it properly. The story got extremely interesting as I read it and I got completely immersed in it. This time it took me about fifty-five minutes but I had read it properly and remembered everything.

Sir was talking with Riku uncle when I finished reading. After he finished talking I called out to him telling him that I had finished reading. He again came over.

‘So what was the most famous thing Martin Luther King said ?’, he asked me again.

‘He said in a speech the famous line “I have a dream”’, I said confidently this time.

‘Good’, he said, ‘seems like you have read it this time’.

By this time the reading time was over and Bhau came and asked Sir if we could start playing. He said yes. We then quickly gathered and decided that we would play cricket today. The teams were decided. I was with Koka, Vulture, Sampad and a few others. The other team consisted of Bhau, Motu, Nikhil and some others.

It was decided our team would bowl first. Motu went to bat first for their team. He started of very well and it looked like that if he kept on playing like the way he was we would lose the match. Koka even reorganized the fielders but it was to no effect.

Then it happened; disaster struck for the first time. The door to Sir’s office was open and Motu hit the ball directly inside. I could hear a few things getting knocked over.

Everybody fell silent for a long moment. But then Koka went to get the ball. We felt sorry for him for we knew some scolding was awaiting; he knew that as well. He walked to Sir’s office as slowly as he could get away with and then poked his head inside and asked Sir for the ball. What surprised us most was that he got no scolding at all and came back in one piece.

We resumed playing, but it was only after we all agreed that Motu couldn’t bat anymore. Bhau came to bat after this but he got caught out after two overs. After that the rest of his team got out quickly, scoring only few more runs.

It was now our team’s chance to bat and there was real chance that we could win the match. From our team Vulture went to bat first. But he didn’t perform very well and was out in an over.

By this time we were all tired from playing under the sun and it was decided that we would take a break and then continue. During the break, however, all we did was horse around, shouting and running here and there. Koka tried to drink some water from a wide mouthed bottle and spilled half of it on his shirt.

After the break we resumed the game and Koka went to bat for our team. He was much more promising than Vulture. By the end of Koka’s second over he had hit a string of fours and sixes and we were well on our way to victory. But then it happened again; Koka hit the ball hard and it went straight inside Sir’s office. Then followed the ominous silence again and this time it was much longer than last time’s. Nobody wanted to go ask Sir for the ball this time for they knew that the consequences wouldn’t be a miracle like last time. We all knew miracles were rare.

Bhau then took a step forward and everybody was relieved that somebody else was taking the risk. He slowly went up to Sir’s office and asked for the ball. After seeing that he was standing in front of Sir’s office for a moment too long we thought that he was getting it. But surprising us yet again, he came back unscathed, smiling even. We gathered around him and asked him what had happened. He said that Sir was a bit angry but had given him the ball back and told him that it should not happen again.

We again resumed playing but now we were all extremely wary of hitting hard. It was decided Koka, like Motu, would stop batting.

I was the only one left who had some chances of making us win the match and so I went to bat. The start was bad and pressure was mounting up. Koka quickly came over and told me to keep my nerve.

The last over arrived, I scored a four and immediately there were lots of claps from my team. But then I couldn’t hit again and the pressure went up a notch. Koka called me and told me to focus on the ball but at this point it wasn’t much of a help.

The game was very close to the end and if I scored a few more runs I would be able to bring victory home. But I had another hidden agenda up my sleeve: I didn’t just want to win the match but wanted to win in a heroic way by scoring the few final runs by hitting a six. Nothing less than a six would suffice, I told myself. So when the next ball was bowled I focused and hit with all my might and then the next thing I remember is running into the games room and closing the door shut. The ball had gone inside Sir’s office again!

In the game’s room we started talking about what we’d do next and who would go and bring the ball, if at all. It was decided I would have to go and I resigned myself to my fate.

I slowly walked towards Sir’s office dreading what was to come next. When I reached his office I poked my head inside and asked, ‘Sir can I have the ball back?’.

I saw that he had the ball in his hand and instead of scolding me or giving the ball back to me he got up from his chair and walked towards me. I thought at this point that I was going to get some serious scolding and we were all going to get some punishment.

But instead he just walked out into the courtyard.

‘Ah, none of you seem to know how to play any cricket’, he said, ‘all you seem to do is hit the ball in random directions. Come I will show you how to play some cricket’.

I didn’t say anything because I was still a bit scared but by now I was also confused, where was the scolding?

‘Where are all the others?’, he asked me and I answered truthfully that after hitting the ball we had all run into the games room in fear of getting scolding.

‘Oh, get them out and I will show you all to play some cricket like I used to in my childhood’.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, he was going to play cricket with us instead of scolding us for repeatedly hitting the ball inside his office. I was so relieved that I wanted to dance.

I then went inside the games room and called the others and they seemed not to be able to comprehend the situation, but I couldn’t blame them for it.

We all started playing cricket and Sir showed us how to bowl and bat properly. But the situation had turned so unreal, not because he was playing with us for he did that often but because we had gotten no scolding at all for acts we thought were criminal, that we were all a bit ecstatic and none of us could really focus on the game.

After some time our playing for the day ended and we boarded the bus home, but the memory of this day has stuck with me ever since.

 

***

This story was a mix of reality and imagination of a time long in the past, times often referred to as the Great Game Days. These were the times we fondly look back to, remembering the intimate nature of the school back then and all the fun we had in it. We’d just come to the school, have fun classroom discussions, play, watch movies and go back. It was nothing like the present with days filled with exams and textbook based learning. All we did back then was lead a purposeless hunter-gatherer life.

But those days are gone now, no matter how much we want it back.

Oh, how much I miss the old fun filled school.

A Perfect School


This is a very moving story written by Nonny. Characters and settings are purely imaginary. 

I stare out through the car window which is rolled down, hot air upon my face.

The clock in the dashboard shows 11 am. At this time, I am supposed to be at school, sitting between Tanushree and Ankini. But here I am, staring at an empty field which seems to mirror the emptiness that I feel inside me now.

My dad is driving. He too, should not be here in this car. This feels unreal. He is supposed to be there in school too, taking my class, as he has always done in the last nine years.

I cannot accept it. Please stop the car, dad. Let us go back.

Give me back my school. Let us go to the class. Let today be just like any other day.

***

I close my eyes. I am in my class again. It feels good. But it’s painful too. In a corner of my mind, a voice tells me that I am better off forgetting. But I ignore it. Let me reminisce for a while. Let time take care of the business of forgetting.

 

***

My mind takes me to our classroom. It is a cloudy day. A light drizzle outside. My dad standing near the board.

He asks us to open the book, ‘Life is Beautiful’ — a screenplay by Roberto Benigni. This movie will be shown as a part of our history class. As a preparation, we are reading the screenplay.

We suggest we move out of the classroom and sit outside. The screenplay is great, but if we can watch the rain while we discuss it, it will be perfect.

My dad agrees.

He, too, would never settle for anything less than perfect.

 

***

I first saw this quest for perfection when I was just five years old, though I did not understand it then. I thought of it as love.

He was searching for a school for me in Mumbai. He visited many schools. None satisfied him. “You will not have fun in those schools,” he told me. “None of the principals talk about what they teach and how they teach. They only talk about their AC classrooms and large campuses,” he later explained to me when I was older.

My mom was exasperated. “What’s to be done? The world is not perfect. You have to make do with what you have,” she reasoned.

“If no perfect school is available, I will build one for her,” my father replied.

 

***

In a fit of madness, he left his job, left Mumbai altogether and came back to his ancestral small town to build a school for me.

‘A school where history is taught through movies, geography through stories,’one of the hoardings announced. ‘A school where students learn to question, rather than memorise answers,’ said another. ‘Preparation for life, not just for exams,’ the huge signboard at the school gate read.

He did live up to most of those ideals. School was fun. We read stories, watched movies, discussed news, forged friendships. The school became so much a part of my life that I would cry when summer vacation came every year.

When I was small I never fully understood, but it was difficult for my dad to create that perfect experience. The parents wanted textbooks. The teachers wanted an easier life. The society wanted rote-learning.

My dad was uncompromising. He reasoned with the parents, raged against the teachers, fought with the society. In the end it surely took its toll, but when he would come to our class, he was always in his best mood.

***

It is strange that how quickly a strength can turn into a fatal weakness. The very uncompromising nature that helped my dad build the school proved to be his undoing.

The beginning of the end came on a day that started like any other.

Every day, the school began with a ‘common meeting’ where all the students from class V onwards were present. This was a time when we discussed everything from incidents that have taken place inside the school to national and international news.

That day, as usual, we submitted our newsletters — a collection of news from the past week. After scanning through them, my dad picked up a news item, ‘Government makes B. Ed. mandatory for teachers in every school in the state.’

“What’s your opinion about this?” he asked the students.

“What exactly is B. Ed.?” one of the junior students from class VI raised his hand and asked.

“Yes, you need to know that, surely, before offering an opinion! It is a degree in education, giving a training to potential teachers. But that’s only in theory. In practice, it is the largest legalised scam.”

My dad has always been opinionated. Education was an area where his views were even more extreme.

“Most B. Ed colleges are just shops for issuing degree certificates. If they were working so well, why does India rank so low in any international ranking for school education? A lot of them get their affiliation through bribes, and then recoup the investment by selling degrees.” he continued.

This was explosive, even by my dad’s standards. I knew he had always been very annoyed with the regulations in education. I never understood the extent of his frustration.

“If most of these B. Ed. colleges are so corrupt, then why don’t they ever get caught?” one student asked.

“They are not caught because they are usually under the protection of some political party or other. That’s how most things work here. You don’t have to go too far to understand this. In this very town, there are three B. Ed. colleges, all owned by a local politician. I don’t want to name him, but it’s common knowledge.”

The meeting got over soon. We walked back to our classroom and opened our laptops to check Twitter. The senior students were encouraged to maintain Twitter accounts as part of the school’s effort to encourage students to express opinions about social issues. The best tweets written by the students were usually retweeted from the school’s Twitter handle.

That day, my Twitter feed was full of derisive tweets about the Indian education system in general and the local B. Ed. college in particular. The common meeting always provided a lot of fodder for lively discussion in our Twitter page.

‘B. Ed colleges in our town are like shops. However, they do not even sell useful products,’ one such tweet says.

I start typing a tweet of my own. ‘We need to educate our educators better.’

I hoped my tweet would be good enough to be retweeted by the school.

Soon, the bell rang. We closed our laptops and moved to the history class, where George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ was going to be taught.

The day progressed like any other. When it was finally time for us to head home, we walked to the school bus, laughing and chattering, unaware that soon all of our perfect lives were going to be shattered.

(The next day)

“All, open your economics booklets,” my dad asked, walking into the classroom. “Let’s discuss the topic, ‘Is greed good?’

Our school materials were mostly written by my dad. He hated textbooks.

Today’s topic discussed the economic rationale behind famous quote of Gordon Gekko, the protagonist of the movie ‘Wall Street’, who passionately argued that greed was the lubricant of a capitalist economy.

My dad asked, “Who wants to argue for this statement and who wants to argue against?”

My friend Rituraj raised his hand, with a mischievous smile. He had always been impish. “Why was he named Gekko? Aren’t house lizards called Geckos?”

The entire class erupted into laughter. However, the fun was interrupted when someone knocked on the door.

“Come in,” my dad said.

Raja, one of the school staff, opened the door, looking anxious. ‘Could you please come outside for some time, Sir? It’s urgent.’

“Not now, I am taking a class.”

“But it’s urgent, Sir. I wouldn’t interrupt the class if it weren’t.” Raja said, looking even more nervous by now.

My dad reluctantly left the classroom with a slightly irritated expression.

We waited for him to come back to the class. After ten minutes or so, some of us got restless, starting to fidget or look out of the classroom window. That’s when Ankini suddenly said, “I can see him talking to some people near the school gate.”

All of us crowded around the window, trying to get a better look. I saw him talking to a group of seven or eight people. He looked angry. I could hear some fragments of the conversation. ‘No, I will not…this is a school, you can’t bully me…’

After some more of what appeared to be a heated argument, he came back to the classroom. With some trepidation, I asked him, “What happened? Who were those people?”

“They were some goons from the local political party,” he said, still looking angry.

There was a shocked silence for a few moments.

‘Why did they come here?’ Tanushree asked after a while. My sense of foreboding grew even more.

“Apparently, they have been sent by the local politician we talked about in yesterday’s morning meeting — the owner of the B. Ed colleges. They are agitated about the tweets that some of you wrote yesterday. Also, the discussion about their college in our morning common meeting must have reached them through some of the junior students who probably went back home and told their parents.”

“So what did they want?” I asked.

“They wanted me to call a meeting of the students and the parents and tell everyone that whatever I said yesterday was wrong and baseless.”

“What? They want you to call a meeting of the parents and apologise?”

“I am not going to do that, of course. I have the freedom to say whatever I want inside this school. Why should I be bullied by a couple of thugs?” my father replied in a slightly raised voice, full of suppressed indignation and rage.

A silence descended upon the class. Quite worried by now, I wondered if the school might be in danger.

Rituraj, now serious, voiced my thoughts, asking, “But what if they come back and vandalise the school, now that you have refused to do what they said?”

“They won’t dare to. Whatever they say is just bluster. I can’t give in to empty threats.”

The discussion ended with that. I tried to put this incident out of my mind, hoping that my dad was right.

***

By the time I reached home, I had almost completely forgotten about my worries.

I sat down on my desk and started doing my homework when a notification sound rang on my phone. It was a message from the school number. Frowning slightly, I opened it:

‘School is closed for all classes tomorrow. Notice about when the school will re-open will be given soon.’

What could this mean? My dad was clearly still at school. However, that in itself was not unusual. He often returned from school just before dinner, finishing off various work there. I decided to give him a call.

As soon as he picked up, I asked, “What is going on? Why was the school cancelled?”

“I had to cancel school because those goons who came to the school today are threatening to create trouble again, saying that they will not allow the school to hold its classes since I refused to listen to them.”

These words hit me like a blow. This was much worse than I expected. How could things have gone downhill so fast, in a matter of hours?

“How is this possible? How will they prevent you from holding classes?”

“They can. If they threaten to vandalise the school, then I will not be able to take the risk of conducting normal classes.”

“But there has to be some solution. Can’t you negotiate with them?”

“I am not going to give in to their demands by calling another meeting. What is the point of this school if it is run according to somebody else’s wishes?” he said angrily.

There was a pause. After a few moments of silence, my dad finally spoke again. “Some of the kids’ parents might intervene, though. Let’s see if they can sort it out peacefully.”

My hopes rose again. Maybe all was not lost. Some of the parents had a lot of influence in the town. If they supported us, then maybe the school would be able to come out of this crisis unscathed, and everything would go back to normal.

But that was not how it turned out.

A group of parents negotiated with the local party. They pleaded with the party, asking them not to resort to violence. The party members did not have any problem with the school, but they were adamant about my father. They hated him for defying them.

A compromise was reached. The school would continue to run, managed by a group of teachers who worked for the school.

My father would have to leave.

***

I had to leave without saying goodbye.

My dad did not want to fight the decision of the parents. “Let them run the school the way they want,” he said.

I did not understand then that that was not a one-off statement. The fight had gone out of him.

He wanted to create perfection — but to create perfection, you need to compromise, which is the antithesis of perfection. I guess he could not accept that contradiction.

I hated the city life. I hated the new school. But most of all, I hated to see my once energetic father slowly withering away.

I buried myself into the textbooks of the new school. Board exams were approaching. It was a blessing in disguise. Though I never liked exams and textbooks, for a while they let me focus on something else. They let me forget, if only for a few hours at a stretch. But every once in a while, the exam of life threw its questions at me.

My dad wanted to build the perfect school to prepare the students for life, not just for exams. But the exam of life is far more difficult, one you cannot prepare for in advance. Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and question papers are not set. I could never imagine that for me the syllabus would turn out to be so difficult, the question paper almost impossible to solve.

***

(25 years later)

I could never forget the school.

Perfection, once attained, is something you forever long for. In my heart, there was always the yearning for the perfect experience that was so abruptly terminated. But unlike my dad, I could survive that trauma.

Maybe because I was younger, and a young heart, however broken, can mend. Maybe because I was not the one who put in years of work to make the school happen.

Though I had to leave the school, the school left its mark. I found it easy to join and prosper in the civil services career. My school did prepare me for life. In the school, I learnt to be socially aware. I learnt to question and debate. All these skills came to use as I moved through the ranks to finally became the Education Secretary.

I dare say it was not accidental that I reached that post. I very much worked towards it. Because there was a debt I had to repay.

***

Today is the culmination of my last two years of work.

I am to brief the cabinet on the Education Reform Bill, which I played a big role in drafting. The bill abolishes the requirement of B.Ed. degrees for teachers. It makes the teacher salaries much, much higher, making it possible for successful people from all fields to join teaching. It gives teachers and schools wide-ranging autonomy to design courses and curriculum. It proposes to create a nation-wide common skill-based test to evaluate schools and students, instead of the prevailing affiliation process.

It was not easy to convince everyone for the reform. But I coaxed, reasoned, made promises, struck deals — and finally everyone who matters is on board.

I am still worried. What if there is some last minute glitch? Some unanticipated question?

But things go smoothly. The minister’s pen finally touches the sheaf of paper and he puts down his signature.

This bill still has to be cleared by the houses of parliament and implemented on the ground, but at least the first battle is won.

All schools can now prepare students for life, without being hamstrung by outdated syllabus and meaningless regulations. People wishing to build a great school do not have to battle the entire society, its laws and mindset.

My perfect school was struck down, but I hope many others will rise in its place.

 

***

I stare out through the car window which is rolled down, hot air upon my face.

The clock in the dashboard shows 11 am. I am going back to my school, again.

Tanushree and Ankini will not be sitting beside me there today. Neither will my dad be teaching. I wonder whether even the building exists any more.

As I reach the town, the driver asks me, ‘Where should I take you, Ma’am?’

I smile. I direct him to the familiar road I had taken a thousand times in my childhood.

Will the building still be there? I don’t worry about it. I don’t feel sad.

Because the school may not have survived, but its idea did. And soon it will spread everywhere.

Finally, I can say goodbye.

The schools of life


Here’s another short story written by Koka of Class XI (2018) about how animals would view our world, if they could express themselves.

(First part of this story called ‘A Strange New Society’ is also available in the blog) 

Related image

Humans had always been a distant mysterious creature to me. Living in the forest, I had come across many stories about them, mostly about their cruelty. In the past few months, the cases of animal deaths had suddenly skyrocketed, all of which were being linked to the increasing number of human visits to the forest.

Scary though they sounded, I had never had the opportunity to see a human for myself. It made me wonder; what exactly was it that had made them such threatening creatures.

This was the case until yesterday….

As I was making my way through the forest, I felt a tall, colourful creature cross the path ahead and disappear behind a tree. I had never encountered such a creature before and it piqued my curiosity, as I approached it and asked, “What animal are you?”

“I am a human. Please don’t kill me!” It said rather fearfully.

A human? What is so sinister about this creature? It doesn’t look as big and powerful and an elephant. Neither does it look as fierce as a lion. On the contrary, it seemed more frightened of me!

“Don’t worry! I am not going to eat you. But you’ll also have to return my favour.”

“Anything…. I’ll do anything for you!”

But what could I ask for from a human?

Then an idea struck….

“I am really intrigued by the thought of humans and would like to know more about them. Could you take me to your society?”

 

***

Early morning today the human and I got out of my cave to head towards the city.

My guide led the way and I followed him. Upon entering the city I immediately understood that today was a special occasion. A large crowd of humans were gathered around a single man covered in garlands who was speaking and making exaggerated gestures at the same time.

I asked my guide who he was. My guide replied that he was the leader of the people.

“So, how is this person chosen?” I asked, “Do you organise fights within your community and then declare the winner as the leader?” In the forest the leader of a pack was chosen by a fight among the competing wolves. Due to this very efficient way of choosing leaders, naturally the best wolf in the pack became leader.

“No!”, my guide replied, “Every few years the people competing to become the leader hold rallies like this and try to convince others that they are the best. Then the people choose who they would like as their leader.”

So just by speaking, people can become leaders. It’s strange that the humans don’t check whether he is actually good at what he’s claiming.

Of the torrent of words escaping his mouth, the two most frequently occurring ones were ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’. It seemed that he was arguing vehemently against the Muslims.

I asked my guide who were these ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’. Are they like tiger and deer, one predator one prey?

“No.” My guide replied, “They are both humans.”

“So,” I wondered aloud, “they must be like two packs who are having a territorial dispute.”

“No,” the human said, “both Hindus and Muslims live in this city.”

So Hindus and Muslims were of the same species and they were not different packs fighting over territory. I couldn’t understand what exactly their fight was about.

Suddenly the leader’s arguments became even more vehement.“We will bury them!” He screamed. “If Pakistan throws one bomb at India, we will bombard them with ten. We will prove ourselves to be a stronger nation.”

I asked my guide what a ‘nation’ was.

“A nation is the piece of land that we live on.” He replied.

“So, how can you make a piece of land stronger?” I fired back.

My question was met with a look of bewilderment on my guide’s face.

“And what are ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’?”

“The nation that we live in is India, Pakistan is our neighbouring nation.”

“So what are the differences between different nations? Are they different habitats like forests and deserts? Or are they places with totally different climates from one another?”

My guide seemed very puzzled at these questions; perhaps he had always accepted these things as the truth and never found them to be unnatural.

Now he replied, “I have never been to Pakistan but I have heard that it is pretty much the same as India.”

So why was the leader differentiating between Pakistan and India? Why was he inciting people against a very similar place where similar people lived? Not wishing to confuse my guide any further, I kept these questions to myself.

Not being able to bear the rally anymore, I asked my guide to take me to some other place. In the process of asking my guide, I saw several identical human beings crossing the road. Instantly my curiosity was piqued.

“Who are these?” I asked.

“These are students. They all study in a school.”

“But why do they all look the same?”

“All students have to wear the same clothes so that they can be identified with their school.”

“What’s the point of that?”

But my guide seemed to be in no better position to answer my question.

I demanded to be taken to a school to see the what happened inside. So my guide led me to the nearest school.

Inside I saw a woman showing the children pictures of various kinds of soil and speaking. I asked my guide what she was doing.

“She is teaching geography. In this particular class she is teaching them where all in India minerals are found under the ground.”

“Oh” I said, “so these children are all going to dig the ground for these minerals when they grow up.”

“No, most of them won’t.”

“So why are they filling their heads up with things that they are never going to see outside this class room?”

My guide was completely stumped by this question. Probably he had also learnt about minerals under the ground.

Remembering the true purpose of the visit I asked my guide to take me to some place more entertaining.

He replied, “I have been planning to take you to a movie since the beginning, if you want we can go there.”

Intrigued by this thing called the movie I agreed. My guide then led the way to the theatre, the place where the movie was supposed to be screened.

On the way to the theatre I saw a large poster in which there was a picture of a car and a woman beside it. Since the woman did not seem to have anything to do with the car, I asked my guide what this poster was.

“It is the advertisement of a car,” he replied, “Using this the makers of the car try to sell the car to people like me.”

“What about the woman? Do you get the woman as well when you buy that car?”

“No obviously not!” The human exclaimed.

“So why is the woman there beside the car?”

“I don’t know why, but the woman makes me feel like buying the car even more.”

Not fully satisfied but seeing that my guide was unable to provide a better explanation, I moved on.

The movie theatre was a large building with a long queue of humans in front of it. My guide stood in the queue and bought tickets for both of us. Before the movie started there was a deluge of advertisements similar to the one that I saw in the poster outside. After almost half an hour the movie started. After watching for a while, the only thing that I was able to understand was that a fair person seemed to be outwitting a dark skinned person at every step and beating him up during any confrontation.

In the forest the skin colour of the animals did not matter at all. In fact, I was dark skinned myself, and I seemed to be doing fine! No white wolf was coming and beating me up every once in a while.

I looked at my guide with questions in my eyes, but he was too enthralled with the movie to look at me.

I slipped outside silently. The city terrified me. However, the artificial laws which suffocated me seemed to sustain these humans. They found differences when there were none, discriminated arbitrarily, and filled the heads of their children with information they were never going to use.

I thanked my fortune that I had the option of living in a place far more simple and authentic. I ran towards it.

The Water On My Cheeks


A short story written by Mule Class VIII (2018) that was selected among the top 8 in the Short Story contest held by the school:

Water.jpeg

The skies were raining. The atmosphere was gloomy. The clouds were rumbling. And it is at such times that the soul is found yearning. Yearning to hold the pen. Yearning to talk to a piece of paper. Yearning to translate tears to ink. Yearning to capture the rare smile. No, not the smile. The smile is captured with a camera. But the true feeling can be captured by nothing but by words.

I convinced myself to get up. I put a classical music tape on the 50 year old gramophone, sat down on my desk, and grabbed my fountain pen and a sheet of paper.

The most trustworthy confidant, never to spill any beans,
Shut and sealed.
Never to whine,
But only to soothe the wounds of the crying.

On it I pour my soul over,
It knows me better than any lover.
The world is a dystopia,
But on this I can create utopia.

It’s company I crave,
Paper is its name!

I neatly folded the sheet of paper, and tucked it under the lamp on my desk. Grabbing the car keys, I took the car out of the garage and went to the editor’s office. It was 11.45 PM, but in 2025 night is day, and day is also day.

The moment I started driving, some stupid song… “oh ooh love”… started playing. Eyes on the windshield, hands on the dashboard, I searched for some kind of button that would hopefully stop the music player, but I found no such thing. Recalling that the car only had voice command, I asked Ellie to shut up. “Are you angry with me, sir?” the stupid bot asked me. Of course I was, but need I tell that to a machine? Keeping quiet, I drove on.

“How are things going?” I asked Philip as I sat down. He simply nodded his head. “You read the article I mailed you?” I asked. Phil was the chief editor in the e-newspaper company The Daily Digital.

“Yes I did. Unfortunately, we can’t publish it. It contains too much politics…”

I was aghast. “But I kept it subtle! Nobody would…”

“Well, why should we publish an article that nobody understands?” he shrugged. “Anyway, you know how much pressure I’m receiving. The paper wants to stay neutral in the current political scenario…” Of course it would, only to switch over to the winning side once it’s clear which side is winning “…and I must strictly publish nothing to do with politics.”

“Look Dan, I’m your friend. I would have loved to publish it; it actually was quite a good article. But you must understand me, right? The only reason you are not talking to a computer right now is that I keep myself listed in good books. The last thing I want to do is burn them. I cannot help you if you keep writing all these controversial articles. Weren’t you writing a novel on a post-apocalyptic society? The first few chapters were interesting. Why don’t you complete it? I am acquainted with an editor in a publishing firm who said he liked the plot. I showed him those chapters you gave me,” he said, clearly having read my face.

“Yes I’m working on it, I’ll need a few more months,” I told him.

“Get it done. Till then, write other kinds of articles. Things like ‘Ten qualities of your true love’”

“I’m not a relationship expert, you know?”

“You get the idea.”

As I drove back home, my thoughts turned to my financial position. I could barely manage to afford the apartment rent. The car was not mine but Casey’s; she was visiting her sick mom, and said I could use it for the time being. I had been surviving on low quality bread and cheese for as long as I could remember. The electric and water bill was overdue. My debts had been building up. The part-time job at Pizza Town was nowhere near enough. If I continued the way I did, I would probably have to discontinue college, unless I took another loan. Perhaps I should heed to Phil’s advice, and stop spending my time on things that would never see the light of the day. Perhaps I should swallow my ego and write things I don’t want to, just for the sake of the mone…

There was a crowd near the bridge, and I saw a couple of police cars and a helicopter overhead, along with an ambulance waiting, the siren shrieking. The bridge was sealed with police tape and barricades. When I stopped and asked a passerby about it, he told me, “A young chap jumped from the bridge. They are searching for his body. Another depressed youngster, I guess. These parents nowadays don’t give a damn…” I didn’t catch the rest of what he said, but it was easy to guess. They could have been searching for my body right now. My life had passed through such a point countless times.

I could have jumped when I was expelled from school for writing an article against the education ministry. I could have jumped when I was a child, and my mother had slapped me for not offering prayers before dinner. I could have jumped when my education loan wasn’t sanctioned because of my political views.

I knew what was happening to me. I was not made for this world. They expect me to shut up and lick their feet. They expect me to agree with everything they do. They expect me to be one of them, a common sheep. They expect me to be a commodity, to be bought with cheap appreciation and rewards. And they expect me to know the tide I face.

And I do know what is looming over my head. I’m too smart for my own good. I’m too talkative for my own good. I’m too opinionated for my own good. And perhaps I should mend my ways. I’m a nobody, after all. What can I expect to change by myself? Nothing. Nothing at all. The world was at its best already to squash me into oblivion. This peaceful world is not for rebels.

My hunger was nothing. My poverty was nothing. My anger was nothing. And soon, I would be nothing, literally. The world doesn’t care.

I knew that we were at war, me and the rest of the world. And I knew of what was coming, sooner or later. But I couldn’t stop. I am not that sort of a person — if I were, I would be flying in a personal jet to the Caymans.

But I didn’t expect the war to end so soon.

I was lying on my hard 7 year old sofa, reading 1984, and my smartphone started to buzz in my pocket. It was Phil.

“Hey Dan, we want an article on the dangers of AI — there’s a surge in demand for the topic after the disaster in Shanghai. I recall you wrote one such article once, but we rejected it because AI was a trustworthy thing at that time. You still have that one?”

“Yeah, I’ll make some changes and mail it to you.”

“Be quick, we’ll have to finalize tomorrow’s issue in another hour or so.”

“Roger that.”

With that, I sprang up and open my laptop. If the article gets published, that’s a week of a satisfied stomach. Finding it and editing it barely took any time − I was too excited. The prospect of money was too lucrative to waste any time.

And then fell the bombshell.

When I tried to sign in to my Gmail, I was told that I was ‘blocked’. I tried Twitter, and it was the same story. Uber was no different. Amazon told the same tale. I opened the Virtual Assistance program, expecting the same message, but my heart skipped a beat at what I met.

“You have been blocked from all cyber, private, and government services except for your Virtual Assistance, though only for limited usage, for a month. A black mark has been added to your file. You are guilty of spreading hate on Social Media. You may choose to pay a fine of $5000 and evade all blocks,” the cold voice told me.

“What the… when? What hate am I being accused of spreading?”

“On March 26th 2024 you retweeted: ‘Want freedom of speech? Freedom is what you’ll get. Not freedom of speech, but freedom from the world.’ Under new regulations, this message is classified as hate speech, and is punishable under section 3.64 of the International Web Constitution. You had been issued a warning to remove the message, but you failed to comply. If you think there has been a mistake, you may contact your nearest government welfare office.”

“Of course there has been a mistake, I received no such warning…”

“The warning was issued. However, you did not log in to your Virtual Assistance, and hence were not made aware of the warning.”

“Can you tell me what part of that tweet was hateful? And I just retweeted it, what is possibly wrong with that?”

“I am afraid I cannot help you on this. I suggest you contact your nearest government welfare office.”

“Oh come on, I just retweeted it…” I was almost pleading.

“I am afraid I cannot help you on this. I suggest you contact your nearest government welfare office,” the stupid thing repeated.

How was I supposed to survive for a month without Gmail? Where would I get my staples if I was blocked from Amazon? I would be on the streets, on the backseats of a police car, or under some bridge. A person who had a shining showcase full of trophies, a lifetime of straight A’s, the favorite of his class, was now on the streets. Who was to blame? The person whose tweet I retweeted? My parents? The government? Society? The forces of history? Myself? Everyone, everything, the whole of the universe? Or just a series of random events? It was at that moment that I realized that life is just blind chance, a roll of dice.

What was I supposed to do now? Give up and embrace my fate under the bridge? Or just embrace what comes my way? Fight the world? Go to my ‘nearest government welfare office’?

I slammed down the screen of my laptop, and called Casey.

“C-cay?”

“Yeah. You sound worried.”

“How can you know? I just u-uttered one w-word.”

“You are stammering pretty bad. Not normal.”

“Yeah, well, um, I got blocked everywhere online.”

After deliberating for 5 seconds on whether I was joking or not, she asked in a worried voice “Why?”

“A-an old retweet that seems to be have been, uh, classified a-as political hate under current laws.”

“An old tweet?”

“No, a retweet.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

“Welcome to the world of the living,” I said with a smirk. My voice wasn’t trembling as much as it was. Though we were talking about the disaster, the conversation was still a distraction.

“Not a time for jokes. What exactly happened?”

I tell her.

“A month! What will you do?”

“Can I use your account?”

“Sharing accounts is against rules and regulations. I suggest you go to the welfare office.”

“When are you coming back?”

“Mom’s really sick, I don’t know when she’ll be okay…”

“It’s fine. Thanks, bye.”

I can’t say I expected a lot from her, but I was still grateful for the temporary distraction.

I opened my laptop once again, and asked the Virtual Assistant where exactly the welfare office was.

“You are blocked from Google Maps because you…”

“Oh just damn it!” I shouted at my screen, banging my laptop shut.

And my phone rang, with ‘Phil’ written on the screen.

“Where’s that article you promised to send?”

“I got blocked from Gmail.”

“I knew this would happen! I have been telling you since as long as I could remember, that your arrogance is going to bring your trouble. Political hate, isn’t it?”

“That’s right.”

“Should have listened to my advice. Serves you right,” and with that, he hung up.

I was frustrated beyond words. Nobody would or could help me. I didn’t know where my “nearest government welfare office” was, and I couldn’t possibly find out without using Gmaps. What was I supposed to do?

I realized there were tears under my eyes. I looked out the window, and it was still raining. I decided to go out and think for some time.

It always feels better to be under the rain when in a sorrowful mood. We forget whether the water on our cheeks came from our eyes or the skies, and in doing so, forget our sorrows, for however a short period.

The rain water seemed to have a voice of it’s own. It always consoled me in the worst days of my life. Perhaps it just helped bring out the words from me, and then gave those words the face of the rain. But however it did it, it spoke to me, made me feel better.

I ran back into my room. Time was short. It’s not for long that a man can survive without food.

I grabbed my fountain pen and a sheet of paper. I could rant on endlessly to a human, but they would probably not understand me. I could shout at the birds, the air, and all I would hear is my own echo. But I could tell paper how I felt. It would sympathize with me. It would understand me. It is, after all, what I write in it. I shape it. It is a part of me. Of course it would know my tears.

Casey didn’t call again. I didn’t expect her to. So I didn’t recharge my smartphone when the battery ran out. But then, I couldn’t. There was no power. I hadn’t paid for it. I couldn’t have, without using one of my eWallets. And those were all blocked.

I have been writing a lot of other things these past few days. The ink is almost over; I write this with the last few drops that are still loyally sticking to end of my pen. As long as the ink lasts, I shall consider myself alive, for once it’s over, the only part of myself that I value will be deac

A Strange new Society


Here’s a short story written by Koka of Class X (2018) about how animals would view our world, if they could express themselves:

wolf.jpeg

The past two days have really opened my eyes. The life in the forest which I had taken for granted, is now very dear to me. Deforestation, the effect of which until now seemed to have only been travelling a few miles every day, now seems a lot more real.

Humans have always been a distant shadow for me. Yesterday was the first time I saw a real one.

Yesterday morning I was suddenly jolted out of my sleep due to a lot of commotion in my pack. When I asked what the commotion was all about, my pack members immediately led me to a place which was guarded by six or seven other wolves. When they moved away to give me a view, I saw a hairless and fat creature lying quite helpless on the ground.

“What animal are you?” I asked, not quite sure what this creature was.

“A human of course,” he replied, looking surprised that there was anything on Earth which did not know what is was.

“How did the members of my pack suddenly get their hands upon you?”

“I got lost in the forest and then these wolves caught me.”

“Well, you are very unfortunate, we are going to eat you now.”

“Please, you can ask me to do anything, don’t eat me.” The human pleaded.

“Well, what can you possibly do for us? “

“There is a city nearby, I could take one of you there for a day to enjoy yourselves.”

I had anyway been reluctant to have this poor creature because I prided myself on hunting my own prey. In addition, when I heard the word ‘city’, I became even more interested. The city was a place where the humans lived together. It was the city that had taken the place of the trees which were cut down. I had always wanted to know about the secret of success of the humans. Maybe, visiting the city I would come to know about some of them.

I agreed, thinking that this worthless creature might be a blessing in disguise. Time would tell how wrong I was.


Today morning I left with the human for the city. The city is not very far from the forest any longer. A ten-minute walk from the jungle brought us to its outskirts. The noise that it was emanating was like the buzz of a thousand bees.

I see a man in a white uniform standing and making strange gestures with his hands.

“Why is he wearing such strange clothes?” I ask my guide.

“These clothes show that he is a traffic police, this way everybody will obey his instructions and follow the traffic rules”, he replies.

“You mean just by wearing certain clothes you can have authority among humans? Is there no way to test how good he is at what he does?”

“Of course, he had to pass an exam to even become a traffic police.”

“Exam? What kind of exam?”

“Usually it’s a test where you are given a paper where you have to write answers to questions that will be asked.”

So, all that the humans must do is write something on a piece of paper and then they can shout commands? They don’t test the man’s shouting skills or how much other humans listen to them when he gives an instruction. Strange!

“I want to know more about these exams. Can you take me to a place where I can watch exams taking place?” I ask.

He leads me to a lofty building which was lined with windows.

“This,” He says, “is a school; this is where most of the exams take place. As I am the director of this school, I should be able to get you to watch an examination without much trouble.”

He leads me to one of the hundred rooms of the building. Through a window I could see what was going on inside.

Inside, around 30 students were scribbling on pieces of paper with a ferocity that matched that of the fiercest of tigers. I saw one of them steal a glance at his classmate’s paper and then again resume scribbling.

I ask my guide, “What do you call these people?”

“We call them students.” He replies.

“So, do the students only come to the school to give exams?”

“No, they usually come to school all through a year, during that time we prepare them for these exams.”

Most of the students, had prepared for this exam, they had known what to study to score well. Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and question papers are not set. It was the exam of life that they were not prepared for.

Misinterpreting my thoughtful silence for boredom, my guide asked me, “Do you now want to meet some animals now and ask them how their life is in the city?”

I agreed, and we left the school. Soon we were back on the road again.

Crossing the road is quite difficult in a city. Even with the traffic police, the vehicles still move quite fast and recklessly. Walking further I see some people wearing torn shirts and looking hungry, sitting on the side of the pavements. Nudging my guide, I asked him,

“What are these people waiting for?”

“Food” He replies laughing.

“They just wait until other people give them food? Are they cubs waiting for their parents to feed them?”

“No, they are all grown up, but they were not competent enough to get food.”

“So how do they get food?”

“Sometimes people take pity on them and give them food to eat.”

In the forest only the young and the very old could not get their own food. As a result, they were the ones who were preyed upon most frequently. These humans, according to my guide, were middle aged and still unable to get food. However, they still somehow remained alive.

Finally, we reach our destination. I find a shabby and large building in front of me. From within I can hear the snorting of what seems like a thousand pigs. Intrigued and excited that I might meet some animals whom I understand, I enter the building.

Inside, I see a few masked men sitting in front of a moving belt. Pigs were travelling by the belt and were being given various injections by the men behind the masks. I ask my guide, “What is going on in this place? What is it that is happening to these pigs?”

“They are being given injections. The injections,” he replies, “are antibiotics and hormones. The antibiotics keep the pigs safe from various diseases and the hormones make them grow quickly.”

“Why do you need them to grow up fast?”

“So, they can be slaughtered and sold to people who will eat them. There is another conveyor belt behind this one where the pigs are being slaughtered.”

“So, will these pigs be let go for the day after you have given them their injections?”

“Let go?” My guide says laughing, “They will be kept in those boxes.” He pointed at hundreds of small boxes that seemed to be in very shabby conditions.

“So, when will they interact with their parents and other pigs?”

“Interact with their parents? These pigs were separated from their parents days after they were born. They have never interacted with their parents in their whole life.”

“How do these pigs stay alive like this? Any other animal would surely have died.”

“Oh, these people will keep these pigs alive.” Says my guide confidently. “Until they grow fat enough. Then they will be slaughtered.”

Depressed by this brutality of the humans I asked my guide if there was anywhere else he wanted to take me to.

“Of course,” He replies, “I wanted to take you to my home.”

Trudging on for some time longer, my guide brings me to a large house. He takes me inside. As I enter I see a woman opening the door for us. Pointing to her, my guide said, “This is my wife, we have been married for 19 years.” Not understanding what ‘married’ means, I ask him.

“That means, she is the only partner I am supposed to have till we stay married.”

“You mean you did not have another partner for 19 years?” I ask him incredulously.

“I would like to of course,” He replied furtively, “But then everyone else will look down upon me.”

I cannot bear it any longer. I just run out of the house. The city was a place beyond my comprehension. A place where other animals lived lives which were daily punishments, a place where the unfit were just kept alive on the shoulder of others. It was this place from where I had hoped to learn from and improve the forest. With hindsight it seemed the city would be better off if it is modelled after the forest.

I increase my pace, the forest was the place that I understood, a place which did not need the artificial laws created by humans to keep order. The humans have to be stopped at any cost, they have to be stopped from turning this natural place into a wasteland governed by artificial laws.

The folly of Facebook


Class 8-9 (2017) was asked to write a screenplay, persuading one of their family members not to use Facebook and WhatsApp. Here is the best entry by Jyotirmoy Saha of Class 8. 

Me and my brother were playing chess. And a notification comes in his phone, he checks it out and shouts ‘Yes’.

Me: What happened? Trump is assassinated or something?

Brother (in an excited voice): No, no. I got another friend request, and now I have a thousand friends. Isn’t that cool?

Me: Well, check. And how many friends do you have in real life?

Brother: I have five of them, and one of them has one thousand and twenty-seven friends. I have to overtake him, he always boasts.

Me: I see. Well, make your move.

He brings his knight in front, and I had to back off. Then he made his move and continued checking Facebook.

Me: So Facebook friends are like points, I mean whoever will have the most amount of Facebook friends will be like the elites and whoever will have the least amount of Facebook friends will be like the slaves.

Brother: Aaa… not exactly like that, but ones with more FF are more famous in the class than the ones with less FF.

Me: FF stands for Fake friends, right?

Brother (raising his voice a bit): NO, it stands for Facebook friends.

Me: Is there any difference between Facebook friends and Fake friends?

Brother (in the same raised voice): Yes, of course. One has to do a lot of hard work to get Facebook friends, you can’t expect to sit at home and get a thousand friends. You have to take selfies in dangerous positions.

Me (in a sarcastic tone): Yeah, yeah, it’s an extremely hard work.

Brother (raised voice): And do you know how I got the last friend request?

Me: No. How?

Brother: Yesterday I posted a photo of mine with a snake around my neck for which I got 257 likes, and the last friend request came because of that.

Me: What will you do with all those Fake friends? They are not going to help you when you meet with an accident.

Brother: It’s called Facebook friends not Fake friends. And why are you taking it in this way? Facebook friends are there so that you can chat with them.

Me: And waste time, right?

Brother: I don’t waste time. When I am bored I have to spend the time somehow, right?

Me: Why do you have to spend your free time in chatting with those Fake friends?

Brother: That’s Facebook friends.

Me: Doesn’t matter. Both are same.

Brother: I have the free will to choose whatever I want to do in my free time. You don’t have to lecture me on what I should do.

Me: Freewill is a myth. I have told you that many times.

A phone call comes to him from one of his friend. He goes aside and talks, and comes back.

Me: Who called?

Brother: Ramkrishna, that guy you saw with me in the field.

Me: Yeah, yeah, that fat guy. Why did he call?

Brother: He asked me to attack my mirror base in Clash of Clans.

Me: I see.

Brother: And you know I have reached Town Hall 9, and its half way to be maxed up.

Me: How is that going to help you? When you go for an interview, will you be asked for your Town Hall level?

Brother (in a bit irritated voice): “Why do you always think in this way? All of my friends plays Clash of Clans. So I also play.

Me: Just like a sheep, following the herd.

Brother (in an even more irritated voice): Why sheep? The game is really interesting. Ones you start playing the game you will get addicted.

Me: Drugs are also addictive but they aren’t good for health.

Brother: You can’t compare Clash of Clans with drugs!

Me: Why?

Brother: Drugs are injurious to health, but Clash of Clans is not. That game is not going to kill someone.

Me: Oh, really? All this Facebook, WhatsApp and this Clash of Clans is just wasting your precious time, and ultimately that’s going to be injurious to your health. And do you know a person was killed because of a rumour that was propagated through WhatsApp?

Brother: But whoever uses WhatsApp should be smart enough to know which things are rumour and which all things are truth.

Me: You yourself believed in the rumour that the new two thousand rupees notes has a satellite chip in it.

Brother: Yeah, but after I came to know the truth I didn’t believe in it, right?

Me: I only told you the truth. If I hadn’t, then you would have continued to believe in that rumour.

Brother: OK, that’s enough. Come to the point, how is Facebook, WhatsApp and Clash of Clans going to be injurious to my health by wasting my time?

Me: Well, instead of wasting your time in those you can utilize your free time to do something useful.

Brother: Like?

Me:  For example, reading a book to improve your reading skills. Or you can learn cooking so that you can be a bit more independent.

Brother: And what am I going to do with my reading skills?

Me (in a pissed off voice): What do you mean? When you go for a job interview they check your skills, they will not check how many Fake friends you have or what is your Town Hall level.

Brother: A lot of time is left before I look for a job.

Me: You are already in second year of college, and you think a lot of time is left!

Brother: Don’t give lectures now, okay?

Me: When you will grow up and you will not have a chance to change your past, you will understand that I wasn’t lecturing. And it’s checkmate.

Then the game gets over, and he just walks out of the room. And after that he did start reading a book, but he continued playing Clash of Clans and posting selfies though it reduced a bit.

A Perfect World


This is a story written by Bhau, Motu and Koka of Class X (2017).

Purley-AI-Blog-Image-1307x1080I open my eyes as the room gets progressively brighter. Slowly, the soft tune of Beethoven fills up the room. The lights switch on as I enter the bathroom. As I brush, notifications from Facebook and Twitter pop up on my mirror. I dismiss them, only to be confronted by news.

As I browse through the news, I see that almost half of Australia is underwater. An advertisement of the latest government-sponsored virtual reality game pops up on my mirror. The government of all nations of the world is now controlled by three large technological corporations. Gone are the days of democracy and politicians.

My refrigerator beeps and reminds me to update its software by the end of this week. It also tells me that after the latest update I would no longer have the option to manually refill the contents in the fridge. It will automatically monitor the quantities and my preferences, and order supplies directly from the online vendor.

I have been putting off this update for a long time, but now it seems it cannot be postponed any more. One of my last bastions of free will – the fridge which I could still fill up according to my wish – will go.

“According to your health app recommendation, you are prescribed a breakfast of 150 gram of oatmeal, milk and one egg-white,” informs Dos, my robot assistant, putting me out of my reverie.

“I want to have coffee”, I reply.

“You have already violated health app recommendations twice this month. You are not allowed a third violation. That will cut off your refrigerator supplies for two days.”

“Ok, whatever you suggest, then.” I reluctantly agree.

The large screen on my wall lights up and prompts me to play the latest civilisation game. I ignore it. I hear government regulations will soon make it impossible to ignore the instructions of the screen. But let’s enjoy the last bit of freedom till it lasts.

***

As I go near the door, it unlocks automatically. I can see an Autocar waiting outside. The days of taxis with drivers are long past. The Autocar does not have any driver. It is also connected a central network, which knows my location and the locations of millions of other people and vehicles. It effortlessly drives me to work, and I notice that that the temperature is set to 26º, exactly as I want it.

I stand in front of my office door and it opens instantly after scanning my iris. The door opens and I walk to my cubicle. The office seems empty now; a lot of my juniors have been replaced by Mycroft, an intelligent data analyst developed by our company. During breaks, the office seems eerily quiet, in contrast to the lively conversations that previously dominated the office at those hours. I wonder how long I will last in this office given the rate at which Mycroft’s abilities are increasing.

Even before I get started with my work a voice in my cubicle summons me to my boss’ office. Fearing the worst, I walk into the office feeling scared. The solemn expression on my boss’ face reaffirms my fears.

“Shounak, take a seat.”

I comply, not able to come up with an alternative suggestion.

“You must have noticed that many of your colleagues and juniors have been let go, their jobs taken over by Mycroft.”

It is a fact that I cannot deny, so I nod.

“I am sorry, but we have to let you go. The new version of Mycroft can do your job, faster and better than you.”

I nod again. Another irrefutable fact. Even though I knew this day was coming, it was difficult to cope with it. A part of me refused to believe that this was happening.

“There is nothing to worry about. The government’s unemployment benefit schemes will take complete care of you. You will not have to worry about anything. In fact, many of your colleagues like their new life, their needs are taken care of and they have a lot of free time as well. You will like it.”

“Yeah, I might”, I say, not feeling as confident as I sounded.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the worse it felt. Until now, I had some misguided sense of pride for not being one of the millions, a jobless commoner who simply plays games and looks at the government-sponsored screens all day. I felt that I was making some real contribution to the world but alas, that pride was not to last. I was finally rendered useless by ones and zeros.

Dejected, I return to my cubicle. How am I going to spend everyday doing nothing? At some point, I longed for weekends and holidays, to have some leisure time. Now holidays and weekends don’t seem so attractive anymore. There’s a lot on my mind right now, and all I need is a drink.

***

The Claude’s was close by so I decided to walk. I was going to the bar for a drink but what I truly needed was a companion. Work and my virtual assistant, Dos, had somehow compensated for the lack of interaction with other human beings. But today I needed someone, another human being, to listen to me.

I walk into the bar and sit down for a drink. The long desk in front of me is a screen. As I sit down a part of the desk lights up offering me a choice of drinks. I choose a vodka martini and the dispenser below the screen opens up, drinks get mixed in a glass that appears, and it is put in front of me, on my table.

The bar is mostly empty except for a few people who are staring away at their screens. I pick up my martini and walk towards a woman of my age who looks a bit bored.

“Are you busy?”

“No.”

“Can I sit here?”

“Yeah, feel free.”

“I am Shounak. What’s your name?”

“Oh! Hi, I am Eva.”

“So Eva, are you here all by yourself?”

“Huh…? You were saying something?”

“Are you here all by yourself?”

“Yeah, you could say so.”

“So, what do you do?”

“Me? Nothing really. I just stay at home and play games all day long.”

My curiosity is piqued. How does it feel to waste every day playing mindless games?

“How do you feel just playing games all day? Don’t you get bored?”

“Huh…? What? You were saying something?”

“Forget it. Having a conversation with you is like having a conversation with a toaster. How can you spend your whole day playing games and still not get bored of looking at the screen? Don’t you like real things anymore? A real person, a real conversation?”

“Whatever.”

***

Thoroughly disenchanted with Eva I decided to leave Claude’s. I request one more drink, but the screen refuses it, pointing out that my blood alcohol levels are high already.  I return home, angry and annoyed. It is after returning home that I realise my original intention of communicating my feelings with someone has remain unfulfilled. I still wanted to talk to someone, to tell her about my anguish, to communicate my anxieties.

It was then that a stupid idea struck my mind, and like most stupid ideas it seemed smart at that point. I thought that maybe Dos could be that companion I was looking for all this while. Maybe I could communicate my feelings to Dos.

“Hey Dos, I just got fired from my job today.”

“You have nothing to worry about, sir. The unemployment benefit will take care of you.”

“But how will I spend my time?”

“Here are a few government prescribed suggestions of what you can do when you are unemployed.”

“No, no, not the government prescribed ones. I know I can play virtual reality games, spend time on the treadmill, watch the screen for media feeds. I am not talking about those.”

“What sort of suggestions are you looking for, then?”

“How can I do something meaningful?”

“What do you mean by ‘meaningful’?”, Dos asks innocently, unaware of the irony.

“Like work, for example. Something that utilizes my abilities.”

“I don’t understand, sir. You will have to do no work, but you still get the same benefits from the state. Are you looking for anything more than that?”

This is frustrating. How can I make him understand that beyond food, shelter and comfort, we also want to be understood? We want to talk to real people, do real work. Or is it only me? Nobody else seems to feel the need for anything real any more.

I wish I could turn back the clock, and bring the wheels of time to a stop. I wish I could go back to my childhood, when I had real friends all around me, not virtual screens. I wish I could go back to the world which was a little less perfect, little less efficient than this. A world where frustration was more commonplace than vacuous contentment.

I wish I could break all these smart screens on my walls. May be, behind all of them, there will be a door. A magical door to go back to the past.

 

Engineering or no engineering?


This is a screenplay written by the students of Class X (2017) about future career choices.

(My mom just finished talking with my aunt on the phone. I am watching ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ on my laptop when my mom walks in.)

Mom: Your cousin has cleared the IIT-JEE and is soon going to IIT Bombay. And look at you! Whole day I see you watching movies and reading storybooks.

Me: That’s not true. I study enough.

Mom: Study what? History and English? Do you think they are going to get you anywhere?

Me: What do you want me to study then?

Mom: How do you think your cousin got into IIT? By studying Physics, Chemistry and Maths. Now he is going to become an engineer and get a high-paying job.

(At this point I remember the conversation I had with my cousin, Sounak, when he came here last month.)

Sounak: Hey great news! The IIT-JEE results came out today and I got through!

Me: So what are you going to study?

Sounak: I don’t know, really. It depends on your rank. If I had a choice, I would study Electronics.

Me: What is it?

Sounak: I don’t know exactly what one studies in Electronics. But it is typically preferred by better-ranking students.

Me: Oh! But how do you know you are going to actually like it?

 Sounak (looks surprised): Liking? Is that important? All my friends will be dying to get into Electronics. And my father also said that I must get into either Electronics or Electrical Engineering.

Me: But your father is not going to study it, right? Have you ever looked at any Electronics book to know if you are going to like it?

Sounak: Come on, man. Who looks at books after the exams are over? Whenever I get some free time, I watch cricket.

Me: Only cricket? Don’t you watch any movies? Have you heard of this great movie called ‘The Shawshank Redemption’?

Sounak: No, never heard of it. I like action movies. I watched ‘Bahubali’ six times last month.

Me: But you must watch some English movies, if only to get better at speaking English.

Sounak: Come on, man! You are too serious – always talking about learning this and that! Give me a break. For the last four years, I have been studying for this exam. Enough of learning! Now, I will only chill out.

(My mom interrupts my thoughts.)

Mom: Learn from him! Study the Science textbooks.

Me: Don’t talk about Sounak! He cannot express a coherent thought in English without saying ‘come on’, ‘chill out’, etc. He thinks IIT is his final destination. Don’t have so much hope about his future.

Mom: I have even lesser hope about your future. At least he got through IIT. Soon, he will be a well-paid engineer just like his dad.

Me: Neither is his dad an engineer, nor is he likely to be one.

Mom: What the hell do you mean?

Me: His dad is a project manager at Infosys. He was clearly not recruited there for his Electrical Engineering skills, if he had any. If Sounak gets a job at all, he will only get a software job.

Mom: Still, they are engineers – software engineers, and they get a good job. That’s all that matters.

Me: Software engineers are hired from all sorts of colleges, not just engineering colleges. The software firms test no engineering skills, but only reading and logic. And let me also tell you there are plenty of career options other than coding.

Mom: What are they, may I ask?

Me: Economists, journalists, bureaucrats, writers, teachers, lawyers – and in the end, there is always the option to be a corporate slave if one fails in everything else.

Mom: What is this corporate slave?

Me: People who do insignificant jobs in large companies – just cogs in the wheel.

Mom: You don’t seem to respect anything. Millions of people are just corporate slaves?

Me: That’s precisely the point, because they are among the millions.

Mom: So Mr. Know-it-all, what do you want to become?

Me: I don’t want to decide right now, without having enough information, unlike your Sounak who wants to study Electronics without having any clue about what it is.

Mom: I don’t want your decisions. You better study the science textbooks so that you have all your options open.

Me: Don’t worry about the science textbooks. I’ll study them for the board exams. But don’t expect me to pursue engineering, which I will not.

Mom: Just now you said you don’t know what you want.

Me: But I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to be part of the herd who only memorize sums for these engineering entrance exams for many years.

Mom: I’m fed up of arguing with you. You do what you want!

Me: That’s exactly what you should have said right in the beginning.

(Mom storms out of the room and slams the door shut.)

Free will is a myth


This is a screenplay written by the students of Class X (2017). 

(Me and my parents are watching news. The channel plays a speech of Donald Trump where he is saying that he intends to build a wall between US and Mexico.)

Me: Having a person like Donald Trump in the White House is really the worst thing that could have happened to the world. Even I could have done a better job.

Dad:
It is the people who chose him, however stupid he may be. If the people wanted him to be the President, then he deserves to be President.

Me: Why does the choice of the people matter so much? People can be wrong.

Mom: Wrong or right, it is the wish of the people. Each individual’s wishes are unique and must be respected, even if they clash with yours.

Me: Why must they be respected? There is nothing unique or authentic about the wishes of each individual. They are simply a product of genes and society’s myths. Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to be President simply because the people chose him. Democracy doesn’t make much sense because people don’t even have the free will to choose who they want.

Mom: Have you gone out of your mind? Whatever you’re saying is not making any sense.

Me: Think of it in this way. You have watched ‘Hirak rajar deshe’. The king was brainwashing everybody using a machine. Afterward the people thought the king to be great. They also must have thought their opinion to be their own independent wish. So would you consider their opinions to be their free will?

Mom: No. But how is it relevant?

Me: Though your brainwashing isn’t as apparent, it is still happening. So how can you think that you have free will?

Dad: You don’t have any free will because I control you. But how can you say that we have no freedom? If I want to go and vote for Trump, no one can stop me. If I feel like slapping you, I’ll do it. And I want to do it very much at this moment.

Me: Yes, it is true that you are free to act on your desires. But who said your thoughts and desires are free? If your thoughts are free, can you choose not to think anything? No, right? Then admit it. You don’t have free will. You have just been dictated by your genes and brainwashed by the society.

Dad: Now who is speaking nonsense?

Mom: What do you mean ‘brainwashed’? Don’t we have brains?

Me (to myself): Apparently not.

Mom: Is this another theory of that Harari? If so, who has been brainwashed?

Me: Harari is a great man. And I’m not being brainwashed without understanding his explanations. And even if what you said were true, I would have at least been brainwashed by the correct person.

Dad: Who is this Harari by the way?

Me: Ughh… nobody really. He lives in Israel.

Dad: We have listened enough to your nonsense. Get out of my sight if you don’t want a slap.

Me: This is what you always do when you don’t have any arguments left. Why not admit that you are losing? Besides, I’m not scared of your slap.

Mom: You are getting worse day by day. How dare you speak to us like that?

(Dad tries to slap me but I block his hand before he can do so.)

Me: It is really impossible to explain anything to you. You never admit your ignorance. I’m fed up.

(I storm out of the room.)