THE BEGINNING – DUSK
The night was dark. Thick dark. Immersive, intense, illusive. I was sitting in that amidst darkness. On a charpai. In a land of Māru, Meru, Meramañ – Desert, Ocean, Mountains. Years ago, people named it Kutch. Because it has a resemblance to the tortoise. The lifeless land exists in this earth between wet & dry seasons intermittently at the Rann (desert).
I was sitting there for a while. Since the dusk. On the same charpai. Marshy salt flats were all around me. Snow white, but not so bright, or glittering. Not as immersive and intense as the thick darkness. Because of absence of the sun. But definitely illusive. The whole day was overcast. Often cloudy. What I imagined in my mind to get a frame of vaccine transportation in this white salt land miserably failed today. Because of the light. We all were praying wholeheartedly, so that sun would come out in the dusk, even for few minutes. But the luck was not with me today. Then, everyone left slowly and gradually. One by one. Except me. I was looking towards the horizon. Mesmerised by the illusion. Created by the overcast sky and grim salt land. So dry and lifeless, it seemed that the land immersed under deep pathos for ages. So deep and raw that is not possible to express. With tears. The chilling breeze was blowing through the Rann from far northwest. But my mind was much occupied with the depressing failure. The somatic senses didn’t respond to it. I would like to cry. But couldn’t. Like this land.
My human psyche was intensely trying to overcome the depression by finding an alternative path towards light. Ideas were coming and evaporating in the mind. The curtain of darkness gradually rolled down from the sky to the land. And the snow white gradually immersed in the darkness in front of the eyes. The depression became intensified; the failure became unbearable. Yet, I was trying to swim through this darkness. To get out of the depressing failure.
I don’t know how long I was there. Cellphone discharged long back. I was missing the habit of wearing my inexpensive Casio digital watch, that I broke a few years back and never bought another one. I looked up at the sky. In an attempt to locate Venus, Saturn, or Jupiter. To understand the direction of South and the time. But it seemed someone put a thick black blanket on the earth.
I put my hands in the pocket and bring out the cigarette pack and the matchbox. That was the maximum attempt my motor & sensory neurones can do in this midst of darkness to locate my belongings that stored in my memory. I was literally behaving like a blind man. I tried to light the cigarette, but realised that was an unequal fight. With the wind that was blowing harshly since long time, but I didn’t realise earlier probably because of my preoccupied mind. I started shivering. The attempts to light the cigarette became more fast and hasty. With obvious subsequent failures. One, two, three, four… and then suddenly, through the infrequent dim lights of the matchsticks, I saw someone. Sitting in front. But how could I say someone? About the obscured countenance that I perceived few seconds ago because of the second’s light. A human? Or something else. The darkness made me completely blind.
An icy wave passed through my spine. The cigarette was still hanging on my lips. I whispered, ‘ke? Who?’
With my utter surprise, a male monotonous voice replied through the darkness in Bengali, with non-Bengali accent. ‘Didn’t recognise? You know me very well. I accompany you every moment of your life. Since a decade.’
‘Okay. Don’t be afraid. I’m Google, your companion of life. Your mobile got discharged. So, I came to help you.’
The clouds of confusion built up in my mind. Am I alive? Or in a dream? Or someone was making me a fool? I came to my consciousness when the voice again start talking.
‘You seem to be in an utterly confused state. You can tell me your problem. I’m solving the problems of the entire human race.’
I took sometime to reply. It hit directly both my confusion and conscience. ‘Is it so?’
‘Yes, of course. You just have to say, Okay, Google. I’ll be there in front of you immediately.’
I was getting my nerves back. Getting accustomed to the voice, I replied jokingly, ‘you seem to be the Genie of Arabian Nights. Though I can’t figure out how you exactly look like.’
The invisible figure replied, ‘May be much superior to what you imagine. If you want to listen to that story of Arabian Nights, just let me know. But at this moment, let me know your problem.’
I took a pause for sometime. Then said, ‘I failed miserably today to achieve what was in my mind about this Rann. So, tomorrow, I have another plan. I am planning to take the vaccines to Harappa.’
For a few seconds, I didn’t get any response. The sound of silence of Rann was quietly accompanying the chilly breeze. Then the voice again started telling, ‘Sorry. But Harappa destroyed few thousand years ago. If you want to know the details of the Harappan civilisation, I can help you. I have every information about the civilisation stored in the cloud.’
I smiled in the darkness. I told, ‘that I know, Mr. Google. What I want is to take the vaccine to Dholavira. Do you know the place? And the shortest route to reach the place.’
I heard the elated voice in the dark. ‘Of course I know the place. And the route too. As per the map, you can comfortably reach Dholavira in 7 to 8 hours from here.’
‘But I don’t have that much time. I have to reach must faster with the vaccine. Do you know any alternative route?’
‘There is no alternative route to Dholavira,’ the reply came from the darkness.
‘But the locals said there is a quick route through the water body. Rann of Kutch Lake. About a couple of hours journey through the salt lake of Rann. In winter, we can easily access the route, they said.’
‘Impossible. That can’t be possible, as the map doesn’t show any road through the lake. How can you go through the water without a road?’ the voice raised slightly. ‘Don’t believe the locals. If a road is not visible in Google map, that means it doesn’t exist.’ After a pause, the voice again starts talking. ‘But why do you want to reach faster? And why with vaccines?’
I didn’t reply immediately. Rather took a pause.
‘First, I don’t want to miss the light again tomorrow. And to your second question, I can vaguely say that I am chasing vaccines through a time machine. Standing on that soil, I want to apologise to those little innocent lives of the bank of Indus, who left the world untimely. Because of infections. Because of the greed of the civilisation that brought the infectious diseases. Our greed disrespected the nature’s law of symbiosis as we upgraded ourselves from hunter-gatherers to civilians. An entire land, once prospered by the river Indus, suddenly became deserted because of human greed. As a civilian, I’m equally responsible for the deaths of those innocent lives occurred few thousand years ago. I wish they had vaccines. Infections and human greed are not in control of entire human race, but at least today we have vaccines. To prevent vaccine-preventable diseases.’
I would probably continue for a while, but the voice interrupted my flow. ‘You foolish humans. The emotional fools.’
‘You’re right, Mr. Google. We have emotions. The passion. The greed. To conquer the unknown. That gave the birth to technology and the demigods like you.’
The voice replied, ‘you are non-existent without the technology, like me.’
‘Yes. You are right. We developed technology for the mankind. Not the reverse. But unfortunately, the purpose intended ultimately disappears in due course and taking us towards the destruction. Just like we gradually become dependent on you. And started distrusting ourselves. We forget our own human instinct and started following you blindly. It’s the simultaneous existence of the good and the worst.’ I took a pause. ‘It’s a chaotic state of mind with innumerable scattered dots. Vaccines are helping me to connect those dots of the complexity science. In search of the purpose of living. I have to go to Dholavira. To apologise. In shortest possible time.’
The monotonous voice seemed to be anxious. ‘Listen. If you want, I can still guide you to reach Dholavira through the road that exists. I may also help you find the answers to your questions through Google search. But you have to follow me the way I will direct. Not the way you want.’
I smiled again in the dark. ‘Thank you, Mr. Google. I am quite aware of your enormous abilities. You know everything about my daily life. We created you and asked you to do that. But this time I should find my route by myself. I still have faith in human instincts. I must thank you sincerely for you to accompany me in this wilderness. For your time and conversation. It’s enriching.’
‘Are you sure you don’t need my help?’
‘Yeah. Absolutely. Cent percent. Bye, Google.’
The voice disappeared in the darkness.
THE END – DAWN
I woke up on a sunny morning. I looked outside through the windows of my hotel in Bhuj. The cloud disappeared. I came out of the room. Asked my chauffeur, Dharamraj, whom I fondly called Yudhistir, ‘will you accompany me in that less traveled road? You know it’s not on the Google map. And I really don’t know about the road condition’
‘Yes, Sirji. I’m with you for last 2-3 days. I know, if I’ll accompany you, it will be an experience to remember. I’ll have a story to tell others.’
‘Take your time. Think again. The road may be bad. I mean worst.’ I reminded him once again.
‘Hum hain naa, Sir. I’m here with you.’
We embarked on our journey. Took a halt in front of the tea-cum-pan shop where we had a tea break yesterday. I went to meet the owner of the shop. An old man who informed me about the shortest route. I bought two packets of cigarettes. He was happy. I asked him once again to reconfirm the route. He smiled and told, ‘siddhu, siddhu. Go straight.’ We followed his instruction. And then the 60 kilometres stretch of total 162 kilometres journey, what I saw on both sides of that unknown kachha road, was something unnatural. Yet belong to nature. Because only nature can make this motif with her own palate of colours. With two ingredients – salt and water. Layers of sparkling white, dissected by blue, magenta, vermilion, pink. Except one prominent color. Green.
We reached Dholavira, the metropolis of Harappan civilisation, in about three hours on a less traveled road. Accessed by the humans but not by artificial intelligence. Yudhistir told me, ‘Sir, we often say don’t judge the book by its cover. Yah pe toh koi cover hi nahi tha, sidha book par pahoche gaye.’ The road was bad, but far better than what we actually expected. It exists outside Google map.
I kept an empty vaccine vial in the ruin. For those untimely departed innocent souls who were probably used to play with their earthy toys in the bank of Indus. I pray for those little souls.
I took a handful of dusts in a zip pouch, as I did in Rann. The dust of the land of my ancestors, of their footsteps. I may raise questions about their greed and the results, but I can’t ignore their presence. Who knows, probably I’m carrying the same gene of a couple who met in this place almost 5000 years ago. The remnant of one of the finest and scientifically water distribution systems within the metropolis – the dams – created by our ancestors, is the proof of the existence of Indus. But what I saw few minutes ago, the deserted water body and the Rann, is also the undeniable creation of humans. Yet we are still attempting to restrict the flow of rivers against nature. Through the dams. Will vaccines alone able to save present and future civilisation?
Standing on civilisation’s one of the earliest remnants and gazing towards the horizon, I took my cellphone out of the pocket. It shamelessly displayed – no network coverage. I said, ‘Okay Google’. But didn’t get any response. I tried once again. No, I couldn’t find Google.
I smiled and told silently –
‘You know Google, you actually can’t help us. And may not be in future too. Because we couldn’t help ourselves for ages. It’s our greed. Yet an entire species, that’s responsible for a vicious cycle of their own rise and fall for millions of years, already walked through innumerable alternative kachha roads of humankind, which are less traveled. Those you can’t find through satellites. We created you, not the reverse. Humans may survive without you. They actually did. The example is here right in front of you, the way we found our route. But how do you survive without humans? It’s technology for mankind. You can’t survive without the network. We can. At least, we can try. You don’t have that option. You can’t understand humans without a heart. A heart that’s responsible for our fall and rise. So, why I’m chasing vaccines is beyond your purview. Because it’s complex. And you can’t connect those chaotic dots without emotion, logic and passion. It’s only us who can either save or demolish ourselves. Not you or the technology. That’s our strength and weakness. That’s us. Humans. Okay, Google?’