CIU13 mins 178 13 mins 178
The rickety space scooter flew in a zig-zag path and finally landed in the parking terminal. Idran knew that he needed to fix the scooter’s gears. But he also knew that he wouldn’t do so until the scooter completely refused to work.
Taking off his helmet, Idran activated his oxygen mask and tapped the GPS switch on his watch. A faint line appeared in front of him, directing Idran towards his destination.
The Mumbai Sigma district was a marvel of 34th-century technology. The various streets and buildings were arranged in neat circles and precise squares. But after all, this was still Mumbai. So at the corners of the neatly aligned streets were the floating pan stalls and levitating political hoardings, with random groups of people jumping on board the bullet trains (Yes, people still tried to stand at the door) and jumping out of the rocket taxis (The meters still worked with some mysterious logic).
Sure the air was un-breathable and of course, most of the city had drowned after the first wave of global warming in the 21st century. But the indomitable spirit of the Mumbaikars (Or the unquestionable need for money to survive) still endured. Especially in many young men just like Idran Batave. Patting his long wavy hair, Idran quickly followed the faint line in front of him.
He really hoped that he would win this new client. Idran’s company, Capsulita Inc. was the world’s leading manufacturer of the CIU compound. CIU – the Child In You was a revolutionary drug that had saved the world from a complete economic collapse.
The story was now the first thing every employee was told in their orientation. With an AV machine strapped to his head, Idran had also been shown the story of how Shri G.G. Faude, the founder of Capsulita Inc. made this ground-breaking discovery.
What happened was, as far as Idran could understand, that sometime in the 24th century there seemed to be this great depression. Economic disasters leading to the worst kind of hopelessness. People all over the world, from those working in leading corporates to the ones loitering in the streets, we're wondering, what’s the point of all this?
Everyone seemed to conclude that there was no point to all this.
For the first time in the history of mankind, the world’s governments had to deploy police forces on a scale that was unimaginable. It was a grave violation of human rights but the governments were desperate to prevent any more suicides.
So the police once tasked with maintaining law and order, now kept an extremely vigilant lookout to prevent people from jumping over bridges or enquiring about the firmness of ceiling fans. This certainly made court trials immensely tricky as in the case of the State Vs. Ms. Mithya Patel had attempted to kill herself over 353 times. Wouldn’t giving her a death sentence be more of a reward than a punishment?
Then Shri G.G. Faude found a way to heal everyone’s lives with his revolutionary CIU compound. It was just a small pill of a few milligrams, but this marvelous drug took people who consumed it back to their childhood. They felt again a strong sense of joy and optimism. Unlike an anti-depressant that only regulated the mind, Shri G.G. Faude’s innovation seemed to transform the mind. Unlike hard drugs that took people away from reality, CIU increased people’s ability to focus.
So with renewed energy, the world moved ahead.
And here we are today, in a world of solar-powered spaceships (Yes sometimes the sun can’t be seen through a haze of pollution, but that’s okay) and fairly advanced A. That has truly simplified human existence (So far the robots didn’t seem to want to conquer the world. They calculated that a world so broken down by humanity probably wasn’t going to last very long).
Through an array of pristine and well-designed footpaths, Idran was about to follow the faint line into a large building – the office of the International Human Charter of India. That’s when he noticed the restless old man pacing by the Aerobus stop just outside the office.
Even as the faint line blinked urgently, Idran turned away from it and walked up to the old man.
‘Hello, Sir. Are you all right?’
‘Eh? Eh? Me? Right all am I? Is it that I am?’
The old man cocked his head to one side, seemingly immersed in trying to find an answer.
He’s a Sapien - X, thought Idran.
It had been explained to Idran that the CIU compound now in use for many centuries had still not managed to save everyone. So through a line of descent from various people of the 24th century, there were still these depressed, confused, lost souls, who had never consumed CIU. These were called the Sapien-X.
Idran felt a wave of sympathy for the old man. He seemed to be around eighty, an age when CIU could no longer be administered.
Reminding himself that he still had a job to do, Idran resolutely turned away from the old man and walked into the charter’s office.
‘So in conclusion, a daily dose of CIU improves productivity to 120%, capital-output by 237%, and profitability by an astounding 580%!’
Like a star awaiting applause, Idran smiled at the HR manager. Mrs. Manati peered at him silently through her large bifocal glasses. At one point it seemed like she was about to snap at Idran but then she simply nodded her head and took a few deep breaths.
Finally, almost in a soft whisper, she said ‘Mr. Batave, what about creativity?’
Idran looked like someone had just knocked his stumps with a not too gentle delivery.
‘Huh? Crea..creativity?’ He muttered.
No one ever asked him about this. None of his 53 large clients based in different corners of the globe had ever asked him about this. But from his extensive training as a salesman, Idran finally found a few answers.
Recovering his composure Idran continued speaking.
‘Excellent point Ma’am. You see CIU is after all the Child in You! We have countless reports and studies that show how our product improves a user’s ability to write, paint, draw, or do anything creative with 40% greater effectiveness.’
With a mocking smiled Mrs. Manati exclaimed. ‘Oh, 40%! That’s so wonderful! Now Mr.Batave could you tell me the name of one reputed artist or writer who uses CIU?’
This time Idran felt like someone had not only knocked his stumps but had pulverized them to a few atoms.
‘There…there must be something in the database. I…I will get back to you soon on that Mrs. Manati.’ He muttered.
Mrs.Manati looked at Idran and smiled kindly this time.
‘Don’t bother Mr. Batave. There are many artists who have used CIU. But then they completely lost interest in their creative work. Most of them are now making machines that make art.’
‘Well good for them!’ exclaimed Idran, trying to sound confident.
Mrs. Manati sighed with a sense of exhaustion.
‘You’re still a very young man Mr. Batave. Perhaps you won’t appreciate how making something beautiful isn’t always an efficient process.’
Idran energetically pointed out of the glass windows. ‘But Ma’am just look at the city! All this technology, all this uh, development, isn’t it beautiful?’
Shuffling through a few files on her desk, Mrs. Manati tersely replied. ‘Mr. Batave, if I opened these windows, neither you nor I would be alive to appreciate any of this beauty. That’s the kind of world we live in.’
‘But Ma’am with a productivity rate of 120%...’
Mrs. Manati slammed the files on her desk.
‘You really want to make this sale, don’t you? Okay then. Tell me do you use this CIU Mr. Batave?’
‘Of course!’ replied Idran, unnecessarily puffing out his chest. He was proud of how much more efficient and lively he had become after he began regularly taking the CIU dose last year.
‘Hmph. Of course, you do. Then tell me Mr. Batave, who was your favorite school teacher?’
The conversation had reached a point where Idran and his stumps were beginning to feel uncomfortable with their existence.
‘My…my favorite school teacher?’
‘Oh is that too difficult for you Mr. Batave? Then at least tell me who was your favorite cricket player when you were a child?’
Idran tried to find an answer, but his mind seemed to be covered in a haze.
‘Ma’am I can’t remember…’ Idran confessed.
‘Of course, you can’t. Because you are a user of CIU.’
‘But…but Ma’am if I don’t use CIU I will become a Sapien-X…’
Mrs. Manati glared at Idran.
‘Mr. Batave I am what you call a “Sapien-X”. If you weren’t so brainwashed by Capsulita, you would also be what I am. A normal person.’
Idran’s stumps decided that they had enough of this existence. Perhaps in the next life, they’d be reincarnated as something less stressful like a boundary line.
Idran’s rickety scooter navigated the traffic in sky lane no. 54. Through a thick screen of exhaust fumes, the moon still managed to shine upon the busy Mumbaikars. Like everyone else, Idran didn’t notice it.
Who was his favorite cricketer as a child? Idran could remember the names of many players but he just couldn’t recall who had inspired him to follow the game. (There was very little of it to follow now. In the 34th century, lack of oxygen and terrible soil conditions had reduced the cricketing season to some 5 series played in a few surviving hilly pitches).
Like an overexcited dog, the scooter managed to land in Idran’s apartment. The parking space was only slightly larger than the single room.
Quickly walking up to the console screen, Idran searched for a list of the greatest cricketers of all time. All the faces were familiar to Idran but none of them brought back any trace of memory.
That’s when Idran had a horrible feeling of dropping from his scooter while it still flew 50,000 feet in the sky. He realized that he couldn’t recall any of his childhood. No school teacher, no best friends, no scary exams. Absolutely nothing.
Nervously patting his hair and pacing in the room, Idran stumbled over the 538 things that were precisely in places they shouldn’t be. A random step made a ball roll across the floor, hit a pan that supported a shelf, made the shelf collapse on Idran’s toes and an old Capsulita Trainee Manual whacked Idran right on the nose.
With a long groan remarkably similar to his scooter’s engine, Idran picked up the manual. Somewhere at the end of it, he found an address for the CIU manufacturing and research facility based in the Mumbai Delta district.
Suddenly Idran knew what he needed to do.
The Mumbai Delta district was built some 5,000 feet above what used to be Dharavi in the 21st century. A group of leading manufacturers and researchers had set up their plants in this vast humid expanse. Their sensibilities could not permit a name like Dharavi, hence was born in the Mumbai Delta district (However Chor Bazaar was still called Chor Bazaar because that’s what it still was).
Unlike Sigma (Built above Sion), Delta was not a district with precise squares and lanes. After parking his scooter in the Aerobus depot, Idran walked through the narrow corridors and crowded elevators that connected the different manufacturing plants.
Idran knew that he would not be allowed into the Capsulita research facility without any proper authorization (Which he wouldn’t get until he completed at least 50 years in Capsulita). So Idran headed to the only place where he could easily obtain answers not to be found anywhere else.
After some 34 lefts and 78 rights, Idran finally reached the chai tapri. Through the various centuries, the only significant way in which a chai tapri had changed was that now everyone wore oxygen masks while they smoked.
This chai tapri owned by Monty bhai was in a rare public space just a few corridors from the Capuslita research facility. Idran took his chai to a flimsy table in the corner and opened his laptop, pretending to do some work. Soon around the lunch hour, a crowd of people bearing Capsulita ID cards gathered at the stall.
In a few minutes, Idran found what he was looking for. Standing by himself in one corner was a young teenager who had the right mix of youthfulness and frustration that made it clear that he was an intern.
Idran walked up to the chubby and innocent-looking teenager, offering him a cup of tea. With a puppy-like expression, the teenager turned to Idran and spoke ‘Oh thank you so much, sir! Thank you! You are a salesman, aren’t you? I hope one day I’ll be just like you!’
Clearing his throat Idran spoke ‘Listen, buddy, I won’t affect your promotions. You can relax.’
Exhaling with relief, Javid replied ‘Oh thank God. I am so tired of sucking up to everyone. Then what do you want sir?’
Unable to contain himself, Idran asked ‘Oh I was just wondering if there any new CIU drug variants coming out. Working here you must have had a dose right?’
Glumly Javid the intern replied ‘There are no new variants. And no sir I have not been given any CIU. I will only be eligible 6 months from now.’
Looking casually at the console behind the tapri, Idran spoke. ‘Oh look, they’re showing some India-Pakistan match from 2242. I umm, really liked this Indian team when I was in school. Did you uh, have a favorite cricketer when you were a child?’
Immediately Javid replied ‘Clive Lloyd. I mean sure our team beat him in 1983 but as a captain, he won 2 world cups before that! And his 102 runs from 88 balls in the 75 world cup...that was just pure magic…’
Now Javid spoke less like an intern and more like a passionate fan. ‘Can you believe, he won 11 test matches one after the other! Oh and he was pretty decent as a medium pace bowler too! See back then in my hometown we only got access to repeat telecast matches from the 1970s and 80s. So it was a long time before I discovered any of the recent cricketers.’
Holding up his laptop, Idran tried to sound coherent ‘Cli…Clive Lloyd is it? That’s great. That’s really great. Well, I have to get back to some sales work. Nice talking to you buddy.’
Almost running away from him, Idran turned back and whispered ‘Oh and I hope you soon get confirmed. Best of luck with that!’
Idran quickly disappeared into one of the countless corridors leading to the Aerobus depot. But the same thought kept running in his mind.
He didn’t even have to think about it. He didn’t even have to think about it!
It had been 2 years, 3 months, half a week, and 15 hours since Idran had taken a CIU pill. It had also been about the same time since he had lost his job at Capsulita when he ‘accidentally’ dropped a 5kg delivery package of CIU.
Idran had also lost a lot of weight, then gained too much of it and then lost some more again.
But fortunately, Idran finally found the time to repair his scooter and seek reliable help for his health (This meant walking away from a lot of hospitals with Capsulita hoardings).
So a very different Idran Batave was revisiting the International Human Charter of India. This time he walked less like a man on a mission and more like a man who was just enjoying his walk.
Peering at Idran from above her stack of files, Mrs. Manati smiled. Their organization was one of many for whom Idran did a little freelance marketing work.
‘Yes, Mr. Batave?’
‘Uh, hello Mrs. Manati.’ Idran greeted her nervously.
He paced 5 feet to the left, 16 feet to the right, before completing a triangle that would have certainly pleased Pythagoras.
Finally, Idran paused and smiled. It had come to him last night. A memory of his years in the Mumbai Rouge district (Above Lalbaug with still no red gardens). Like Javid, during Idran’s childhood even he only had access to the telecast of certain matches only these matches were from the 1990s. A time when a certain man of short stature and revolutionary style had become the new God of cricket.
Smiling peacefully Idran walked away from Mrs. Manti’s office. Then slipping his head through the door he spoke softly.
‘Sachin. His name was Sachin Mrs. Manati.’