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“It’s only true if you believe it. So shut up and eat your lunch,” Ravi said.

“What’s the matter with you? I didn’t say anything. I just got here,” Mann said.

“Exactly. Before you start, I did the inevitable. So you can thank me later,” Ravi said.

“Guys, please be quiet. It’s time for Mann to discuss his story. Let us all be quiet. It’s going to be super annoying,” Anil said poking Mann with his elbow.

“That’s right. Go ahead. I am not opening my mouth,” Mann said.

“Don’t be impossible. Today we want to hear from you. It’s a good thing that your mother or any family is not on Tinder to see your status. My goodness, my mother will kill me if I don’t do as she says. You are lucky. A queer can’t get his way around with a mother like mine,” Chen chipped in.

“Don’t worry, I will make Aunty get out of your dating life. Tinder can go to hell for you. I must say it has served me well. I hooked up yesterday with this. Now ain’t she nice?” Mann said.

“Yes, she is. You are living the American dream brother,” Anil said.

“And you the Indian dream!” Ravi said.

“What are you guys talking about?” Chen asked.

“Well, Anil is doing a very normal thing like most of the Indians do. Keep a low profile, marry young, be faithful forever, blah blah blah,” Ravi said.

“And you think I am living another life. Let me tell you, my friend, India is morphing. It’s in a state of flux. There are foreign elements creeping into it. And you can’t even start to imagine it,” Mann said.

“You done with your engineering degree! What gets into you to start babbling about physics, I wonder. Can’t you behave like a normal person? I thought Ravi was the nerd in our group. And now we have to bear you as well. Get out of here,” Anil said.

And the friends parted their ways after their lunch was over.

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Ravi speaks of people as specimens, lab rats, guinea pigs, good-for-nothing beasts. He gives a number randomly to people. For example, 239 is here to make my day worse. He didn’t get his scientific temperament from his dead father but his mother. His mother is a scientific scholar and teaches maths and physics at an engineering college. She is also working on a research paper.

“Not everything is binary. If you don’t believe in something that doesn’t mean it’s not possible at all…Placebos are for real. You think your medicine works. Guess what! It’s placebo. But it’s not possible for you to know that until you see the medicine harming your body,” his mother said.

“Okay. Now, what were you talking about? I lost you after possibilities,” Ravi said.

“I am sorry. I am so occupied with correcting the term papers. It’s messing with my head.”

“It’s all right. 324 was telling me the other day about his encounter with a supernatural presence. I mean can you believe that twat. All he does is ramble about his divine encounters. I mean get a hold of your life. There’s more to it than religious imaginations. I know mankind is imaginative like hell. But this takes it to another level.”

“Now, I lost you. What’s 324? Better you start taking names or don’t bother to tell me about it.”

“That’s the thing ma. Confidentiality! Why take names and rat out others. Even for a trifle. I mean it’s a good practice. Better to give them a number or say Mr. X so and so than to reveal the person. His integrity remains intact. It’s all for the good. I mean it.”

“That’s enough. I got work to do. Please shut the door and don’t make noise for a few days.”

That’s great. Even at this age, Ravi has to take orders from his mother. He can’t be himself in his own home. Maybe, it’s time for him to marry. His mother is not interested. But he is. He wished to take up the matter with his friends first. Maybe he will join Tinder like Mann and Chen. Maybe he will be lucky unlike the majority of Indians. Maybe he will end up in a great relationship. A lot of maybes floated in his mind.

Wild type

1

To reap or to beep,

it’s all for you to keep.

To mow or to bow,

something you got to know.

To care to dare,

your Papi is a hare.

To gear or to fear,

hello mama I’m near.

“What the crack jack shit deck snortling a-hole!” Jimmy shouted. He is going through a forward on Whatsapp.

The baby in his lap is alarmed. She is one year old and is hanging from her father’s arm. An elderly man pops up with contempt, “What the hell is wrong with you? You have a baby for Christ’s sake. Is this what he gets to learn from you? God help him and save his soul.”

“First of all, she’s a she. And second, thanks for your concern. And third, I am sorry kiddo. I need to learn my ways around you,” Jimmy said.

“Sharon Smith,” the nurse shouted.

Jimmy is a young man of twenty-five. His wife Wendy abandoned him like a shopping cart. She shopped around till they had a baby and boom. She was gone. She is one of those women who can’t handle babies at all. She’s was miserably out of her mind when she saw Sharon for the first time. She cried her guts out. The next day she was out of the marriage in her head. She decided to leave her baby behind. The court had to approve the custody of the baby to the father. What can be done if the mother is not interested? Nothing.

Sharon came to the hospital for a checkup with her father. Her father decided that he would get his baby checked by a professional each month just to confirm the baby’s health and well-being. He didn’t need to do so. But it gave his mind peace, something that is a must for a single parent. This story is not about a single mother but a single father and his travails. Isn’t this strange? Well, you will find out soon enough that this is just the beginning of a wild ride. Or a joy ride for the readers.

The life of vegetables

7

The parade saw all sorts of vegetables taking part. They dressed up pretty and showed their might with huge apparels docking them. There was an award for The Best Veggie in Town. A tomato couple was dressed in bright yellow and blue. Jane remembered the time when she doubled up with Tom and participated. This was before their marriage. Tom was into rock n’ roll. He used to bubble with energy. But times change and so does people.

After marriage, Tom has become sullen. After having children, he started sulking. Now it doesn’t even feel like he’s alive. What happened to the guy with a zeal for life. He used to be fun. Now he’s an antidote of fun. He’s a killjoy. Neither he will have fun nor he will allow his lovely wife and his beautiful children. He has gone rogue.

Jane’s neighbor has a similar tale of woe. Her name is Tilda and she is an onion. Before marriage, she was promised the world. But not a word came true after marriage. Jane thought that this is a normal thing for a guy to do. All of them must be like this. She remembers her father to be no different as told by her mother.

A mushroom made a pass at her. Was this fate? Déjà vu? Mushroom all over again! It all came back to her: a lovely proposal by a certain mushroom turned down by her. This time she decided to give it a chance. She had her telephone number jotted down on a piece of paper. She took it out and threw at the stranger. She needed this bad. There was nothing she wouldn’t sacrifice for a better life. She deserves it after all she gave up in her marriage.

Human Zoo

1

We are living in a world wrought with diseases which mankind is incapable of fighting. We have loaded ourselves with enough antibiotic that they don’t work on us. The bacteria are used to it. They have an evolutionary advantage of billions of years over us. How can we outsmart them? We are just seeing the light of day and they are making us fight for our survival.

89 specimens from 89 countries all over the world are kept in a human zoo. 11 scientists, the best in the world, keep at them to see the changes in their behavior. Their gene is tapped into for the origins of diseases and cures.

It’s not a typical zoo that we find in our societies. It is a typical neighborhood. People live together in this society totally cut off from the outside world. Their job is to let the scientists experiment on them. All these people come from poor families and they have accepted this gracious offer from the benefactor. They have one mission: to live and find a cure for mankind’s survival.

Families live together in this community and function as a whole lending hand to one another. Anything other than this is provided by the benefactor who is leading the investigation. They live on fruits and vegetables grown in their society. They eat whatever they cultivate. No factory food reaches them. This has ensured their optimum health and well-being. They are going to unlock mankind’s future on this planet.

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Mann is living with his parents and a younger sister. His parents are also looking for a bride. Mann told them he will look for one on Tinder but his parents are not sure. They don’t trust the system of dating and getting. They are old school and want to go for the traditional arranged marriage route. They want to push Mann’s biodata through the horde of relatives so they will help find a match for him. Mann’s heart lies elsewhere.

He is not on Tinder to look for a life partner but to serve his boner. Last night, he hooked up with a girl who was looking to party. Mann is a man who wants no strings in life. Just fun which he finds on Tinder. His profile says: Looking for a mouthful, look no further.

“How’s your Mann ki Baat going on Tinder?” his mother asked.

“His heart is not there. So there can’t be a heart to heart,” his sister jumped.

“I met a girl yesterday. She’s bright as day,” Mann said. He didn’t know how to avoid talks of marriage. He didn’t know what marriage is and will be for him. He is scared. He wants nothing of the sort which Anil is having. He is afraid of giving up his freedom. So he must carry on with fruitless discussions and keep a safe distance from a potential bride for as long as possible.

“If she’s brighter than you, she will look elsewhere,” his father chipped in.

“Only a dumb one would marry my brother,” his sister carried on.

“Then I suppose you better hunt for that particular girl. And I am getting late for office,” Mann said leaving home earlier than usual. He’s just 23 years old and his parents are already after him. They believe that you get a virgin only if they are young enough like 19 or 20. They believe in first come, first serve policy which will allow their son to get a first-class entry into someone’s virginhood. They believe a virgin is a blessing to a marriage. It makes for a perfect marriage. Are they worried? Of course, they are. But what about their son’s virginity. Maybe not.

Eye in the sky

1

“Give it to me. It’s too heavy for you. Elena. Watch your steps,” Stephan said.

“Ouch! My leg is stuck,” Elena cried.

“Hold on. Pull out your leg on my mark: one, two, three. Pull,” Stephan said.

Elena’s right knee was bleeding profusely from the damage done by the boulder under which her leg was stuck. There was chaos and confusion everywhere. Tiny bots were scattered all over the city. They were executing the Deflects on the command of the Chancellor. The Chancellor calls it The Great Purge. All this was done on the first day of every month to cleanse the city of the souls who had defected. By defecting, they had somehow bypassed the protocols of the city.

The executions helped the city keep its population to a minimum. Population growth was still a huge burden even after 30 years of World War III. The nuclear missiles had left the world unbearable for humans. The toxicity level was too much for 99% of the planet to survive.

A select few were made to live in a city which was insulated from the outside world. A multi-layered robotic shield of nanobots kept it shielded from the outside air. Science had advanced during the war as usual. This time it was a do or die situation. After all, the fate of the human race was at stake.

This was the 1st of July in the year 2050. At the beginning of the day, the population of the city was forty thousand. It kept on decreasing as the day progressed. The final tally stood at thirty thousand. This was the first time in 30 years that The Great Purge swiped ten thousand people in the city. The earlier record was two thousand during the food shortage debacle. Something wasn’t right. And the citizens sensed it.