As the innumerable specs of dust

Adorns the dark walls of the sky

Countless the bubbles dancing, desperate 

To fly away from the water — ferocious

The scatter of ants buzzing away

As you drop into their equilibrium

The sandy rocks that roll down in haste

From atop the bite into the cookie

The blot of resilient colour in water 

Dismembered; piercing into molecules

The one white that paves light 

Torn apart to a band of seven 

Lying sharp, filled with glistens

From the past that as you step; slices 

Into you, leaving stained footprints

My heart that bleeds sugary syrup

Bite into the jalebi’s orange circles

Every step ahead that pulls you back 

The aroma that refuses to exit nose

Pictures dance past you — out of reach

The decibles that echo through ears

Shattering the bloody glass walls, weak

What keeps me alive. Today. 

Illustrations by Sitara VS ©


Fiesty, and impatient — but fearless 

Burning to keep alive the inner

Bleeding walls of blue — frozen.

Crackling every second to break

Extinguish the long seige that 

Attempts to tame her, in the

Name of an opaque curtain; 

To their innumerable intentions. 

Rather uncivilized and wild, 

Ferocious till her last spark; than 

Uncanny assumptions of the wrongs

Anger ever ablaze on her, resolute. 

Crack the silver that igloo-ed around —

Who dared to  threaten, not sparing 

Any spec afloat in the air.

Image and featured image by Neha Menon ©
short story

Interstellar Love

The galaxy was at unrest. The situation was such that Soorya and Chandra had to join forces, which was only possible during dusk or dawn. Together, they managed to banish the meteorite from the galaxy ; but Soorya was hurt.

Aysha was strength in beauty. She emanated everything she believed in. Whispers of her footprints echoed through the Palace of The Night. She left behind silver wisps as she twirled around the Palace —her home — and her long white hair obeyed accordingly.

A hurt Soorya had been resting in the Palace, when he woke up to the twinkling of laughter. That was the first time he saw her, the Moon Goddess; daughter of Chandra. Night was just about to set in. 

It was her birthday, and she was her brightest self. Fireflies adorned her hair, and he found her happiness empowering. She was the only one immune to the effects of night and day; and she created a temporary shield for Soorya  to protect him from the night – he belonged to the day.

That night his mind was in a storm — he could not rest. She sparkled in his eyes, and stirred his heart. The following dawn, he left to rise.

They met again often, and their lives instantly fell into place. She found a reassuring warmth in him, and she brought about a cool- headedness in him. They met at dawns and dusks, away from the celestial responsibilities and disturbances. They would talk effortlessly on everything and anything beyond bounds, but it was never enough. Then on a day when lightning illuminated the ambience, and the rain showered on them, they confessed their love to each other. 

Their love could no more be a secret ; Chandra was unhappy. He and his daughter belonged to the night, and Soorya belonged to the day. He was convinced that this union was a bad idea, almost forbidden. Aysha did not oppose her father, but she stated clearly that she could not imagine her life with anybody but Soorya.

After quite a delay, Chandra finally gave in. The two got married at a grand ceremony, and that was probably the best day of their lives. They were the happiest that day. 

Lightyears passed by, and their lives got busy — Soorya with his work, and Aysha with her heavenly chores. The dynamics of their relationship changed —it had become quiet, and they had fallen into a routine. Dates to the garden went down, and they often ran out of things to talk of. Or perhaps they were not required to speak up, they knew each other well. But with new founded leisure, Aysha found herself unimportant to the love of her life.

As time passed, the insecurities took a toll on her, she formed cracks over her body. This was a time when there was much turmoil around, and Soorya went away to protect the galaxy, fighting alongside Chandra. The fear of losing him made her realise that she still loved him the same, and perhaps even more. She had only got so used to him that her love had become latent, but it had never gone away. But this worry did much more harm to her.

The war had been over, and Soorya rushed back to Aysha. He held her in tight embrace the moment he saw her. She was overwhelmed by this gesture, assured that the warmth and coolness in their relationship was very much alive.

But by the time Soorya noticed her cracks, it was too late. He woke up to loud gasps. She lay near him— all ashened, shining through her cracks. The light in her eyes had shrunk, and her hair no longer had wisps. He held her face in his hands, looking into her eyes : “You dare not leave me.”

Tearful, she gave him a weak twinkling smile.

“I had to pay a huge price for rediscovering the magic I thought we had lost. Change is inevitable, but perhaps it does not mean love has to dissappear. You have to let me go.”

He watched as she disintegrated into shards, and slowly disappeared.

Day or night, she was always with him— though she was only visible in the night sky.

Illustration (and featured image) :
Baba Yaga.


Locked Spaces 

The auditorium. (sjc.ac.in)

H 302, they said. That was where the first year EJP students had to assemble, right after the orientation. There was the college anthem, college choir, the principle and of course Cheriyan sir – who had to be stopped for lack of time. From the huge, closed auditorium with large speakers hanging on either side of the stage, like the fangs of a tiger, I entered a golden room with brown benches and chairs. An amusing name it was, like in apartments – the block, the floor and then the room number. Undefined fuzzy faces chattered with excitement, P wore spectacles that were almost frameless, S sported a watch that had a dial whose diameter equalled the length of her wrist, and there were at least three girls who had chosen to wear blue that day. The seniors walked in and explained their experience of the course to us. We were a class of 52 – and the numbers were to come down, they warned. 

An AM meme.

The next day, I searched for my classroom on the notice board outside the block, as it gazed down upon me. H 407 it announced, and after a lot of hard work the destination had arrived. It was larger than the previous class, and was pale yellow with light brown benches. On the second bench, right under the fan, I almost froze to death as my three fourth sleeve was not warm enough. Everything after the first half an hour went in a trance, while I tried hard to concentrate and not fall asleep. During break, the canteen was tested on – houseful, but spacious enough to figure out the separate billing counter. After almost vomiting the once bitten fried, dried up mixture of potato, peas, carrots, onions and Maggi masala that they called vegetable cutlet; I tried to adjust with the chocolate they gave as change and the mineral water I bought (for fear of further experiments that day). 
Post lunch, the first hour was language, and this time it was H 305, hid behind an open cube, almost a terrace garden. It was a dusty brown, with cold brown benches. A few minutes into the class, the Welfare Officer came to collect me. He walked me to the lift, and warned me to take care of myself in the Bangalore climate. (Only later did I realise it had been royal treatment, for later that year others had to write 250 words on why they had used the lift.) I went home, and did not attend college the following day. 

A Sunny H308. ©NM

The next day, it was H 308, a blue room with wooden brown benches, and dark blue curtains. The classroom was opposite the open square space, which had a few potted plants. I would cut across, in order to reach my Hindi class faster. That was a classroom we all loved, every one of us had our own place in it. It was essentially in that room that we had the best movie screenings, the most hilarious classes with AM every day of the week, except for Saturday. That was where we had after – movie question – answer sessions with him, after the two hour slot on Thursday afternoons. AM would throw space age cows, flies, and bird brains at us, when we ask, “Why was the movie screened in class?”, or “Why is the movie called so and so?”. And if at all one of the cows dared ask him what the name of the movie was, he would roar, and stroke his beard before throwing the question out the window. 

Another one.

The canteen white – white tables and chairs, white walls, and two old alien menu boards with spelling mistakes. It was one place, where one could always find students, but still there would be a place to sit. That was where AM would send us occasionally for assignments that could only take shape in his head. Our work could be done efficiently, sitting at college, thanks to the Wi- Fi.

A year later, we were shifted to H 403, a white room with milky brown benches, where in one could barely see what was projected on the white sheet – due to absence of curtains. I would sit in the middle row, second bench, as always. The room was right next to the one which seated our juniors, and our poor seniors didn’t really have a permanent class. Teachers changed, classes changed, posts changed; the number of students and our work increased. We saw lesser and lesser of AM, and the floor would be crawling with BCom students. The open square space was converted to staffrooms at both the third and the fourth floor. 

THE Department. ©NM

And here, Cheriyan sir would often complain about the absence of curtains in the room, at the same exclaiming, “ Oh! What a wonderful view you have.” It is also where we had numerous arguments with VJ, our class mentor; but she would never let us win. I remember her mentioning in one of the first year HRD classes that she disliked kids, for they were noisy. But she was like that stubborn kid, who no matter what argument you gave, wanted us to give her a better reason to give in. “Why did I make you read this piece? Because I liked it.” She would say. In one of her creative writing sessions , P interrupted my trip to the past since he had forgotten why he had thrown a stone at his cousin brother. I had to snap out of my head, so that I could remind him that he had intended to throw the stone at a pesky rooster, but the stone had adopted another trajectory, and he had to immediately teleport from there. 
In another one of her classes, H had narrated – with what-the-hell written all over his face – his experience at a small hotel in Palakkad. More like what we call a thattukada, I believe. He had ordered for a Poori Masala, his brain’s dictionary had autocorrected it to Masala Poori. But alas, when the food arrived he was shocked to see what he called Poori Bhaaji. P and I, almost killed ourselves – kollu kollu kollu. I facepalmed so hard that my eyes almost catapulted out of the socket, and landed on the bench – facedown. Evidently, he had not noticed that we get Masala Dosa in the canteen, and not Bhaaji Dosa. 

More cameras popped up at every nook and corner, and there were prohibitions on mobile phones, among other things in an attempt to make our lives more scientific and organised. The Wi- Fi would never work, and there were new restrictions on it – you could never access social networking sites or apps, or sites which have content that come under entertainment, fun or even hot – sites on food, and food writing that is. The large media lab had undergone binary fission, resulting in two unequal media labs, with big technical names. An these were often used for Disciplinary Meetings. Students started sitting outside the canteen, due to improper seating arrangements. 

Under construction. ©NM

And then, the college realised that students outgrew the college, and they decided to perform plastic surgery on the humanities block. Apart from covering the face of the block, this also resulted in live background noises. Another year later, the operation is still going on. Faces popped up outside the windows of our classroom, on the fourth floor – and no, they were not levitating. With canteen 2.0 just four floors away, students started buying parcels, and eating it in class. It also led to, “stuffing your faces” as AM called it. Though it has multi-cuisine , and idly-dosa over it, this canteen did not have any of these. It mostly had samosas, coffee and tea. 

Stairs. ©NM

H 408 is handicapped for our course, as it does not have a projector. It divides the class into two wide rows that extend up to the last benches. And with no more middle row, anywhere I sit is too distracting – either too front, or too behind. During Ingnitors, it took us 20 minutes to reach the ground floor from H408, and another five to reach the allotted classroom in the science block. AM does not directly meet us anymore, other than for one of the electives, or for Disciplinary Committee meetings. Externals for our first and fourth semester Journalism Practicals, became our professors. The entire college works by the shift system, but we go home only to eat and sleep. Storms will come, throw cows, trees and birds at EJP, but EJP will not budge. The one professor that has remained constant would be ER– he taught us Optional English in the first semester, still does.
The strip from the stationary, the space in front of canteen, all the way up to the auditorium has been converted into a ramp for students and bikes. The strip is a potential accident prone zone, and in future, will probably exhibit a sign announcing the same. 

While waiting outside the Department of English, one cannot ignore the ground, which beckons you into the windy sandful centimetre squares it covers. Students were mere iron fillings in it as they assembled for sports day, beginning with the march past. Nobody loved to walk around in the sun, and in the second year it was not that sun but the rain that made me frown at the idea. Moreover, after an almost failed attempt at a quick brunch before the march past, while the sun had directed its energy to dry up the ground in time; I was interrupted by the realisation that one required permission to grow long hair. 

The New Face of the Humanities Block on a Sports Day. ©NM

The tug of war was the only class event we participated in by choice, but we did not have enough boys for a boys team. We lost to the same team both in the first year and a second year, and had managed to upgrade to a silver in the second year, from bronze. The first year, around five of us had fallen down, oxidising our silver grey  shirts into an apple brown. The ground was also where we had fests like Footprints, and Exodus – ramp walks, and various performances with food stalls orderly sprinkled across. 

At the far end of the ground, on the left side was a diamond net which separated it from the Quadrangle. Or rather The Banyan Tree, as AM preferred to call it. It cannot be a quadrangle – he had tried to explain once, looking at all of us with his eyebrows almost knit into each other – because it is not closed on all four sides. And then, end of discussion. The Banyan Tree was the main venue for Meta, the LitFest run by the English department. Where I had missed, and also enjoyed numerous performances, jam sessions, and panel discussions. “I am going to be making decisions, and you are not going to like it”, AM had announced during a jam session in Meta 2016. The first year, I remember volunteers almost hanging off the first floor of the science block  trying to take down the web of painting that had been up on the stage. 

Puddle. ©NM

On the right side of the ground, are new unmarked buildings. It has let bikes and scooters be parked on it, and footballs no longer break bones. At the far end of the ground, near the basketball court, stand skeletal steel structures, on spaces that are yet to be swallowed. 

description, school



The moment the prayer had finished, a voice shattered the speaker. The Giant – he suffers from a surplus of growth hormone among many other phenomena, and thus the name – was shouting at the mike.

“Regular Boys Batch, second bench, the second boy. No, the red t-shirt. Come down to the office.” He announced.

That was when I, or rather we, realised that the tiny cameras in our rooms actually do work – CCTV cameras. At least the ones that are not broken.

That Thursday evening, the air around me was like drinking water after eating amla. and perhaps for that same reason, my head too reciprocated that feeling. Or maybe it was also because it was a Thursday – when I had Zoology at the coaching class (CC). I wondered if I would ever write about that particular phase of my life, those two years ; and if I did, then how would it be?
I looked out the window, staring at all the dirt on the slant sheets of roof that had accumulated for the last so many years. So much that I could not decide if it was mud, or just dust. The window, at least that is what I call it, had no glass. You could not close that thing, it was made of tiny green squares, and spread across -as if it were a graph sheet- two walls of the room, in an L.
I liked when it rained heavily, there was no way anybody could stop it from racing into the class. The green cubes were irritating, it had a green house effect. All sorts of annoying creatures were let in, and they never left. On the other hand you were trapped – you could throw pencils, or even tiny stones out the net, but you could never throw yourself out of it. No matter how tiny you were, no matter how hard you wished. A decomposing rat was the perfect example of this ultimate truth.

I wish, I wish – but you simply couldn’t. You were not allowed to, to wish,  to think, to dream. They locked our brains away, and one by one would roast , fry and grill our brains. I am convinced the Giant does eat brains – after all he had told students staying at CC’s hostel that they should not be bothered by the food made available to them, or even the worm they had discovered in it. Only think of  studying, but then he had already kidnapped that ability of ours.
The weather, to me, was perfect for writing. Cold. Cloudy but not rainy. Such that you could take a walk without fearing the Sun, who had lost complete voltage. But I was not sure what I should write , nor did I imagine that I would end up writing all the time those two years later. Writing , was and maybe even is, perhaps the only way I had my revenge at everything that tortured me.  And the CC was no less than a concentration camp. A mental holocaust.
My best friend was in another class – she had Math while I had Biology. And therefore, I could not look at her across the room, exchange glances, or mean jokes on all noises the teachers made in class. There was one who always asked us to behave by narrating stories about himself – when he was our age – just to tell us how misbehaved he was. Just because he ended up in a good position, doesn’t mean we will – is what he intended to imply; but perhaps it got lost amidst the air molecules. My class only had girls, and it was supposed to be a warning for us. But for the all-boys class perhaps it was a sort of encouragement to remain directionless. But I always wondered, was he truly happy with what he was doing?
Then there was the botany sir, whom we called H2O, because he made us drink water in the middle of the class. His mechanical voice came out like the branches of a tree. He event went on to do Bharatanatyam on the platform, to explain the arrangement of leaves in plants. One day, half way into the first year of higher secondary, and the coaching class, I realised that one of our chemistry sirs whom we called Apoopan (grandfather) rarely said anything out of text; and that rare occasion would be an example equation. But in general, all of them hated our school, ignoring the fact that the species constituted 98% of the evening batch.

short story

The Unintended Curse

NM ©

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzuup.  Unwind into a line. And zzzzzzzzzzzuup back into my pouch.

Antara could not stop playing with her brand new magical pouch, which was in fact one long zip. It zipped all the way into a pouch, and almost looked like a zebra with alternate black and olive green. And this was where she kept all her precious stationery : her favourite pen, her special calligraphy pencils, stapler, and lots of other colour pens.

It was only it’s eighth day, and it had already grabbed surplus attention. Antara was not sure if she was happy about this, or fearsome. She dismissed her fears and decided to enjoy the limelight. School was almost over, fifteen minutes to the bell, when her class teacher glided into her classroom, with evaluated answer sheets.

Oohhh… Finally! Thought a very nervous Antara, as she eagerly waited for her roll number. She did not dare to look at it till she’d sat down in her seat. Slowly, she opened her folded answer sheet, which was bleeding at the margins.

44 and half out of 50? Wow, this is one of my best performances this year! I don’t remember the last time I did so well in any exam, Antara mused.


She immediately dumped her books in her bag, and ran off to the hostel. She hated it there, but she really had no choice – she was stuck there. But nevertheless, that day she was in a very good mood. After dinner that night, she decided to use the ‘study hour’ to study. The study hour was compulsory, and was to be utilised for homework, and for studying – but she never did either. She did all that she wanted to, anything but studying, only to stare at a random book when the wardens are watching her.

But that night, for the first time in a long time, she was in a studious mood. She dug her hand into the bag to fetch her books and her pouch. The books landed with a thump on the metal table, but the pouch did not make it.

Where is it? I had kept it inside the bag today! It must be here somewhere. Antara ransacked her bag in vain. Oh no! Did I leave it behind in class? Antara realised that she had been in a hurry that day while packing her bag. She spent the rest of the study hour in memory of her special pouch.

NM ©

Next morning, she stood staring at the large white door. It was latched, but not locked. The class was empty, and she ran inside. Her desk had no trace of her pouch. It had simply vanished into olive green dust.

It’s not there in the hostel, not there here, not in the lost and found. Where could it possibly have disappeared to? Did somebody steal it? Haaw. What if  somebody has it and does not want to return it? After all it has all my precious stationery.

A tearful Antara was frustrated.

Well, whoever has it, I wish you’ll never have a chance to use my special pencils. They’ll also lose it the very next day. Then let them go around searching for it like I did.

Akshara sat in class, happily remembering the look on Antara’s face the day before when she couldn’t find her pouch. She could not bear Antara, and was tired of all the attention that had been so cruelly snatched away from her. And so, when she came across the pouch, while leaving class, she did not bother to return it. She couldn’t wait to lay her hands on those pencils everyone was talking about. She ran to the hostel as soon as the bell rang, but even after raiding her room twice, she could not find it.

Nisha had fallen in love with those calligraphy pencils ever since she’d laid eyes on them. She was not sure at first, but that pouch under Akshara’s bed was definitely the one that once belonged to Antara. Initially she did intend to return it, but then she wondered what harm would it do if she decided to keep it for a day? Just to give those pencils a try. She ran to her room after the study hour, and took out a beautiful royal blue pencil. But before she could even put a full stop on the page, Akshara entered the room – she immediately hid it.The next day, during the Library period, she realised that it was no longer in her possession.

Saara was the last to leave the library, and the only one to notice the olive green pouch all alone in a corner. She vaguely remembered it to belong to somebody in her class, but she was not sure whom it belonged to. Later, as she walked out of her class with her bag, she was not sure it belonged to one of her classmates anymore. So she dropped it at the lost and found counter.

The next day, Nita ran in search of Antara. She was bursting with excitement –  finally she had been able to locate her best friend’s most valued possession. Antara could not believe her eyes, she had lost all hope. She held it to herself, she didn’t want to lose it ever again. She was happy she had got her pouch back a day before her practicals. Now she could write her practicals with her favourite lucky pen.

NM ©

The following evening, Antara had had her coffee and was on her way back to her room.  She was in a good mood – her practicals had gone really well, and now that all her stationery was back, she could sketch again. She sat on her bed, took out her pouch and her book. But something was missing – there was no zip. It wasn’t her pouch, it was only stripes of olive green and black. 

short story

The Emotional Gene

​In a mad world, only the mad are sane. And into a highly advanced, no nonsense, seriously mad world Mo was born. She was seven when she first displayed that she was not quite normal. The majority say she is cursed, and a minority claims she is gifted. She was not sure of anything, until she had been sent to the Reset Centre. There she had had a late realisation: that this war had come to a climax.

She remembered that day very well, eleven years ago how she had failed miserably in her practical telekinesis class. Her blood pressure was going haywire, and she could not speak. She had cried out loud that day. That was the first time she had displayed her defect. As she grew up, the defects increased, and after her seventh public display of defect, the Social Affairs Court had taken matters into their hands. 

Homo sapiens did manage to achieve a lot: they found a way to overcome global warning, they got rid of all the various currencies and came up with Solars and Lunars. Money was no longer the priority, it was just a means to maintain social and economic stability. Humans even managed to make water, and other resources which had been categorised non-renewable years ago. But the most important ‘development’ was that they had managed to upgrade their brains.  From Homo sapiens they became Home cogno sapiens. 

They had finally become a superior race, but in this long journey they had sacrificed a lot. A lot of people lost their lives, and the world population came down tremendously. Earth – or what was left of it – was dying. Humans had to sacrifice life – the joy of life. They no longer experienced or expressed emotions. And that is where Mo went wrong, or rather her DNA.

Mo was certainly not the first case to have reported display of emotions. One was only allowed ‘the first cry’ at birth, as it enabled the baby to take in gulps of oxygen. But after that, there were machines to assist the baby in everything. The whole idea was still under strict research, but the scientists believe that it is due to the absence of a mutated gene. Usually, genetic disorders are due to the presence of a mutation, but in this case, the gene was similar to the ones found in Homo sapiens. This led to decreased cognitive abilities, and also emotions. The scientists were unable to find out why there was a negative mutation (where the mutation takes you backwards in the chronology of evolution.).  Thus, this special genetic disorder was named Inferiority Cognition Disorder and the gene was named The Inferior Gene. 

Thus, people with the gene is often considered genetically inferior. There are people who believe that the gene is in fact a gift; that nature is trying to teach humans something they have long forgotten in this race for success. These people are mostly scientific and psychosocial historians, who have studied Homo sapiens in detail. They, in spite of being genetically advanced, are experimenting with emotions. 

A Reset Centre is where people who suffer from this disorder is sent to be rectified. It is a huge white building where every corridor leads you to another, walls after walls. Seven. That was the ultimatum. There were people who tried to hide the disorder, but then emotions became complex as one grew – and thus more difficult to hide too. If the disorder was not treated privately, then the Social Courts Affairs would take matters into its own hands. They wanted a perfect uniform society of advanced cognition.

Mo had experienced her seventh attack on her seventeenth birthday. It was similar to her first, but much worse. Her parents were both engineers, busy building the city. They were not at all bothered about their only daughter, or that she was suffering from the disorder. They did not show up for her birthday either, and she broke down in front of her guests. It was mixture of anger, sorrow, loneliness and failure. She didn’t know what exactly the emotion was, but it was burning her heart. 

All her life, she believed what the society told her: she was cursed, genetically inferior, a major failure for her family genealogy. Her parents regret the genes they passed down. They soon had another child, a boy, when she was nine. She hardly saw him, they kept him away from her. But, at the Reset Home, she came across so many others like her, and asked herself why should it be abnormal at all?  There were various exercises meant to help upgrade their mental abilities. And after one year at the centre, she was at peace with the whole controversy.

One day, after one of the Reset sessions, she heard voices from behind the door marked ‘RESEARCH’. Entry was limited to staff, mostly scientists who were using the centre’s data to research further into the issue, and to try and avoid such a genetic combination in the future. You could rectify this genetic error, but only if you are able to detect it within the first trimester. This gene, for reasons unknown, could not be detected at such an early stage. The rate at which the ‘defects’ were infecting the population was increasing. Representatives from all over the world decided that this was unhealthy, and had to be cured soon.

But what made Mo stop in front of that door were the voices, and that particular noise which she was unable to comprehend. One of the voice is …. Speaking fast, and in a rude tone. Yes, he sounds angry. And the girl… is crying.. no almost crying. Sob..sobb..sobbing? yes, sounds like that. That’s weird, I thought we were not allowed into the room, wondered Mo. Just then the man walked out the door, almost bumping into Mo. She ran away before he could shout at her, but not before she saw that the girl was in fact one of the researchers.
The centre was divided into various wings (A, B, C, D etc), and they were identified by their numbers, and not names. Mo was G7. Once back in G wing, she shared her experience with her mates. They pondered over it for a while. Finally, G16 asked what the argument had been about. 

“Well, I couldn’t make much sense of it, but it sounded like one of their experiments had gone wrong, and the man was furious.” she replied.

And then, all of a sudden everybody began talking at once, wondering what could have gone wrong. But Mo, was confused. She silenced her mates, and said, “We all know that normal human beings can  feel only one thing – and that is a sense of dissatisfaction or disappointment. Nothing more than that. But we can. And that is why we are here. The important question here is what went so wrong that the man was so angry? That the women was sobbing? What went so wrong that they became like us?”

There was a moment silent realisation, when the dinner bell rang. It was decided they would try to gather as much information possible during dinner. And the next step would be decided afterwards. 

After dinner, they gathered again to discuss what might have happened. There had been rumours that extreme and irreversible defects were often experimented on for research purposes. But nothing more than that. Finally, G20 beckoned everybody to be quiet, and shared what she had overheard. 

She had not made much sense of it, most of it was barely audible. But an experiment had gone terribly wrong, it was meant to ‘switch off’ the gene that was responsible for emotions. She was not sure what exactly went wrong, but it was very contagious, since the rest of the staff were asked to take precautions. Mo knew she was almost there, just one last piece of the puzzle was missing. And she had made up her mind to get to the bottom of it.

The lab was full of workers, but it was not the same after what had happened. Lab Workers 271 and 165 had been put into quarantine. Anybody could be next, and the workaholic air had transformed into one of stress and confusion. Everybody was trying to act normal, to not express anything. But things had gone beyond their control, and their fears were confirmed when LW119 collapsed, his face in his hands, tears rolling down his cheek. One more down. 

Mo was hovering over the Q wing, as she wanted answers. She had heard that it was once used as a quarantine, but she had only recently heard that the members had been shifted to a different wing, so as to use the wing as a quarantine –for special cases. Cases that nobody really knew. She was there to find out more. But she was hardly even let into the wing. She told the staff on duty that she was there to meet her friend Q2, but they merely informed her that the wing had been evacuated. She tried to argue with them so as to try and peek into the wing, but all she could see was that there were three members – 2 males and a female. And then, suddenly, another scientist came up and pulled the staff aside. The staff motioned her to leave, and she nodded her head in obedience. But not before peeking into the wing one last time.

Back in her wing, her mates were eagerly waiting for her to share what she had seen. But Mo was not sure what to make of it. She had seen the same woman, the one who had been crying in the lab. She was also pretty sure that the man who had shouted at the woman was also in the same wing. And also another ‘defect’ was to be added to the wing. She had heard the scientist whisper, one more bed required. 

They all gathered later, after dinner, to discuss the day’s findings. G10 suspected alien invasion, G21 suspected a scam. Most of them were clueless, and finally G9 said something sensible: some sort of contagious disease had broken out, that were turning normal people into defects. But Mo had a better theory. 

What if the experiment had backfired? That was the only sensible theory that she could come up with. What if the experiment that was supposed to ‘switch off’ the gene in defects, had completely backfired. And what if that experiment was ‘switching on’ the gene in normal people?

G9 gasped, “That means…”

“Yes, that means everything we were told were wrong. Everybody must have the gene in them by birth, only ours is active.” said Mo.

The Head of Research had was under a lot of criticism, he was almost fired 5 minutes ago. Who the hell was responsible for that disaster? You should not have measured emotion more than you can handle, the subject was obviously overwhelmed. The public should not know of the radiations that were emitted by the subject during the disaster. This was what the President had to say. 

The gene had always existed, but humans had forgotten to use it. As a result, it had become quite redundant. The effort had always been to remove the gene from the coming generations completely- as per the unanimous decision by the world leaders. But what they did not want to face was the fact that the gene was turned on at least once in everybody’s life. Only the ones with no control whatsoever were called defects. And the lifestyle was such that the gene only become active three or four years after birth – which was why you could never detect it within the first trimester. The whole ‘defect program’ was a scam, a lie. The world leaders believed that emotions could hamper development.

The HOR never really believed that one could feel nothing – the world leaders in fact were scared. They would not call it so, but he knew that was what it was. They had tried to extract emotions from a subject. But the experiment had failed miserably – as the subject turned overwhelming, and overloaded the machines- which exploded- thus emitting radiations. Theses radiations were in fact triggering this gene – turning it ‘on’.

Mo was watching the Q wing closely. More people were admitted every passing day, and she also saw a lot of new people in the centre. The news reported rare cases where people had become defects during old age – an unlikely late discovery. Suddenly, people everywhere were becoming defects, and within months, all centres were full. Mo’s theory was beginning to substantiate itself.

And then, finally, the day came when history was about to repeat itself. The world leaders had ordered a genocide of the defect population. The defects were furious, and they became violent. The President was to declare the genocide at People’s Square. But a mutiny had already broken out. Two of the Reset Centres had completely broken down, and hundreds of defects walked into the Square, as the President was speaking. They were not going to sit simply this time; they had already been tagged defects – they had nothing else to fear. In fact, being a defect gave them the freedom to react, unlike the ‘normal’ ones who were trying hard to keep it together. 

One of the defects threw his shoe at the President. The President was completely taken aback for a second, scared the next, and then it finally turned into rage. But before he could shout, his guards escorted him. A man immediately took the stage – it was none other than the HOR at Mo’s centre. And he revealed the truth that had been hidden from them all along – and what better evidence to present than the president’s reaction?

It remained the headlines for a couple of weeks. More people gave into their emotions than suppressing it. It took time, but people started to acknowledge the truth. They too started seeing it as a gift, and broke into centres to free other defects. The Discipline Force could not control anything anymore – the world as such had fallen into chaos. The leaders had to meet again, and they quit. And within two months, a new set of leaders had emerged. Reset Centres were converted to Research Centres, to help people understand emotions better, and also to improve the emotional quotient of the world. 

And once again, the human race learned how to live. Emotions were no longer looked down upon, but respected. They were given the importance in life. They learned to care – for each other, about other species, and also about their wonderful planet that gave them life. After all, emotions are what makes us alive, than being vegetative.