Mohamed Iqbal Pallipurath
Dr. Chinnaramaswamy Iyengar was bewildered. Never in his 25 years tenure as professor of IIT Delhi (Mechanical Engineering Department, Thermal Science Stream, Applied Quantum Chromodynamics Section, Hyperspace Heat Transfer Subsection, and Specialisation Picard-Iyengar Tesseracts) had he ever been confronted with such a dilemma, “But we cannot accept an incomplete application form. “Mr…., er, Miss…, I mean… “ He gazed in mute appeal at the new student, dressed nattily in the latest androgynous fashion of the year 2112.
“Just call me Yar, sir, without the appellations” said the new student.
Dr. Iyengar was appalled. A strict disciplinarian, he had always been impersonal-in his dealings with students. And now this!
His spectacles oozed down his nose. He was one of those diehards who hold old traditions dear. Nowadays, when you could install a force field generator in a single hair of your eyelashes at any ophthalmologist’s clinic by laser microsurgery, he defiantly wore his anachronism.
“I don’t mean the Hindi word sir“, The rich tenor voice was continuing pleasantly “Just part of my acronym O-YAR. Stands for Organic Yttrium Articulated Robot”
“Yes Sir!! I am part of a new secret experiment being conducted by the Non-Human Resources Development Council. I am required to register for an M.Tech course under the quality improvement Programme”.
Dr. Iyengar appeared to possess a rather limited vocabulary.
“I have no doubt sir, that you would have received a copy of the G.O. connected with my enrolment here”
Dr. Iyengar forced his grey cells to work. He remembered no G.O. But then, he thought, bureaucratic lethargy increases exponentially with its age. More than one and a half centuries after independence, Indian bureaucracy had reached colossal heights of bungling inefficiency. The extinction of bamboo in the beginning of the 22nd century was attributed by many conservationists to the Paper Mountains created by millions of smug bureaucrats at the drop of a hat. If paper had not been replaced by cheap holograms which could present the printed word on thin air as it were, no organism with cellulose in its cellular makeup would have survived.
“May I suggest sir, that you peruse this copy I have at your leisure?”
Wordlessly Dr. Iyengar accepted the hologram but his eyes remained on the features of the new student.
They were not bad features at that. Familiar as he was with anthropomorphic robots, he was nonetheless dumbfounded by the life like object he saw. Longish hair was brushed back from a broad forehead, sparking wide set eyes, an aquiline nose and a rather wide mouth over a determined chin.
Dr. Iyengar recovered the use of his vocal cords.
“Do you mean to tell me that you are …..er.., synthetic?”
“No, not at all sir, my flesh and bones and blood vessels are quite real and do function normally as in a human being. It is mainly in the central nervous system that the difference lies. It’s all made of organic chip circuitry. As you know we have never been successful in growing human nerve cells in vitro”.
Dr. Iyengar nodded. Unlike others who personify the tongue-in- cheek definition of a specialist as one who knows more and more about less and less, he took an active interest in fields other than his own. The VLSIC of the 21st century had been relegated to museums by the development of huge organic molecules which could act as diodes and transistors, thereby increasing the density of a circuit a thousand fold. A super computer of the 2010s could now be placed on a desk. And not a big desk at that.
“And your power sources?”
“I have three independent ones. The first a fusion reactor with force field plasma containment, the second ordinary metabolic processes as in living organisms but with a catalysed ATP* energy release and finally an Iqbal modified Stirling engine drawing energy from the ambient with the heat sink in hyper space. The last will be of particular interest to you I think, sir.”
Dr. Iyengar’s eyes gleamed.
“And to think I never heard of this project!”
“Well sir, the whole project was shrouded in secrecy. The Americans would have loved to get hold of something like this”.
Deprived of all its Asian born scientists and professionals, during the reverse brain drain of the 2020s, American economy and technical invincibility had collapsed like a pricked balloon. Hard core capitalism had gone the way of hard core socialism: down the drain.
* Adenosine Tri Phosphate, the chemical responsible for the release of energy from food.
The “Arab Spring” and “Occupy Wall Street” movements of the early 21st century had dealt Autocracy and heartless Capitalism, blows from which neither recovered.
The occidental was now inferior to the oriental; at least technologically. India led the world in technology. Technology! Dr. Iyengar snapped out of his reverie.
“Tell me,” he asked, “Why do you have to study? It should have been a simple thing to program all the requisite data into your memory.”
“Quite so sir, but one of the main reasons for my creation is to study the efficacy of the present higher education system and its effects on the social interactions of the student.”
“Social interactions?… Hmmm…”
The good doctor suddenly became aware of the registration form in his hands.
“But you have to fill up this column.”
“I leave it to your discretion sir; I can take care of the physical aspect by simply changing my objective reality module.”
“Oh in that case,…” Dr. Iyengar took hold of his hologram stylus and firmly ticked the box marked – “Male”.