Thursday, November 12, 2015

THE BEING AND THE BECOMING-XXV

     Father had always been the very devil for work, and if it involved machines, calculations and inventions, meals and rest and anything else had little relevance for him. He would have loved to convert the house into a workshop. I suppose, but mother had little interest. He himself cared a good deal for her and he would rarely bring any serious scientific colleague home lest it bored mother; only some cronies from the club whom both knew. Of late he seemed to be at the club quite a bit, and the club meant more whisky than anything else - for father rarely drank at home comma and he did not care much for cards or gossip. Mother, I believe, used to accompany him often - but with my return she did not go out at all. Mother seemed worried about the amount of alcohol father was consuming these last few months - though he was never ugly.
     Something seemed to have happened following our talk a few days back. He would come home earlier, with some papers or books, and talk to me about them, or of some discoveries in many fields. I was a most interested listener and h e was a clear and tireless, if fanatic, exponent. He would a sk questions about the body and its working. I found him more informed even on these matters and I with years at the medical college. He, of course, read widely and I but rarely. But, I found myself infected with this enthusiasm, and I, too, began reading a bit. He was very good with his hands; and clumsiness was my second name. But, I could ask awkward questions and he enjoyed tackling them.
     At weekends Shankar would be with us. He and I became targets for father’s fierce enthusiasm, and we both used to sit with him far into the night, mother serving cups of coffee, and occasionally making us laugh with her remarks on abstruse problems she did not understand: father would be talking of some point in space travel, the use of different types of fuel or something like that, and mother would want to know if that was the reason for gas shortage for domestic consumption and its high cost.
     Sometimes Shankar and I would talk of self, kindness, seeing things, telepathy and so on, and father had things to say about it, too. “Nothing mysterious, there. No secrets at all. Our computers can throw a lot of light on it. But, wait why don't we do something about it ourselves. Let us have a workshop in our garage: You chaps can help. No use talking, only making models and experimenting can help understanding. All your nonsensical talk about not standing under, overseeing and knowing- you fellows can make money as clowns. Make, break, see and measure and correct dash the only way,! He thumped the table - the coffee cups rattled. “Yes, must start something on our own. Everytime I want to do something really fundamentals I get caught up in so much red tape - projects, reports, committees, finances explaining to donkeys at various levels. Well, that's that - our garage - And madam, one more cup of coffee.
     “If you can show me my soul, I shall certainly come in,” offered Shankar.
     “Well, you bet your life, that if I cannot show you your soul, you can take it that you just do not have a soul. Why, I can show you if your thoughts are about standing things or lying down things, the colours of what you're thinking about - all this and more has been done. Now we have machines, little gadgets that can make you happy or miserable, weep or laugh at will, a few needles in your head, a battery in your pocket! You two medicos must be knowing about it - or you are out of touch. “Look,” he rummaged in his briefcase, and brought out a crumple cutting of an article, “Microelectronic psycho-surgery - its possibilities, and dangers- a review,” and gave it to us.
    “We promised to read it.
    “I have been hearing something about it. Gosh, you should have been a doctor, yourself!” said Sankar.
    “Hearing about things is no good. Let us get on with the job - understanding Man in our own way. This intrigues me and I must look at it in my own hampered way, even if i n a small way - should not need much space - that garage - let us have a look at it first thing in the morning - why not now!” And he got up.
     Mother wanted to know why we wanted to go out for a drive at this time of the night - she wouldn’t mind coming out for a while, instead of being cooped up at home - it wouldn’t take a minute to get ready, and she hurried to her room.
     Father opened the garage door, and switched on the lights. Kallu, our alsatian, scampered ahead and scrambled into the car, yelping with joy.
    Father paced up and down, measured the length and breadth with his steps, examined the switchboard, and muttered - ‘here the bench, there just one cupboard - will do for stores - not much space needed - transistors; even molecules, yes.’ Then his eye fell on a tin of paint with a brush in it.
     He came out of the garage, carrying the paint. “Why not christen it, now - almost midnight - right time for new ventures - well, here we go.” We trooped behind him. He closed the garage doors and stood looking at it for a while brushing hand. “Ah, got it! Your joke, my boy, but it is apt, good enough, I should say.” And he painted:
    “Auto-Cybernetics, inc, (pte)” in large splashes of paint.
     He stood back, admiring the result.
     The dog set up a howl and began scratching at the door; no drive and getting locked in, disgraceful.
     Mother dressed in her best outing saree, and a large shawl wrapped round her shoulders, powdered and painted, a handbag dangling at her wrist, stood behind us. “What is the matter, where is the car, won't it start or something,” and she was still puzzled when we marched back into the drawing room, Kalu at our heels.
     “We may as well complete this job, now,” father said, “Well-begun is half-done - ah, you are dressed for the ceremony, I see,” he noticed mother, “ a couple of sandwiches and coffee, and we shall have really launched this thing!”
     Mother always understood sandwiches, if nothing else of their esoteric purpose, and stifling a yawn, she went to the kitchen.
    Father do up sheet of paper and pencil.
    Auto-cybernetics, inc, (pte), he wrote on the top. Entirely private and autonomous body, founded maintained for the purpose of finally and totally understanding man - not overseeing, you understand! - that superficial skipping, any goof can do; actually, that's what all my administrators are good at, overseeing, my foot! - a non-profit making venture.”
     “Director. Well would you want the copyright, son,” he looked at me.
     “Oh, no, I said, “no desk work. I have too many variables!:”
     “You, Sankar?” he asked.
     “Me, I want to see a soul,” Sankar said.
     Father had been at too many committees not know that no one would be brazen enough to take a job so directly offered to them.
     “You are the proper person,” we gave the proper response.
     “Thank you,” he said, “and now, assistants, no! Collaborators, colleagues, consultants, advisors, anything but assistants. It is dead, the word, I mean, not the assistants! Well, you might dust the place once in a while, or take notes, though I suspect your spelling. Anyway, here it is,
Autocybernetics, inc, (Pte)
Director - Kesav.
Advisors - Sankar and Krishna,
House-keeper and Manager - Mrs Kesav.
     Other members may be incorporated from time to time.”
     We signed the document. We ate the sandwiches, drank the coffee and went to bed.
     A great idea was conceived.

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