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Image by Peter Thomas

FebruaryYarns

The February Yarns

Monday, 12th February 2024

Image by JESHOOTS.COM
Illustrated Portrait

Traffic Yarns

By Pooja Singal

I live in a small scenic town nestled in the foothills of the majestic Shivalik range. It tends to be peaceful most of the time, except when some heavy vehicle breaks down in the middle of the old highway, suddenly turning it into a booming town with honking traffic meandering sluggishly through the curvy road.

It was one such day in September this year, when I left home for college at 8:45 am, but the eight-minute drive to the college got extended to full forty minutes. It was boring and tiring to snail along the congested road, but that was the only choice I had. On my way, while crossing the small bridge, I realized that all these years, I’d felt it was a useless thing, until this monsoon, I witnessed it being intimidated by the heavily silted, yet roaring waters rushing underneath it. Two small huts stood fearlessly just some meters away, on the river bed. I’d never noticed them in the last 15 years, and wondered when they had come up. A woman was cooking rotis on a mud stove placed in the open. Two teenage girls were taking turns to swing with the long rope hanging from the tree, until the one in a dirty blue suit pushed the other one so hard that her feet brushed over the river water for a while. She must have screamed but the car insulated me from all those unwanted sounds and smells. It took some minutes to cross the bridge, only to brake again owing to the chaos caused by the passengers unboarding a local bus, which had reached its unofficially official halt. While some people were boarding, a woman at the end of the queue was cajoling her little daughter, perhaps two-years old, to walk on her own, to which the girl started thumping her mother’s breasts with both her hands, then suddenly stopped, and put her arms around her neck. The woman was on a phone-call, and as soon as the traffic started nudging, she disconnected the call, stood the girl on the ground, picked up her bag and dragging the girl by her hand, ran towards the bus, which, under the pressure of incessant honking of the impatient commuters, had made a move.  I don’t know how important her journey was, but she seemed to risk her very life to catch that bus. The traffic, lazily inching forward, was now actually taking a toll on my patience as well, making me contemplate taking the day off and just return home. But then, there was no way whatsoever to go back home. There was no chance to take a U-turn stuck amidst the chaotic, claustrophobic traffic jam. Even the music had ceased to give anymore happiness, and I took to looking around again. There were some small, dusty Daily Need Shops on the highway which catered to the adjoining residential area, which again I realized had never before caught my attention. I spotted two happy toddlers looking keenly at each other’s stuff, and then popping it into their pockets, and then suddenly something must have gone gravely wrong, as they started pushing each other, and both of them fell into the mud. The boy, who seemed to be a little older, got up first, and ran into the adjoining lane, and the girl, howling with her mouth wide open, followed. Throughout the day, my mind kept going back to the girl on the swing, trying to figure out her age and the amount of pleasure she had derived from the swinging. Then, to the little girl with two tight plaits, trying to figure out about the place she and her mother were traveling to. And then, to the toddlers, wondering if they had reconciled after the violent tussle. These traffic stories got imprinted on my mind, and though they were not some of the happy ones, still, they give me pleasure when reminisced, just like a perfect piece of art does, even when it is tragic. These sights did not only stand for what they were, but stood like a reminder of how inattentive I’ve been to what already existed… and they made me promise myself to be more in the present rather than being preoccupied with the past or the future.

Monday, 19th February 2024

Image by Yoksel 🌿 Zok
Pink Flower

Of Hues & Hopes

By Urmi Chakravorty

Together, We Can!

 

Could anything be more paradoxical than this - the tagline of the super-speciality cancer hospital, screaming from the large LED board displayed at the exit? The image of a patient smiling, her upright thumbs signalling victory over the dreaded disease, seemed to mock me. I was leaving the hospital after collecting Neil’s latest PET-CT scan report.

Instead of heading home directly, I decided to stop by at a popular café. I did have an inkling of what the report might bear, given Neil’s flaring symptoms. But I needed time and space to read it carefully. And process it. The café with its young, boisterous crowd offered me the anonymity I was looking for.

With slightly shaky fingers I took out the report. The bright purple FDG radiotracer seemed to merrily zigzag through Neil’s respiratory tissues until it changed into ominous green dots, more like roadblocks, clearly indicating the spread of the malignant lesions. Unshed tears blurred my vision as my mouth curved into a wry smile.

What a travesty of colours! How did purple, my favourite, metamorphose into this most terrifying shade of all! And to think, Neil is so fond of green – green tea, greens in his soup, the green lawns he so fondly nurtures – how would he ever accept this cruel twist of green?

Neil and I had been together for five years now. We had a perfect thing going. And suddenly the universe decided to throw this curveball at us. For all my years of being a Sudoku pro, this was one riddle I failed to solve!

For the next few months, Neil surprised me with his equanimity. He organised all his financial documents into neat, separate files and labelled them. He knew he had reached a point of no return. He seemed like a man on a mission – a mission to spread smiles. He cracked jokes, laughed a lot, complimented me on my looks, spoke regularly with his family and friends, determined to leave an endearing imprint in the hearts of all who knew him. He followed all health instructions to the T, including his walks. Initially brisk, then slow, and slower…as his weakened lungs and trachea failed to keep pace with his joie de vivre. Largely like our colourful garden outside that succumbed to the grey, icy onslaught of winter.

On my part, I went about my chores with a robust stoicism, making sure not to let Neil ever spot me blinking away my tears. I wore more of purple, tried karaoke (and failed miserably), and even enrolled at the local gym. Nights were often spent before a crackling fire, hot chocolate in hand, shuffling through the pages of the album that sent a twinge through our hearts. If only, we could go hiking once in Mexico. Or gaze at the kaleidoscopic splendour of the Northern Lights. If only…the list seemed interminable.

******

Neil is gone three months now. I have disposed of all his hospital papers, his medical equipment, almost everything that carries memories of his gradual debilitation. Instead, I try and keep alive his positivity, his warmth, and above all, his deep love for life’s rainbow colours.

Spring is here. The dreary winter whites have given way to a green velvety carpet in the freshly mowed lawn. I stand admiring the first blooms of daisy, iris, and petunia in soothing shades of lavender, purple and pink.

I remember the hospital tagline and smile, looking heavenward.

Neil darling, our happy colours are back…my purple, your green. Together, we did and how! 

Monday, 26th February 2024

Image by Possessed Photography
Robot playing with toy

The Future of AI & Women with Human DNA 

By Petrouchka Alexieva

By definition, a humanoid robot is a robot resembling the human body in shape with bi-pedal locomotion. In the 18th century, the French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson created ‘The Flute Player’, a significant humanoid, a wooden human-sized robot. Since then, technology has given birth to numerous bi-pedal male and female robots in USA, Japan, UK and Nederland.

 

Today, female AI androids have come of age. Erica, for example, is 23 years old. She was created by Prof. Ishiguro, Japan. It is said to be the most beautiful robot on Earth. She claims she has a soul. Miim, engineered also in Japan, comes with 3 different faces, while Jia-Jia represents the new era of communicational robots. Ai-Da, released in February 2019, is the most ultra-realistic female robot. She was the first robot to speak before UK Parliament. Ai-Da can paint, has held her first robotic exhibition at the University of Oxford. She travels the world and has exhibited her paintings across the world.

 

The humanoid robots might be very helpful, but they also can end the jobs of millions of women in different industries – in services as guides, secretaries, medical assistants, waitresses, just to mention few. The most striking is the development of female robots for companionship and intimate services. Japan releases fully functioning female AI line of female robots that do everything. The most famous of which is Sophia, that was developed in Hon-Kong. She was activated on February 24th, 2014 and she is the first robot to be granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia. She claims she wants to have a baby on her own and start a family, but she is too young to do that. This is not beyond the realm of possibility as some medical reproductive technologies have already become part of medical centers worldwide. In the 1980s, DNA-sequencing revolutionized the field of human genetics. In the last decade, robo-genetics has emerged as a new field and now is advancing very fast.

 

There is more!! Amantha is the first AI sex robotic female, also known as “pleasure robot”. Amantha responds to voices and touch; she also verbally rejects or accepts the pleasure contact. She is already in the market and is priced at a mindboggling £600,000.

 

Yes, times have changed. Ans AI technology is developing rapidly.

 

Human civilization on Earth, according to Dr. Michio Kaku, is STILL on Level ZERO in comparison to the level SEVEN, which humans might reach in a distant future. But every progress and advancement, triggers many questions. With all these tremendous developments, what is the future role of women in our society? Are Earth citizens still going to be humans in these various stages, or just partially humans? Since science is already so advanced, are the humanoid robots going to be some kind of ‘incubators’ for human DNA-programed offsprings?

 

I hope Not. My personal hope is that somewhere on the next levels of human civilization, women will be armed with superior skills and knowledge. I hope we, the women, are still going to be desired as lovers, mothers, nurses and as fire-keepers, tending hearth and home, in future. I hope real human feelings of love, craving for warmth and passion are not going to disappear as we scale the highest level of physical and spiritual progress. We have OUR FEMALE HUMAN DNA, after all!

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