A darkly lit room – hall, verandah, bedroom whatever you may call it – it was a room. And there sat a boy. A boy all of six or seven. His eyes glued to the television set. On the TV a large metallic man with a triangular head could be seen flying. Now and then the scene changed, a boy could be seen speaking to his watch. And the Robot – for that it what it was – the large metallic man – seemed to be responding to the orders being given. The little boy was watching in rapt attention. Not the boy in the TV show; the one outside. Till someone tapped him on his shoulders.
He turned around in annoyance. Annoyance turned to fear as the boy noticed a stranger – a man in his late thirties standing next to him. He was about to yell when the man put a finger to his lip and spoke to the boy in a low, gentle voice. “Quiet, Karthi boy! Quiet! I shall not harm you.”
“But who are you? What are doing in my home? I will call Amma.”
“No. You won’t. Now listen carefully to what I have to say to you.”
Something in the tone of the man made him trust him and not call out for his mother. Also, there was something familiar about the man. He wondered if he had seen the man before. But he could not recollect anyone like that.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Don’t be surprised by what I have to say. I am your future self. From 2018?
“What? Future self? Like in the Indradhanush serial? So did I grow up and discover time machine? Did I become a famous scientist? Tell me. You are just kidding, aren’t you?”
“I am not kidding. I am your future self. But I did not invent of the time machine – I am just an experimental subject. Nothing more than a lab rat. I was just sent back in time as a test subject.”
It was the boy's parents who wanted him to be a scientist. While he liked playing the game of rockets and watch Giant Robot, Station Sigma and Indradhanush, he really wanted to be a detective. Like those boys in Ek Do Teen Char and like Karamchand. Yes. Had he managed to become one? A flicker of hope passed through this mind.
“So what are you then?”
“I am a management consultant.”
The boy’s face became blank. What the hell was that? Seeing his blank face, the older man began to explain. “We help businesses solve their problems through our in-depth analysis.” He tried to explain some of his work to the boy. The boy found himself none the wiser. It was all mumbo jumbo like that new teacher at school. On seeing his face, the man tried again, “Do you see this serial Kakaji Kahin?”
The boy gave a quizzical look. From Indradhanush to Kakaji Kahin? Where was the connection? “That story of that cunning old busybody who solved the problems of the people the colony in tricky ways?”
“Yes. That one. Now imagine a team of Kakajis. And a company of such teams, sending them out to various colonies to solve their problems. Now instead of colonies, imagine companies which these consulting companies call clients. Now that is management consulting for you.”
The boy’s face hung in disappointment. He was not going to become Karamchand or Tehkikaat or Reporter. But that obnoxious Kakaji! What a pity? Had his future self-come to warn him to avert this terrible future?
The boy looked at the man expectantly. The man said nothing. So, the boy spoke up. “Tell me whatever you have come to tell me. I am all ears.”
“I haven;t come to tell you anything. As I said this was just an experiment. I just came to see you out of curiosity since I was sent to this time. Now I am waiting for the drug in my veins to wear off and be pulled back into my time.”
“Oh. So, there is nothing that I need to do to change my future?”
“Come on, boy. Who has seen the future? How can one say what will be results of your actions?”
“But you have, haven’t you? You said you are my future self.”
“I am. One of your possible futures. But one can never say with certainty the effect of changes to past will have on the future. So all I can say is – be yourself. Live life to the fullest. Don’t bother too much about the future.”
“Well, since you are anyways here, tell me something about the future.”
“That makes sense. Let me tell you about the technological developments of our time. But where do I start?”
“Hm…Do you have robots like this giant robot in this program?”
“We do have robots. But still they have not developed to the extent of the giant robot you see on TV. But we have things like that watch that Johnny Soko has.”
So saying he pulled out a large headphone. “Do you see this device here?”
“This looks like that heaphone Johnny Soko wears sometime. Not sure of what use it is. Maybe to protect his ears while flying.”
“Yeah. It looks like that. But it can also act like that watch he has. You can give instructions on the headphone and it will get executed.”
“What kind of instructions? Who will obey? You said there is still no giant robot in your time.”
“No. No. Not a giant robot. We have something called a Google VPA. “
“What is a Google VPA now?”
“VPA stands for virtual personal assistant. You can ask it questions and it can answer questions for you. You can ask it to buy things for you. You can ask it to operate the television, fridge and other devices at home for you.”
“Ah! That sounds interesting. Not as cool as giant robot. But sounds interesting. Even giant robot can’t answer questions or buy things for you. It is sounding more like a parent. It is my mom and dad who do these things now – answering my questions, getting things for me from shops and operating all the devices at home. Next don’t tell me it will make me do my homework as well and scold and beat me if I indulge in mischief. That is not at all cool. Fighting beasties and smashing up minions of Emperor guillotine is what is cool.”
“Hmm… You do have a point. But the day is not far when you can control a robot with this thing. Just the robots need to be made. A robot is like any other electronic device and it can be controlled through commands like how Sokko controls his robots.”
“That sounds cool. But what is this head device. Isn’t it a bit cumbersome? Isn’t a watch more convenient to handle.”
“Well. This thing is a Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Headphone. It is actually something we use mostly to listen to music.”
“Ah! Like the transistor and tape recorder? Have they been made miniature and embedded into this headphone thingy?”
“No. Not really. We have something called blue tooth through which this connects to music devices and brings the music to my ears.”
“And I guess using a headphone rather than a speaker system will ensure only you listen to your music and not disturb the others?”
“Smart boy. You are right. And this headphone does the other way around too. It cancels noise and ensures you are not disturbed by noise from outside?”
“Meaning I won’t be able to hear my mother shouting at me if I put this on and start playing music.”
“Guess so. But I guess for it won’t cancel the beating she will give you if you don’t listen and respond to the scolding.”
“Some of the milder nagging I can escape. Anyways this thing sounds cool. Can I have it?”
“Well… I am not sure. You know you are not supposed to bring an artifact beyond the technological development of the time. It can cause paradoxes and disturbances in space time continuum.”
The boy was bitterly disappointed. This man was like his parents. They never gave him anything easily.
The man stood hesitating. “Maybe….” Then suddenly a different expression came on his face. A relief of sorts. “My time is over, Karthi. I am being pulled back into my time. It was nice catching up with you. Bye.”
The man began to fade and then he disappeared. For the next few days, the boy thought a lot about the visitation. He told the story to his friend Gowtham who had laughed at him and had called him off for telling fibs. He did not even dare to tell the story to his parents. With the passing days, he himself began to feel it may all have been a dream. And as days turned to months, it became a faint memory and he even forgot about the visit. He was back to his school and studies and play.
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