We paced up and down the room.
Both of us. Same rate, same strides. We were brothers- Aftab’s umbilical cord was cut just a few minutes ahead of mine. That hadn’t stopped him from cracking the classic “I’m so older than thou” jokes. Ammi’s all-time favorite was the one where he claims that he was five minutes elder than me, followed by “You know what I did when I was your age?” Then he would proceed to describe whatever happened five minutes ago in lavish detail. Not “ha-ha” funny, our Aftab- but he had a pleasant voice.
I was born dumb. Yes, literally. I am very smart, but I’ll have to write down a few things to convince someone so. “Trauma to the vocal chords- identical twin born mute.” I loved writing imaginary headlines to an imaginary newspaper, which I’m planning to start soon. I’ll name it “The Afsan Chronicles”-after me, of course.
But I digress. Brotherly squabbles were the least of my concerns at the moment. It might not seem important to you, but we were making a huge machine. We were designing a Molecule de-aligner. We ‘are’. If you aren’t interested in scientific mumbo jumbo, it means that we are creating something which could alter the shape of anything. Basically give me clay and I’ll make your face with it. It will be pretty, if you are pretty. Give me a silver coin, I can make a silver screw that would weigh the same. The last time Aftab tried explaining this to a ‘well educated’ mutual friend of ours, he exclaimed “Wow, so does it mean that you can make money?” Aftab had lost his patience then and tried to explain to him the meaning of law of conservation of mass and how a large amount of energy is wasted in re-arranging molecular structure and so forth. The pour soul had just meant to ask if we were bound to become famous with our invention, and earn a lot of money, but my brother had a habit of jumping the gun. Ammi says he had begun speaking for the both of us by the age of three. I think he started way before that.
“Why doesn’t it start Afsu? I hate this! Tell me why!” I looked at him and then at the machine with mild irritation. One thing about us, not-so-gifted humans, is that we are patient. Probably due to the fact that one cannot be angry without making a bit of noise. So like the mature kid that I’ve grown up to become, I took a walk around the clunking old assortment of metal parts and began observing each of the components. Aftab was doing the same thing but he resembled of an express train running late.
“The variables are set to the correct value. The readings are perfectly normal. Temperature is under control. All parts are either in good condition or recently repaired, there seems to be no ….” he was muttering to himself amidst frequent pushes and pulls at random points. He hates it when things do not go according to plan. With folks like us it rarely does. I couldn’t understand what was going wrong either. He was right though. All factors that we could control seemed perfect. Owing to a highly rational state of mind, I am not a staunch believer in God. However after about three hours of tinkering even I began to wonder whether there was an almighty being who did not want us to borrow his powers, even in such small magnitudes.
Exasperated I walked behind the machine and sat down, with my head between my hands.
“Afsu, don’t step on the wires, I don’t want to clean them again. Not that I see the point, with this thing refusing to work. I wonder if we are doing something stupi…”
I opened my eyes in shock. Then it struck. Both of us followed the power cord with our eyes to the plug point. It was switched on. But…
The role of the infinitely small in nature is infinitely great.
We had forgotten to plug it in.
-Sr Ja [17/02/2016]