The Baby

About Karthik Venkatesh

Karthik is an editor with a well-known publishing firm. Previously he ran a school in Bathinda, Punjab. He now lives in Bangalore. He edits and occasionally writes.

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The entire hospital was agog with the news. The nurse who had been present at the delivery told the other nurses who worked with her on the night shift. And the nurses told the ward boys. And from the ward boys, the news spread to the General Ward where the doctors made occasional appearances accompanied by nurses, anxious relatives and a few medical students. In the richer and snootier section of the hospital, the patients were privileged to learn of the baby from the doctor who had delivered the child. The doctor did not merely describe the circumstances of the baby’s arrival. He then proceeded to expound at length as to what this evolutionary leap meant for all of mankind. History had been made, he grandly proclaimed and he was glad to have been a player. It was a triumph of science, he declared. Reason and logic had won over superstition and blind belief. He hurried through the last bit as he had to leave for the ‘Bhoomi Puja’ of his new nursing home.

A cub reporter was in the hospital delivering a lightweight meal to his obese father. He heard people whispering and saw mouths going ‘O’ and promptly volunteered to spend the night at hospital administering to his father’s need in the night. His journalist proboscis had smelt a story. A few minutes past midnight, he abandoned his father and proceeded to click pictures of the strange baby.

The next day, the whole country was agog with the news. All the papers had exclusive supplements discussing what the birth of such a baby meant. Physicists, biologists, anthropologists, economists, astrologers – all had something to say on the matter. All the channels without exception had their best people on the job. The ward boys all basked in the glory of having to go on television and saying “…. bloody something, anything!” All visitors to the hospital were asked to comment on the matter.

An India-Pakistan cricket match was suspended midway as spectators began trooping out of the stadium to go home and ponder on this new development. There was more to life than fours and sixes after all. In a lame bid to keep spectators in the stadium, the Cricket Board Chairman flew down to the stadium from the Lok Sabha where he had been in the midst of a lengthy debate on whether the recent deaths of children in the Bacchanagar district had been due to malnutrition or cholera and announced free ice-creams for all and also promised to beam the news of the baby on the stadium’s large screens. The crowd hung on. But, the players at some point paused to see what was happening and did not resume their game thereafter. No one noticed. By the noon, the news had spread to the furthermost corners of the globe.

In Sweden, the CEO of Fokya was roused by an aide and asked to switch on his TV set. When he saw the baby, he broke out into a cold sweat. He urgently summoned all this key executives for a meeting.

In New Delhi, the ageing seer, Rajbhai remained closeted in a meeting with his closest advisors. The baby’s arrival would seriously dent his reputation. His oft-quoted and revered theory of ‘the Lord God made us all as we are’ would be consigned to the rubbish heap. His place in history and his funding that enabled him to sit on a gold throne and maintain a couple of dozen farmhouses around the country were now threatened. From visionary to charlatan was a steep fall indeed. Rajbhai shuddered at the thought. His only solace was that it was likely that Maulana Syed Ali and Rev. John Smith were also writhing in discomfort due to the arrival of this baby.

Rev. John Smith was in his bathtub. On hearing of the baby, he had hurried to the bathtub. He was prone to hysteria. Indeed, his fame rested solely on his hysterics. His theory of intelligent design too would come in for questioning. And so John Smith stayed put in his bathtub seeking comfort in its warmth and the silence, stillness and never changing feel of the bathroom. If he were to step out of his mansion, reporters would be screaming for his attention and asking tongue-in-cheek questions. Fully naked, the Rev. John Smith prayed for guidance.

Meanwhile, Wall Street crashed. All technology stocks plummeted. Fokya, PH, Rotomola all crashed. The US President called an emergency meeting. In his Texan drawl further mangled due to the six inch cigar sticking out of the left corner of his mouth, he snapped at all and sundry. The gist of it was that he ‘wanned to knoooow what the bloody hell was goin’ awn down there in Eeey-ndia!’ His technology adviser whispered to an aide that he needed a Grade 8 textbook in order to explain Darwin and Evolution to the President. When the textbook was produced, he discovered to his horror that Darwin was not being taught to American schoolchildren. Intelligent Design had muscled the venerable English gentleman out.

The Indian PM rushed to Madam’s house to seek a solution for this latest crisis prompted by the birth of the baby. A few hours later, they emerged and began to simultaneously parrot their lines that were identical almost word to word. They were keeping a close watch on all developments. Whichever way the wind blew, they would do their utmost to protect India’s interests. Madam inserted a vehement ‘Jai Hind!’ for good measure.

The baby lay in the hospital nursery sleeping in blissful ignorance. His head was hairless, his ears were tiny, he appeared to have flat feet and his eyes were tightly shut. A casual visitor would have puzzled at what was causing all this commotion. And then you saw it — his left palm was to put it mildly, different. It had no fingers, in fact there was no palm. From the wrist on, the hand changed colour. It was cell-phone black. One side was an array of numbers and other tiny buttons. The other side was smooth and shiny. In other words, the palm had had metamorphosed into a cellphone. Nature had done the trick. Man had evolved yet again, this time into a kind of Cyborg, part man, part machine. No more reaching into pockets and handbags when the damn thing beeped. No need to worry about charging and battery. The phone-hand, the hand-phone……


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