Virtual Reality by Dr. Sivasankar, Papineni

“Supriya”
“Hmmm.”
“Not able to sleep?”
“Yes. The thunder, lightning are not letting me sleep. I feel my entire heart being cloudy,
Manisha.”
“I too feel too restless to sleep. We are roommates but hardly ever speak to each other. Strange, isn’t it? Where do we have time, anyway? We run on our life tracks, from dawn to dusk. You work in “Satyam” and I, in “Asatyam”. However, in this middle of night I want to share my restlessness with you.”
“Shall we sit on the terrace?”
“Yes, let’s go.”

“The breeze, the drizzle, it is so nice here.”
“So far above, in this dark night with lightning, standing on the terrace, looking at the city, what do you feel?”
“Hmm! It reminds me of  a poem I read some time ago.

Night,
Silent and
Beautiful
Stealthily opens
the inner eye
seducing you
to explore
her mysteries
pushes you
into warm desires
mesmerizes
startles
mischievously
this night
like a stream
flows between us.  ”

“Very sensitive. Do you like poetry?”
“Yes. I like many more things, apart from poetry.  Now you tell me about what you feel now.”
“Hmm! I feel the night hides something under the cover of darkness. Something
incomprehensible. I need to see those things that hide from me! Including emotions. I need to have a handle on everything that is elusive. I wish to know how it would feel to jump from this parapet wall, for example.”
“I don’t quite understand.”
“I don’t know what I desire, nor do I know what I should desire. I came all the way from Noida to join this software firm. I don’t know what I expected to find. I didn’t find anything except heavy pay packet.”
“Aren’t you happy with your work, Manisha?”
“What’s so big deal about it? In any case, I am not a very hard worker. It is such a funny place to work. You know so many jokes about software professionals, don’t you? Listen to this latest one. There is this client who has two cows. You need to teach him to milk the cows. You prepare a project plan to teach him how long he could milk. You design a plan to show him how to milk the cows. You make two dummy cows for him to practice upon and show him how to milk the cows using the dummy cows. If he is not satisfied, you start all over again. You overcome
problems of all sizes and shapes and send the product to the client to use on site.  The client complains that he is not able to milk the cows. You break your head again. Finally you figure out that client is trying to milk oxen! You correct him and finally everything is working. The client is able to milk his cows. But now he complains about the quality of the milk. Again you take over your product and figure out how to improve the quality of milk. You hand over your improved product back to him. Now he complains about the slow rate of the milking process
that you recommended. You wrack your brains again and improve the performance. But, by now the cows are past their prime age! End of story!”
“Very funny and true, to some extent.”
“It is like one of those ant stories that you told me.  I came into this field out of interest and curiosity. Somehow I ended up disillusioned. Now I check out weekend parties and pub, out of sheer boredom. I am trying many relationships with various boyfriends. Today my new boyfriend, who is also my team member, proposed marriage. Of course, I refused.  He must have been disappointed. But I can’t help it. I am not able to figure out what I want from my life. Whatever little I have understood, I have no need for. I don’t know how much you know about
me. My parents don’t visit me ever. They are not interested in my life. I am not interested in them. The fine threads of emotional bonds between us are broken, I guess. ”
“Why is it like that? Is it possible for members of one family not to love each other?”
“Of course! I grew up totally devoid of any familial love. My dad and mom! I hate them both. They hate each other! I have wondered often about it! How is it possible for two people to hate each other so much and still share a home and bed? How is it possible for two people to share everything and yet, hate each other intensely? I don’t know and I can’t understand it. Mom complains that dad is irresponsible and that he is out of the house most of the time. And dad, suspects mom about her friendships! They quarrel like cats. Sometimes I have seen my dad
hitting my mom. They have noticed that I am watching their fights. They kicked me out into a hostel. They wouldn’t want their only daughter to be with them! I guess we have drifted apart, slowly. I know it is going to be like this for ever. I have lost all trust in the family system and its values. But, I don’t know any other values to love and cherish. I feel tired by the end of the week. I need some stress release. I need to get out of this hostel with its sickening food. I need to relax and enjoy myself. I indulge in outings, visiting pubs, dancing with friends, alcohol,
smoking and everything out there. I feel avenged for with this decadence. But vengeance upon who?  Nothing satisfies me. The emptiness doesn’t fill. I want to know what I need. I feel myself burning. ”
“Sorry Manisha. I never knew you were so disturbed.”
“That’s alright, Supriya. Now, it is your turn to open up. Tell me. Why are you disturbed? What is your problem?”
“Mine is a different case. I think I have a fair idea of what I want. But, often, not getting what you want leads to lot of restlessness, don’t you think? I don’t want anything that is not mine rightfully. I think I don’t like to steal.”
“What does that mean?”
“From nature or from others, I neither expect nor accept anything that doesn’t belong to me in the first place.”
“I still don’t get it.”
“Let me explain. When I was a student I cycled to college. My father offered to buy me a two-wheeler scooter. I refused. When I cycle I feel it is all my energy that goes into it. I wouldn’t get the same sense of pride in driving a motorized vehicle. Anyways, I was returning home one day on my cycle. Near a school playground, I suddenly felt that I am about to have a flat tire. I stopped to examine the front wheel of my bicycle. I suddenly noticed something shining on the road. It was a goldchain. For a while I was tempted to pocket it. For a long time before that
I was yearning for a small gold chain on my neck. I almost felt happy at finding that chain there. But, believe it or not, I couldn’t take it. ”
“Why?”
“Because it was not mine! If I had picked it up it might have made me happy. But what about the person who lost it? So I thought I should leave it there.”
“How foolish! If you pick up something that you found on the road, how can you call it stealing? In any case, leaving it there wouldn’t mean that it would reach the owner, would it?”
“Of course not! So I picked it up, gave it to the head mistress of that school. She gave it to the girl who had lost the necklace. The relief in the girl’s face gave me all the happiness I wanted. When I went home, my mother reacted just like you did, calling me stupid. But my dad was proud of me. He beamed with pleasure and said, “of course! You are my daughter! That’s what you would do”. I love my dad. I knew that when he found that bundle of currency, he couldn’t sleep till he returned it to the owner.”
“What a family!”
“Yes, but that is not the problem. Now it is the reverse, in fact. I don’t get what should be mine rightfully.”
“Why is that?”
“My career is full of stress and tension. After joining the work force I hardly even get time to spend with my parents. My music, my painting, my hobbies are all lost to me. Do you know my paintings were complemented by Sanjeevadev? When I was in college I had been to a tour to see the Ajanta caves. I was captivated by the marvellous beauty. Those majestic hills looking like horse shoe, that Waghora river, those thirty caves, it was simply out of this earth. I felt wings sprouting on me. I flew all over the caves and drank in the beauty. All the beauty of those
paintings is in their eyes, I think.

Those eyes
full of
kindness
mercy
flowing out of them
Swimming in
the eternity of
time
Peaceful
Mysterious
Unfathomable
Half closed
open half
making the world
semi dark.

Birth of the Gautama Buddha, His exit from the palace, His enlightenment, Yashodhara’s agony, it was a different world, and I was a part of that world. It was I, in the queen Mayadevi’s lap, it was I in the begging bowl of The Buddha, and I was the lotus in the hands of the Bodhisatva. I was the reality in that imaginary world.  That’s where I ‘lived’, because that is where I ‘felt alive’.  That rhythm, that sense of being alive, they’ve left me. When I sang I felt this inexplicable bliss, whether it was a folk song on Enki or a keertana by Annamayya.  Now, I live
in my cubicle. I live with my computer. What can I sing there?

Do you know how hard I worked for my current project? There was no effective leadership. People with tunnel vision take charge of the projects. They don’t test a product in all environments. They don’t review the code diligently. In the production phase when twenty five users logged on simultaneously, the system simply hung. It was a miserable failure. Clients went crazy! My manager grandly promised he would resolve all the issues in three days. We had a massive brain storming session, which was a useless exercise anyway. The entire team
was frustrated and demoralised. Everybody conveniently then shifted the responsibility to me, since I was the lead programmer. I had a deadline in two days.  I picked up the gauntlet. I raked my brains and finally figured out what to do. ”

“What was that?”

“Paradigm shift! I went through the design and coding with a fine tooth comb. I realized that the application left open ends at places. I fixed all the holes and got it up and running. I did not get any kind of support from my P.L.!”

“Well done, Supriya. You are indeed, very smart and hard working.”
“Thanks again. In fact, that was all I wanted, sincere appreciation. I enjoyed the work, so I don’t have any complaints. But something interesting happened later.”
“What?”
“When the project was discussed in high places, my project leader walked away with all the honors. He did not have the common courtesy to acknowledge my contribution. I was completely side lined. In the recent performance appraisal, our P.L Dixit was praised to the skies, while I was completely sidelined. Dixit was all smiles and received all the accolades, as if it was his due. If he had played it fair, it would have been me there!”
“I understand how it feels. It is so common in career. ”
“I know in the annual performance review I will get a decent pay hike. But somehow that doesn’t make me happy. The fat pay check, the ATM cards, hefty bank balance, is ok, but they do not motivate me. What motivates me is my work. I put in my heart and soul into my work. That should make me happy in principle, right? But it is not. I feel cheated out of the appreciation I should get. I feel neither my work nor am I is getting the attention it deserves. I have a right to get that satisfaction, which I am not getting. A farmer feels satisfied when he sees the land he tilled. A scientist, a teacher, a cobbler, everybody gets a sense of pride and
achievement in their respective work. We don’t feel that!”
“Are you sure everybody feels the same way as you do?”
“Perhaps not. But I do and I feel alienated.”
“I guess we are all alienated. I don’t feel passionate about my work, you are passionate and yet, we feel the same isolation.”
“In fact nothing belongs to us, anyway. When I sit in the cubicle I feel like an astronaut, who lost touch with the earth and the real world. It is an ultra-modern world, which is real and unreal, simultaneously. This is truth and fiction, isn’t it? We don’t have any say in anything about the project. We have no idea why we are doing it. Nobody cares whether we like it or not. A job is allotted to you and you get moving with it. Meet the deadlines, answer the stupid questions, give demos after demos, uploads, downloads, pressure, sleeplessness, I am beginning to hate it all. Nobody is thinking of enjoyment of work. ”
“Take it easy. Why do you get so worked up? It is all about the pay check we receive at the end of every month.”
“We are just caught up in materialistic possessions.”
“Now, what does this mean?”
“Ours is a “having” mode of life. Not a “being” mode of life.”
“I get slightly scared now!”
“We have jobs and salaries making everybody envious. We are proud of that. The money we blow up in one party can help ten students to pay their fees. That’s how I spent my first salary. Why are we not happy, with all our possessions and wealth? What is it that we are missing out of life?”
“Perhaps you are right. I never think so deeply. Tomorrow my clients are arriving from U.K. Our entire team is tensed about this. I am quite nervous about it.”
“Yeah, it is a routine tension.”
“I know, but it is always haunting.”
“I agree. That’s why I think I am going to quit my job, very soon.”
“I might be sent on an onsite mission soon. That might give me a much needed break. With all these tensions, forget about marriage. We will become old maids by thirty. ”
“Let us leave it for now. Let’s talk of this peaceful night. The streets have gone to sleep. The stars have disappeared under the clouds. The slight drizzle is mildly intoxicating.”
“Supriya, in this mystic gloom, among the tiny rain drops, why don’t you sing something? I am sick to the teeth of listening to the chaos that is the pop-music!”

“Right, I will sing the famous Enki song.”

Darling,
won’t  you accept  me  tonight?
The moonlight
Flaunts her charm
for the lake
The lake revels
In the bliss
And reminisces
My restless life
Culminates in
disturbed nights
darling,
won’t you accept me tonight?

 

[End]

Translated by Sharada and published onthulika.net, August 2008.