Z for Zero-sum (Part I)

Freida Dantas stepped out of the queue to look around. The machine wasn’t that far from here–only a few hundred more. She looked behind. The queue went on for as long as she could see. She too had started from the end of the queue many hours ago. The machine took only a second to judge, so the queue had kept moving continuously. But she worried if there were more hopefuls in the queue than seconds in a day. She had been queueing up religiously for her pronouncement every day since she had died.

She’d learned of the system the day she had arrived at the purgatory. Learned is probably not the best word to describe the process. She had woken up in the purgatory a week ago knowing about it instinctively, with no recollection of her prior life. She knew exactly when and where to queue up for the machine. The machine would tell her if it was her time to ascend to the heaven yet. She’d witnessed thousands of ascensions on her first day. The ascendants one after the other had stood under the

T for Television

Travesty of primetime news was on television again. The reporter walked frantically towards an old mud house.

“We are on our way to the home of the IITian who died yesterday at the Panvel railway station,” she reminded the viewers. The anchor sat ready with debaters in another panel on the overcrowded screen and in yet another panel were images of the dead person—pixelated enough to avoid any lawsuits but clear enough for the gore to be obvious. Below the panels flashed in bold: ‘When will the Government wake up to the need for better safety for passengers?’.

The reporter barged her mic into the window of the latched house and asked loudly, “Ma’am…. Your son died yesterday trying to board a train. What do you have to say?” Someone pushed away her mic and latched the window from inside. “As you can see, the family is clearly still in mourning. We will try to get them to speak to us. Over to the studio”

“Thank you….” said the anchor. “I’d like to remind all our viewers that this story is exclusively on our news channel.”

The studio had the usual guests: one from the ruling party, one from the opposition, one from a reputable newspaper, one from an NGO, etc.. The anchor introduced them all and began the debate with the conclusion. The blame was shifted from one to the other until the the issue didn’t matter anymore. After numerous commercial breaks and high-decibel shouting contests, the anchor contacted the reporter again.

“Any updates?”

“We were not able to contact them. They are still in mourning. We were able to talk to some of his f….”

“I’m sorry to interrupt but we will have to get back to you…. Stay there. Try to get his parents’ view on this subject. We will contact you”

The rest of the panels vanished and the camera zoomed in on the anchor. “We have just gotten a breaking news,” he said. “Superstar Vivek Khanna and Simpy Shah are back together. Stay tuned for more!”

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