Sunday, October 23, 2005

Feline Wars Episode I - Foundation

Rameses yawned. He hated all these ceremonies, with the high priests of the temple chanting unpronounceable incantations and having fits every minute of the day. He preferred relaxing in his royal bedchamber with a couple of dancers and plenty of wine. But he feared the wrath of Ra, the Sun-god, the all-powerful one whom he represented here on Earth. As the high priest had once told him, “The day Ra disowns you, the people will revolt. They will choose a new Pharaoh. And you can then drink all the wine you like in your afterlife. And it won’t be in the subterranean depths of a pyramid either.” ‘Oh well,’ he thought, ‘might as well get it over with.’

The ceremony involved sacrificing the brightest minds of the land to Pasht, the goddess of feminine beauty and intelligence. The best brains of the land, selected after a grueling test, would then be further tested for their wit, and only the best would be chosen. These would then be sacrificed at the altar of Pasht, whereby their souls would ascend to the higher realm, and after being blessed by Ra, they would descend again to the Earth, and would be the pillars of the society.

The Pharaoh hated the concept of people not born into the royal family becoming the pillars of the society. In fact, he hated the concept of anyone other than himself running the land. But the will of Ra was, well, the will of Ra, and if the will of Ra was not obeyed, then he would have no time to even make a will before the will of the people made a way into his palace and cast him down from the throne. But his scheming mind had started thinking of a plan to cast down the ‘Order of the Sacrificed’ (popularly called the Mobai) and rule as the supreme emperor. He retired to his private chamber feigning a headache and called Fart Maul, the leader of his private army, the Shitlords, to meet him.

“Disrupt the ceremony. Go in disguise, make sure nothing can be traced to me, and ensure that the people are convinced that the ceremony is evil and is merely a ruse by the Devil to eat the souls of innocent youngsters and make them his followers and rule the land.”

Fart Maul was an accomplished reader of the heavens. He was also an expert at speaking the tongue of snakes, his favorite being the horned asp. He knew that the ceremony had begun three lunar cycles after the flooding of the Nile, and would go on till the harvest of the winter crop. He found that there was a solar eclipse at the peak of winter, and there had been none before that for many generations of men, which meant none knew its significance. The day of the eclipse, he wrapped himself in a cloak and hood, and leaping onto the altar, shouted, “O subjects of the mighty Pharaoh!! The supreme god Ra sends me to convey his displeasure at this sacrifice. Ra wishes that this be stopped once and for all; else he shall cease to cast the light of life upon you.” The high priest retorted, “O naïve fool! You do not know of what you speak. I read the messages of Ra in the wind, in the water, in the annual flooding of the Nile. This ceremony is necessary for the good of society. Do not disrupt it, or the wrath of Pasht will strike you.” Then Fart Maul spoke, “Fool you are who speaks this way. Watch now. Ra will hide his face.” And as he spoke these words, the solar eclipse began.

What followed can best be described as chaos. The high priest had collapsed, and would never rise again. People were shrieking, screaming and fainting all over the place. Then Fart Maul yelled, “O people, witness the wrath of Ra. Destroy this altar and the Mobai temple, and Ra will shine again, else you shall live forever in the darkness of the void.” Incited thus, the crowd roared forward, led by Fart Maul, who was armed with a glowing saber.

Up in the heavens, Pasht was furious. She went to Ra and asked him if this injustice was his will. Ra replied, “A day comes when evil grows so strong that instead of fighting it, one should bow down and let it pass. Evil shall never last, and in the end, Good shall prevail. Even my dear friend Odin had some similar problem, but in their land they have a situation called Ragnarok after which Good wins. In our case, it is much more complex. But worry not, for the Mobai is indestructible. The sacrifice those brave children have made have enriched their mind and their soul, and they can handle anything in this world. And they have the Force of Ra running through their veins. Watch now, and marvel at the power of Good.” And as Pasht watched, an earthquake smote the valley of the Nile, burying the temple of the Mobai and the altar of Pasht, leaving it out of reach of the mob.
Ra smiled, “Let Evil rule on Earth now. A day will come when the temple will rise from the Earth, and not just once, but a full six times. And the Mobai will rule over the Earth again. But it will not be in this accursed valley of the Nile, but in that beautiful land named after a king who played with lion cubs as a child. Till that day, let this burial site be hallowed, and a Sphinx I shall place atop it, to keep away the Evil. And the Sphinx shall have no nose, to symbolize the deep sense of shame this event has caused. Till the day of Resurrection, this site shall serve as the Foundation.”

Friday, October 14, 2005

Nanotechnology and the Centaur

I remember dialing those big circles with my index finger on the bulky telephone in our house when I was a kid. I remember how cumbersome it was. I also remember how the telephone once fell on my foot and it hurt like hell. One score years minus three later, my index finger needs to be angled to ensure it presses only one button at a time. But when my foot falls on the telephone, it still hurts like hell, but this is probably because the phone is now crushed.
It is amazing what miniaturization has done to our lives. Huge filing cabinets have given way to a single hard drive. I remember school projects where I used to go to the library and heave down huge volumes from the giant shelves; now, I log onto and get what I want at the click of a button.
Of course, miniaturization cannot be found in all spheres of life. As the rich guy who once designed some software to ensure he always sits next to the hottest babe in his class would say, “If the automobile industry was like the computer industry, a Roll-Royce would be the size of a matchbox and cost just $2.00.” To which the auto tycoon would reply, “Yeah, right!! And when the Rolls-Royce is about to crash at 200 mph, the windshield will blink with the message, ‘Abort, Retry, Fail’.”
Though the previous example is valid to a great many spheres of life, reduction is size still rules the day. Imagine the whole of Platform 9 & ¾ stuffed into a pillar. Now that’s reduction (or magic, rather). When a magician gets a dozen rabbits out of his tiny hat, it’s called magic (though it’s just a trick). But when you actually see something like this happening around you (as opposed to the stage in the case of a magician and the book in the case of Harry Potter), you cant help but marvel at the wonder of nanotechnology.

It started with the letter I got saying, “You have been admitted to the ‘Institute of Preserved Mummies’. Dare to think beyond the non-preserved mummies.” ‘Wow!! I’m honored. Not many people get a chance to go there,’ was the first thought in my mind. I was to report to the branch in the city of reclaimed islands. The letter also had a detailed description of the campus and its many outstanding facilities. So when I got to the place and saw a two-storey building with the paint peeling off its walls, I was convinced the taxi driver had conned me. But as I stepped over the threshold, it was like walking into paradise. The complete building was air-conditioned. The lobby itself extended further than the eye could see. As I got into the elevator to go to the top storey for my orientation lecture, I observed that the elevator had buttons numbering up to 100. I gingerly pressed UP, not knowing what to do, and then gaped at the storey indicator in shock as the elevator jumped at the speed of light (Umm… not so fast, maybe the speed of sound is more realistic) to the 100th storey. As I walked out, I saw I was in a garden with wonderful flowering plants and shady trees. There was a lake, and the most beautiful mermaids I had ever seen were stretched on the shore, sunbathing. There was a small cottage to one side, and I walked there hoping I’ll meet my guide. But wonder of wonders!! One step into the cottage and I see myself in a huge clubhouse. There were dozens of pool tables to one side, and plenty of interns relaxing in the vicinity. My guide was sitting in the center, and it was a centaur, with its long mane streaming in the wind coming in through the open door. As it began to speak, I realized the true essence of life. The centaur could never be wrong. This building was paradise. The rest of the day went like a breeze. The centaur spoke well, and his teachings were irrefutable. He told me that there will be the ones who do not believe in paradise, and will try to defame us. They were our sworn enemies, and we were to make jihad against them, even if it cost us our lives. Oh, I forgot to mention. I got a free abacus too!!