Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Ranjit Kulkarni

Something wasn’t right. His optic cameras were blurred. He checked the respiratory console. Eighteen per minute. Then he checked the wiring in his heart device. A pumping rate of eighty per minute. High but ok. But when he opened the door of his apartment, something didn’t feel right.

“People skills, social interaction, interpersonal management,” he recalled from his memory box. That’s what they had told him he lacked. That was the reason. Things weren’t working out well in the team due to his unending focus on perfection, they told him.

“Well, I wasn’t hired to do things imperfectly,” he had told his boss. But he couldn’t reveal that he was wired for perfection. He had kept it a closely guarded secret for the past fifteen years that he was on his mission here. The code of conduct in their creed was such. Secrecy was sacrosanct. Even a slight suspicion of the truth being known by any human was considered blasphemy.

His blank stare on being fired was not natural for humans. He showed no emotion. He wasn’t capable of it. He wondered whether the people in his office had got a hang of who he really was. He checked his backup archive for any audio or video clues. He found none. They had no idea. He was sure they hadn’t figured out. Humans weren’t that intelligent.

But one of them had fired him today, purportedly for lack of people skills. But his data suggested that the real reason was that he was too perfect for humans. He did not give anyone any leeway while working. He was trained, in fact, wired, to be perfect in his quest for performance. Humans didn’t like that. Humans couldn’t handle him.

Whatever the reason, the fact was that he was fired. It didn’t feel good. But since when did he start feeling? This was new terrain for him.

His systems weren’t ready to deal with this situation. He checked everything again. Optic systems were still blurred. Motor functions were weak while walking. His respiratory and pumping devices were faster. Data didn’t provide clues, but he knew something wasn’t right. Or maybe he didn’t.

So he decided to call his company support. He activated his microphone, pulled up the customer service number from the memory book and dialled it with his fingers. His auditory appliance activated, he waited for some droid agent at the other end to respond.

“Agent FR-7 here. May I have your chip number please?” the voice at the other end asked.

“R7-G5, code name ALKDS24,” he replied.

“Thank you, worker droid R7-G5, is your human name Sid?” the agent asked.

“Yes,” Sid replied.

“For verification purposes, can I have your date of birth and address?” she asked further.

Some systems don’t change, Sid scowled. After all, it is humans who design them. Everything is less than perfect. Why don’t they let us do even call centre systems, for a change? But he accessed his memory box and complied by answering each of her questions correctly. Without that, there was no way he would have got the service appointment.

“Thank you, Sir. How may I help you today?” the agent asked. Now Sid wasn’t sure he was talking to a fellow droid. There was way too much empathy in her voice. The newer models were too close to being human. He felt proud of the progress his company had made.

“I have an unexplained wellness problem,” he answered. “My systems are fine, but something is not feeling right,” he explained.

“Feeling is not a feature, Sir, in worker droids. I can see that your respiratory, pumping systems are fine. Small error in optic device. Blinking happening at expected intervals but accompanied by higher heart rates. Mental faculties appear dull over the past year. Memory reserves are falling. But other systems seem to be fine,” she assessed everything remotely and tried to reassure Sid.

“Yes, but I don’t feel like doing anything. I am unable to concentrate,” Sid elaborated.

“Let me check. Any event or trigger preceding these symptoms, Sir?” the agent asked.

“Well, I got fired from my job today,” Sid replied.

“Let me check your records,” the agent said. “Right Sir. Triggering event found. That’s the likely reason. May I place your call on hold while I find the solution to your problem, Sir?” the agent asked.

And without waiting for Sid’s reply, some music started playing. He started suspecting that this agent was not a droid. Droids won’t do anything unless an input command was available.

She seemed like so many of his human team members at office, who went on their own trip. Sid had never been able to understand why humans behaved the way they did. He had to enforce some harsh measures to get them in line, he remembered, while listening to the music.

“I am sorry to keep you on hold, Sir,” she came back. “I will send a service technician to your address to fix your problem. Does tomorrow 11 AM work for you?” she asked.

R7-G5 Sid checked his calendar from the memory box. It was all empty. With his job gone now, he had no work and all the time in the world. No appointments on the calendar. What social life does a robot have, anyway? Not in his generation.

“Yes, it is fine,” he confirmed.

“Ok Sir, I have booked your appointment for tomorrow 11 AM. The technician details will be sent to you tomorrow morning. Is there anything else I can help you with?” she asked.

Sid said no, the agent made some parting remarks and hung up. Soon after that, he thought that just speaking to the agent made him feel better. He wondered if he was getting sentient. Why was he feeling anything at all?

He went to his balcony and stood there.

He looked at the plants in the balcony opposite his, and kids playing downstairs. He had never noticed them till then. Till today, he had also not noticed the girl in the balcony next door. Yet.


“Hey, what’s up?” the girl’s voice landed on Sid’s auditory device and an image fell on his blurred optic camera. There was no image stored against it. It was a new one.

“Do we know each other? What’s your name?” he asked, taking her aback with surprise.

“Well, we don’t, but you seem to be disturbed,” she said. “By the way, I am Kiara.”

“Kiara. As in K-I-A-R-A?” he asked.

The girl had a weird expression on her face now. “Yes,” she mumbled.

“Noted,” Sid replied, storing the name against the new image and voice captured. “I am disturbed, yes. I am trying to find the reason. It can be traced to the event that I got fired from my job today.”

Kiara wondered if she was talking to a real person. Who tells a stranger in the first meeting that he got fired from his job? And like this? On second thoughts, she concluded that perhaps this guy was really depressed. Maybe he needed help, she felt.

“Oh, that’s really sad to know. My apologies,” she said.

“You don’t need to apologise. You didn’t fire me,” Sid continued flabbergasting Kiara. For a moment, she glanced inside her house and wondered if she should just cut this conversation and go back in. But then, who knows if this guy is really depressed, she thought. Hang on, she told herself.

“Alright,” she said raising her eyebrows. “You can join us for a movie if you want. By the way, you didn’t tell me your name,” she said, changing the topic.

“You didn’t ask me for it,” he said. “My name is Sid. Which movie?”

Kiara was now convinced that either this guy was totally crazy, or he was just flirting with her. But she gave him the benefit of doubt. Anyone who loses his job will be down on that day.

“Any movie you like. Maybe a comedy will make you feel better? You can choose, Sid,” she said.

“Or if you don’t like movies… we can just hang around, have some fun, and chat along. I have some friends coming over for a drink, too,” she said, observing Sid relaxing a bit. “Or why not take a walk, watching the kids play? Even that is ok. Whatever works for you, Sid,” she reassured him.

All of this was too much to take for Sid. As such his optic and auditory devices were overloaded by the plethora of options on offer. He suddenly found his heart pumping faster. His breath count going up. The hair on his hand stood on end, despite the afternoon heat.

He didn’t have an answer for the options she had presented. All he said was, “Okay.”

Kiara broke into a smile and pumped her fist. “Cool then, let’s start with a walk. I will give you a shout once my friends come over,” she said and went back inside her house.

An hour or two later, Kiara was at Sid’s door with a couple of her friends. “This is Aryan. That’s Simi. Guys, say hi to Sid, he’s had a bad day,” she said. Sid was the one to be flabbergasted this time. He stored all of them quickly in his memory box and went along.

Over the next couple of hours they walked in the park near their house and chatted along incessantly. Kiara and her friends were the ones who did most of the talking, while Sid listened most of the time. They pulled off some pranks with the kids. They watered some of the plants and plucked some flowers. They had some snacks and drinks and lots of laughs.

Sid tried to join in everything but found himself lacking. He couldn’t. He wasn’t wired for it.

When they finally parted ways and Sid came home, though, he felt as if a big load had been taken off from his head and shoulders. He checked his vital parameters. The optic camera and auditory device were working better. The microphone showed a more stable voice. The pumping rate of the heart device and the breath rate of the respiratory system had slowed down to normal.

But beyond all of those, Sid realised that he felt better. The nagging feeling that something wasn’t right which had chased him throughout the day was gone. It didn’t trouble him anymore.

He had, in the merriment of the evening, hinted to Kiara that he was not normal.

“Happens to everyone,” she had said. “No one can be normal on the day they get fired,” she had reassured him.

“Well, no human can be, but for me,…,” he had remarked and then stopped short, remembering the code of conduct and his pledge to secrecy. He got a warning from his memory box that he shouldn’t get carried away. But he did.

“I must tell you a secret, now that you are my friends. Don’t tell anyone. I am not human. I am a droid. I have been sent here on a mission to take over…. Well, to make the human race perfect. But you know.. humans can’t handle it. They fired me because I was too perfect.”

At that time, Kiara had given him a sly look. Her friends had asked her if Sid was normal.

“Yes, you are a droid, and Aryan is Mickey Mouse. I am the Queen of England, and Simi is Cinderella,” she had said, with a huge laugh from Aryan and Simi.

Those moments with Kiara were both awkward and memorable. But they left Sid wondering.

Was he starting to feel? Was he becoming sentient? Was he becoming human?

Maybe he didn’t need the technician appointment anymore, he felt now that he was feeling better. He dialled his company and cancelled the appointment. He couldn’t sleep for the first time in his…well, life,… if he may call it that. He went to the balcony and thought he will say his last goodnight to Kiara. She was standing there waiting for him.

“Hello agent. This is spy droid R22-K7, code name BLJWV78,  human name Kiara,” he heard her say just before he entered the balcony. He stopped in his steps. This time the respiratory and pumping systems gathered pace for real. His optic camera blurred, but his auditory device got sharper.

“This is an urgent complaint call regarding worker droid R7-G5 code name ALKDS24, human name Sid,” she said with a distinct tone of extreme gravity.

“Old device. Fifteen years old. No social features. Identity revealed to humans. Block or Terminate.”

Sid entered the balcony and stared at Kiara knowing that his end was near. Why didn’t he care about it in the face of extreme danger? He couldn’t find an answer. Maybe he was becoming like many of his team members. Irrational. Imperfect. On their own trip. Sentient. Human.

At that time, he got a call from his company. “Audio video records verify the complaint by spy droid R22-K7. Droid R7-G5, Terminate. I repeat. Droid R7-G5, Terminate,” it said. Kiara watched as R7-G5 Sid vaporised into thin air.


Ranjit Kulkarni is an author with a penchant for portraying characters from the real world and weaving stories around their apparently mundane lives. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Kulkarni spent his childhood in the environs of urban, middle-class India. As an adult, he’s travelled the world, exploring the cityscapes of America, getting lost in the natural beauty of Europe, and absorbing the tastes and sounds of Asia.

His stories have been published in many national and international literary journals and magazines, and released in anthologies. Check out his books on his Amazon Author page

Leave a Reply

Related Posts