“Mr and Mrs Wadhwa?” A striking young couple looked up at the mention of their names by the nurse. “The doctor will see you now.”
They looked at each other with concern in their eyes, with only a hint of watering in Mrs Wadhwa’s, which she brushed away nonchalantly. They stood up and entered the pristine white office of Dr Vaidya. He smiled mechanically at them.
“Please come in, Mr and Mrs Wadhwa,” he said.
“Look, I want a direct answer,” Mr Wadhwa said immediately. “I want to know what is wrong with her. No beating around the bush.”
“Fine,” Dr Vaidya sighed, “I’ll give it to you directly. It seems that your daughter, little
Preeta has not lost her ability to feel passionate about things. In fact, I think she still has the capacity to love.”
At this statement, both the parents let out a gasp of horror. How was such a thing possible?
They clearly remembered the day little Preeta had been handed over to them by the government officials at the appointed time. She was quite nice and healthy, with correct facial features and a balanced temperament. They were quite delighted with their assigned charge. They had given it a thorough medical screening, to make sure all kinds of anomalies in her had been treated well, and all the proper identification documents were in order. Of course, they did have to consume the vial of Carfond, a small sacrifice to ensure that they took great care of the child. They were quite approving of the infant from the beginning, and after Carfond started taking effect, they took an intimate interest in her overall well being.
But only a few months back, right after she had turned five years old, Mrs Wadhwa noticed a difference in her behaviour. For starters, she had started asking all kinds of questions. One day after coming home from school, she had asked: “Why do we have to study mathematics?” Bewildered, Mrs Wadhwa had said, “Because it is a part of your curriculum.”
“Well, I don’t think I like it very much. I think I like history better.”
That had been the first red flag. After that, there had been various other incidents. For instance, she found various outlines of animals and humans inside her closet. Then there was the peculiar way with which she had handled the specimen hamster given to her for her science project. She had even asked if she could keep it with her! Then there was the unnatural helping of other people, hugging of her parents at night, and the latest, asking about the opposite gender!
That had been the last straw, and Mrs Wadhwa had finally confided in her partner. They had talked it over, and to avoid the shame and disgrace of it all, had decided to entrust the matter with their assigned healer, Dr Vaidya. And the news that they had just been given was beyond their comprehension.
“I’m afraid it’s quite potent, what she has,” the doctor said. “Now understand something, this is by no means your fault. I have looked at all your charts as well, and you have given the perfect care that is laid out in your parenting plans. There must have been some discrepancy on the part of the officials who handled her birth. I took a thorough look at all her medical records, and although all the correct procedures had been performed, they must have missed something at the Endocrilectomy stage.” The Wadhwas looked at him confused. “Look, what I am about to tell you is highly confidential, and we could all get into serious trouble. But I know that you will want to receive this information before we decide what to do with Preeta. Come with me.”
Both of them followed the doctor out of the room into another chamber, along with the nurse as well. “Simi is one of my best trained nurses. There will be no problem with her.” They walked in through various corridors, passing door after door when they finally came upon a massive experimental laboratory.
“Before we go inside, I want to ask you. How much do you know about the year 2021?”
Both the Wadhwas looked at each other, then Mr Wadhwa said, “Well, we were told in school that there was a war between a lot of factions. India won, of course, but the governments around the world agreed to form a common constitution, and formed the new laws and regulations that we follow today.”
“That’s partly correct, but what you do not know is that two years prior to that, in a secret pact across the globe, a virus strain was released into our atmosphere, called N-19, which caused havoc in all the nations. It was a deadly thing, and it caused a lot of casualties, but the purpose behind it was to get access to each person’s physiology. In the guise of developing a vaccine, hundreds and thousands of people were subjected to various tests, in order to perfect a finalising procedure called Endocrilectomy.”
“You see, the ruling powers at the time wanted to find a solution to curb the passions and interests of the people, so everyone would be compliant with every policy without any protest. And they needed a large scale pandemic to make that happen. In fact the whole war afterwards was just a sham, an excuse to give to people about the later changes in policies. It took quite a while though, as the procedure could not be performed on all the living.”
The Wadhwas were getting more and more confused at Dr Vaidya’s statements.
“But with each generation of children being born, the procedure began to become more perfect, until we have it in the final stage now. Slowly, governments around the world began regulating our lives as they do, each step of the way, from birth till death. They decide who our parents will be, where we will live, what we will do, who will be our partners, even our names.”
“And now, for the main part.” Dr Vaidya opened the large steel doors to the entrance of the laboratory. On one side, the Wadhwas could see rows of glass rooms filled with all kinds of equipment, while on the other side they were filled with babies, lots and lots and lots of them.
“This is one of the biggest laboratories in the country where the procedure is done. All these children are of various month ages, and are being kept under observation.” They began walking through the long corridor. “These children are birthed under a controlled environment, and after their birth they are observed until the surgery can be performed. Based on their temperaments, a surgery is performed by which the entire endocrine system is sort of stitched up, and all the hormones produced in their bodies are extracted and cultured into a liquid form, what we call Carfond. The baby loses its natural ability to produce any hormones, and therefore has no passion for anything in life, especially not love.”
At the mention of that word, the Wadhwas flinched. Love was something which they had been taught to abhor. For them, it was worse than the swear words. In their humanity classes, they had always been told how “love” had caused so much pain and suffering throughout history, and how their lives had been made so easy without it. The whole concept of love had been drilled into them as one of the most shameful things a human could engage in, and anyone who spoke of it was committing a dire mistake. But the words of Dr Vaidya had a conflicting effect on them. He talked as if the surgery was a bad thing, and that in fact it was not supposed to be done on humans.
“What happens next?” Mr Wadhwa asked to fill the silence.
“Now some of the hormones removed from these babies are very important for their development,” he said as they continued to walk, “And these are separated and formed into medicines which we regularly take. You know them as the Carfond pills. The red ones are for growth, blue ones for mental strength, green ones for physical strength, etc. The rest of them are developed into various kinds of fluids, also called Love Potions, and these are also given in regular doses whenever required.”
They had reached a sort of freezing storage room, and Dr Vaidya entered it too.
“This is where we keep them.” They could see large shelves with the tiny vials of Carfond potions, but here they were labelled differently. “What you see here are all the various kinds of passions and interests which are extracted from human babies. You must remember the one which you had, those are right there.” The Wadhwas looked closely to see the row of vials labelled, “Child Love”.
“Some of these are actually quite interesting, and for the right price are sold to the ones who want it. Of course, they are always given a controlled amount, and after a while it fades away. Like your love for Preeta will one day.”
“You mean to say that love is available for sale?” Mrs Wadhwa asked.
“Like I said, for the right price, it is. Here you see,” pointing out vials further off, “There is love for the country, but no one wants to buy it anymore. It’s out of demand. Then there is love for things like books, pets, games, sports, etc. There is fanatical love as well, and it’s quite popular during election season. There is love for family, siblings, acquaintances, and the most potent of all, for someone unrelated to you.”
“Wait, hold on a second,” Mr Wadhwa said, after having had too much of it all. “You’re saying that we are naturally born with the ability to…to…” He could not even bring himself to say the word. “Yes,” Dr Vaidya said, “You are born with enough love naturally, you do not have to take it as a medicine. But after years of these procedures taking place, our physiognomy is becoming weaker. Soon, we will lose this natural ability and have to depend solely on these vials. I’m afraid of what will happen when we run out of it.”
“I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand why you are telling us all this and how it’s going to help Preeta.” Mr Wadhwa was having a hard time now.
“Yes, I was going to come to that. You see, a lot of doctors and scientists of our community have begun protesting against this surgery. Of course we too, have no natural passion for it, but solely from the scientific point of view, we believe that in future, this procedure will do us more harm than good. It will start affecting our bodies, and not even these vials will save us. It might be a long stretch, but it could mean the end of humanity.”
“And what does it have to do with Preeta?”
“She can help us in our research. If she really has the ability to love naturally, then she can be our perfect subject. Think about it! She can be one of the first people to ever take part in such a research. She can make history!!”
Back in the hospital room, the Wadhwas looked into Preeta’s room as she lay sleeping peacefully on her bed. Did she detect a small smile on her face? Mrs Wadhwa thought. “What are we to do?” she asked her partner, who sat there massaging his head. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” he said. “The only other option we have is to get her the procedure done again.”
“But you know it’s too risky. At her age it would be very difficult to do the surgery successfully. She could…she could… die!!” And finally Mrs Wadhwa let go of the tears she had been holding in for so long. “It’s just the effect of the Carfond,” her partner said. “We don’t really have any feelings.”
“Would it really be such a bad thing? To have feelings, to feel…to feel…love?”
There was a slight flinch, but she remained firmer this time.
“It would be a difficult life for her. She would have to stay in a remote location, in a sterile environment, always undergoing tests of all kinds. Do we really want to give her that life?”
“Do you think it’s better, the way we live now? It’s like Dr Vaidya said, she’ll go down in history. Who knows, maybe when she grows up, she’ll have feelings for someone all on her own. It’s all for love “
At that moment, Preeta woke up and looked directly at her caregivers. She smiled and waved at them.
News reporter reads:
“In a startling discovery made by a group of researchers and doctors, it has come to light that after birth, the human race is completely capable of developing hormones required to function as a whole and complete human being. For the past ten years, this group has been able to collect enough data to ascertain whether our race can stop depending on Carfond. They have nurtured six young children of different ages, who have managed to survive till now without a single dose of Carfond. Preeta, one of the first of the chosen subjects, has shown great development, so much that she has found herself a partner already. If all goes well, then these tests can be done on a large scale basis. But for now, Preeta is completely living up to her name.”