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Yesterday night was very cold with a very thick fog cover. These conditions are perfect for getting the Gajar to get dark red and sweet. Sanket thought about it while sipping his morning cup of tea. His mother also joined him and she brought along the vegetable bag with her. Usually she would also tell him what to get and the quantity but today they both sat in silence, with their cup of tea.

Sanket cleaned up his Activa, made few failed attempts of getting self start to work, engine was too cold, put the bike on main stand, and started giving kicks. Ugh, kicking in morning was not comfortable, but it worked and soon he was enroute to Mandi. He stopped on a morning tea stall and snack place for one more cup of tea. He took a seat on one table and said to person sitting on counter, "भाई अदरक वाली गरम चाय।". He loved wrapping his hands around the warm cup and sitting in relatively open space where cold morning breeze would make him curl up more around the hot cup, and he continued sipping from it, slowly.

There was some gajar and mirchi ka pickle lying on the table. He tried to take a bite on gajar but it was too rubbery, he kept it back, not able to eat, and looked around to the counter and the भाई sitting there gave him a sad nod, ugh. He grabbed the news paper from the next table and glossed through it. पूरा अखबार आविष्कार की बातों से भरा पडा था। ये सब Whatsapp के forward से शुरू हुआ था। वहां से local अखबार, फिर local channel, facebook, twitter, और फिर सारे बडे channel, नेता, सब line में लग गए।

3-4 दिन पेहले, सुबह सुबह, संकेत के whatsapp पे message आए थे। उसके SSC के batch में एक दोस्त ने किया था share video। कोइ एक mobile से video ले रहा था, mobile की screen पे एक गाजर थी, जिसमें खूब सारे तार और पिन लगा रखी थी, फिर mobile screen पे एक button click किया और सारे तार, पिन सब गायब हो गए, और सिर्फ गाजर दिखाइ दे रही थी। फीर उनहोनें गाजर में एक पीन घुसाने लगे, और जहां जहां पिन लगाते, वाहां एसा लगता, मानो लहू बहने लगे, फिर button दाबाया और सारी पिन, तार दिखने लगे, पर अभी गाजर में लहू वगेरा कुछ ना दिखे, button दबाओ और सब दिखे, फिर तो आवाज़ भी आने लगी, जेसे गाजर कराह रही हो। video खतम हुआ, संकेत को समझ नहीं आया, ये क्या था? Whatsapp के message में लिखा था, जंदा सब्जी, वो भी दर्द मेहसूस करती हे। संकेत ने फीर video देखा, उसको लगा, हां, लग तो रहा है। दुसरे group पे भी एसा ऐक video था, आलू का, उसमें भी एसा ही लग रहा था, जेसे ही आलू को पिन लगाओ, वो चिल्ला रहा था।

उस दिन सब्जी खाते समय उसे थोडा अजीब सा लगा। शाम को उस ने फिर से कोशिश की, video को समझने की, उसने google किया, वो video एक augmented reality app से बनाया गया था। उसमें असली video के उपर लोग और कलाकारी कर सकते हें, जेसे snapchat में अलग अलग चेहरे बना लेते हें। पर यहां फरक था, के जो video पे दिख रहा था, वो गाजर, आलू पे लगे तार, पिन, senors का data था। मतलब, वो video असली नहीं था, पर जो दिख रहा था, वो कुछ कुछ सच था, संकेत को थोडी झुंझलाहट हुई। ये technology पता नहीं क्या क्या नया नया बना देती है, अभी पेछले हफते ही वो bitcoin, cryptocurrency के साथ सर पटक रहा था, के ये नया और आ गया। उसको google से और video के link मिले, और भी फल, सब्जी पे र्पयोग किये हुए थे, कुछ video तो बिलकुल सच्चे लग रहे थे, उसको थोडी सी उबकाइ आ गई।

एक बार अखबार में क्या छपा, सब पगला गए। ये चुनावी साल था, media पुरा active था, हर मुद्दे को पूरा खोद देते थे। इन video में तो र्धम, खान पान, विश्वस सब पे सवाल खडा कर दिया, और नेता बोखला गये थे, कुछ भी बक देते और अखबार news सब उसको पकड के बेठ जाते। Whole news cycle was revolving around the topic. Main headline read, "किसानों कि लाखों की फसल का हुआ नुकसान, कोन जिम्मेदार?" On same front page there was report covering soaring export of fruits and vegetables. Sanket flipped, city page, photos of deserted vegetable vendors, flipped, flipped, editorial page, one opinion was titled, "छद्धम विग्यान की ओड़ में र्घम पर वार", other one went like, "क्या अब सरकार खान पान से जुडे विधे‌यक वापस लेगी?" then one where a political analyst was speculating impact of this on upcoming general election, one dietitian had written on how a diet devoid of fruits and vegetables is not wholesome and will lead to deficiencies. Sanket flipped again, sports page, an interview on sportsperson diet, flipped, flipped, full page add, अमूल घी, गाजर का हलवा, Ugh, his stomach growled, संकेत अपने से बोला, "साला क्या चुतियाप है", wrapped up the paper, took his bag, paid for tea and dragged himself towards Mandi.

Sanket's mother had seen a very distorted version of one such video on one of her spiritual channel followed by a lengthy remark by the भागवद कथावाचक. It was so repulsive, next thing, all stray cows in neighbor were having a gala evening snack. एक बार संकेत को थोडा श्ंशय हुआ, गाय तो vegeterian होती है ना? Family shifted to whole grain diet since then, it was brutal, दाल, दलिया, खिचड़ी, रवा, oats, milk, curd.

Mandi was close to sanket's house, it was retail distribution center for whole district. From early hours farmers would bring their fresh produce, loaded in lorries, they would be auctioned and taken away to middlemen retailers or other sellers. It is always buzzing in morning, trucks, autos, pickups, bullock cards, two wheelers, everyone, crawled through crowded, blocked lanes. Today, as sanket entered Mandi, it was very still, there were some suppliers, fully loaded, but enthusiastic buyers were missing, cows, who otherwise were strictly kept out of whole premise were strolling through them freely, munching on fresh produce and people didn't bother. He made his way to area were small make shift shops are located for direct small time buyers like him. Few shops were open and even fewer customers were there, there was group of army men, who would get their in bulk ration of vegetables from here, some Nuns from local missionary school and few others like him. He walked through the narrow lanes between the shops and stopped at one where vegetables looked all ripe and dried up, बदरंग, सूखी और पकी हुई। He felt few vegetables and they were on the verge of getting bad. He moved on to next one. This one had huge pile of fresh(ताजी़), thin(पतली), dark red(लाल चट) गाजर, carrot. He looked at seller भाई who said, 5 रुपय किलो, 5 Rs KG, ओह…ohh, इत्ता स्सता, that cheap, he wondered, he got excited and hunched to take a closer look. They were really ताज़ी, कडक, seller भाई chimed in, "एकदम ताजी़ है, और अंगुर जेसी मीठी", Its fresh, and as sweet as a grape. Sanket looked up, gave a reluctant nod and snapped small peace from tail of a गाजर, carrot. He took it close to his mouth, to taste it, felt a bit repulsive, वो video उसके सर में वापस चला, video replayed in his head, hesitated for a while, seller भाई gave him encouraging smile and said, यार, हिचको मत, एक हफ्ते पेहले, लोग भर भर ले जाते थे, ये गाजर नहीं बदली, वही है। Don't hesitate, just a week before, it would sell like hot cake… Sanket took a bite, he heard his teeth bite into it, ohhh, it was nice, juicy, sweet, fresh, he closed his eyes, continued to munch on it and sighed. He opened his eyes, and with a very wide smile on his face, said to seller भाई, 5 किलो, 5 Kg.

I personally have been influenced by Black mirror episodes and I think the story has some roots in that experience. Also came across this relevant podcast, Smarty Plants on Radio Lab yesterday,

  • Sanket character comes across too much "knowing" how and what works.
  • Coming home moment for sanket when he bites gajar is not strong.
  • Too much explanation of "invention"
  • What trash I have shared :-/ <2018-02-15 Thu 09:47>
  • Sagar ji, [Correctly Identified] Story, "black mirror type" <2018-02-15 Thu 12:46>
  • Do you really need a brain to sense the world around you? To remember? Or even learn?
  • Punch: "bhai, gajar story is nice bhai"
  • Krunal bhaiya: Mast hai.. end ekdam gajab..:) Short film ke liye perfect script hai..!
  • Ringo, :) as sweet as a grape! (if you planning to publish somewhere.. let me do some proof-reading.. :P)
  • Sagar bhai, this narration clearly shows how technology manipulates peoples behavior. I liked this sentence " ये गाजर नहीं बदली, वही है।"..!!! <2018-02-16 Fri 23:40>