Shattered remembrall

MemNet loading… [####...... 42%]

Akshata was intently staring at her phone screen. “Come on, I haven’t got all day!” she remarked impatiently. The 128 cores in her phone, whizzing at a blazing 4 GHz were sweating under MemNet’s strain.

An hour passed. MemNet’s welcome screen didn’t look particularly welcoming to Dr. Akshata. It had now been almost a year since she got the Turing award for her work in neuroinformatics and just this morning she had sniffed-in her last dose of pico-bots. She could never quite get rid of the tiny panic the pico-bots induced in her brain, but she was quick to get used to that minor inconvenience.

Start scan? [yes] [no]

MemNet was staring at her expectantly through the phone screen. “Yes”, tapped Akshata. She recalled, “’Dumb dialog boxes’, Ria always used to say”. Why everything had to remind her of Ria, Akshata wasn’t 100% sure. She looked away from the phone. Her half-finished dinner plate was lying on the table nearby. Soup-like khichadi with melting butter! It was Ria’s favorite… Back in their IISc days, she remembered, how she had started the ‘Food Protection Squad’ with Ria…

Those days!


A smile barely touched her lips and an ache so deep, a sorrow all-engulfing erupted inside her. Akshata was trembling.

Scan in progress…

Said her phone screen. Today, Akshata wouldn’t hold back. She would weep, hopefully for the last time…

The pico-bots were hard at work. Every synapse in her brain had a pico-bot stationed at it: monitoring the currents relentlessly, transmitting the information to her phone in realtime. They didn’t miss the spike in the brain activity. They faithfully recorded and relayed every impulse back to MemNet, crunching that data on her phone. Akshata’s brilliance lay in designing MemNet, a program which processed exa-scale data efficiently in realtime, applied state-of-the-art data-mining techniques, and built models which made sense of the data. Hers was the first such program that actually worked. To put it in the simplest terms, it understood human memories: the whole network of memories — MemNet.

Pattern detected!
Confidence: 99.92%
Consolidate? [yes] [no]
(estimated time: 6 hrs 23 mins)

MemNet had detected a part of Akshata’s memory-network and was asking her whether she wanted to analyze it further. Of course she did! “It’s fucking six and a half hours!” she had lost her temper. “I need the supercomputer cluster in INDRA” she decided in the moment that she’s finally going to use the cluster for her personal project. Indian Neuroscience Development and Research Agency, or, as it was called, INDRA, had been making pioneering forays in the field of neuroscience under her role as the director.

She took her car keys from the drawer. It would be a three-hour drive from her vacation home to INDRA, but she didn’t care. Her head was spinning and thoughts whirlwind. Was it the pico-bots? Was it Ria? Was it Javed? She didn’t know. It didn’t matter. She couldn’t take it anymore, and there was a way out.

It seemed ages ago to her… It was just three days ago… Ria was to make a stratosphere jump: India’s first. World’s first woman to perform this feat. In the V.I.P. cabin at Sriharikota ground station, Akshata sat, connected to Ria, up in the stratosphere.

“Ria to Ground Station: All jump preparations complete. I repeat, all jump preparations complete. Akshata, remember? Sky is the lower limit!”

“Yes Ria, Sky is the lower limit!” So many sweet memories they had together, of this little slogan of theirs! Akshata had always marveled at this uncanny resonance between Ria and her. Her friend making a stratospheric jump! She was proud like never before.

Ria jumped. History would be made.

“Ria to Ground Station: Negative on heat-shield activation. Proceeding with procedure 2B”

Akshata’s heart skipped a beat.

“Ria to Ground Station: Negative on backup shield. It’s getting hot here. Deploying emergency cooling.” she was plummeting to earth.

Akshata held her breath.

“Cooling insufficient. Parachutes jammed.”

A spark.

An ignition.

A scream over the communication channel.

People who did not know would’ve thought they just saw a shooting star. Akshata had collapsed.

Maybe there’s a vengeful God, punishing me for how vehemently I used to discuss my atheistic views with Ria. Ah, those night-long conversations when I discussed and debated The God Delusion with Ria!


It’s a full moon today. Reminds me of the time when, for the first time, I looked at the moon through a telescope… along with Ria!


Is this how George felt when he lost Fred? What would poor Merry do if Pippin went away? What if Calvin realized Hobbes was never real?

‘Ria will always be there… for me… with me’ I had thought. How presumptuous!

Faster… Akshata sped along the highway.

She would think how sad she feels, it would remind her of Ria, who, many times playing therapist, had told “Look at you! Look at yourself from a stranger’s eye. You have no right to de sad!” She would think how Ria made moments merrier and situations soothing. She had always strived to follow Ria in that respect, but now, the harder she tried, harder she failed.

Faster… Her tears glistened in the moonlight as the street-lamps whizzed by.

A connection she always thought so strong turned out to be tenuous. Whom was she to go to when she was grieving her go-to friend? So many memories: sweet, warm, loving. How did they suddenly turn into these hideous monsters? Monsters… gnawing at the very consciousness which nurtured them.

A source of immeasurable joy had turned into a powerhouse of the harshest of pains, and she couldn’t take it anymore. Fortunately for her, there was a way out.

“Director Madam? At this hour?” asked a surprised and sleep-deprived INDRA security guard when Akshata scanned her badge at his machine. “Later, Kaka!” Akshata hurried past him sparing no extra moment.

Heading for the computer-cluster control-room, Akshata shut the simulations that were running on the supercomputer. To run MemNet with her data, she needed the manual override, making it necessary for her to drive all the way to control-room. She made a mental note to make sure later that a functionality for remote-manual-override would be added.

In two minutes, the computer had analyzed the data and the pattern was ready for analysis.

sort memories
     in associatedMemories (MemNet.getPoint(“Ria”))
     by memoryStrength
stimulate memories.strongest

Akshata entered the program and MemNet started working on it. MemNet had its own almost natural sounding programming language.

Once, in a late-night philosophy-discussion…

“Akshata, sometimes I feel a bit inhibited when it comes to expressing tender emotions.”
“Why? Look at it this way: there lies a joy not just in knowing the existence of love, but in its very expression.”
“Hmm… I’ll give it a try.”
“Good girl!”
“By the way, Akshata, you know that I do care a lot about you, right?… see! I tried!”

MemNet had pinpointed the strongest memory all-right! Akshata now broke into sobs. One of the most heartwarming things had turned into the bitterest of heartbreaking things.

“NO MORE!” Akshata almost screamed. Furiously she started typing away.

$> erase (associatedMemories (MemNet.getPoint (“Ria”)))
-> are you sure? [yes] [no]

Her own failsafe measures now irritated her.

“yes, goddammit!” she confirmed.

I remember…

It has been quite some time since the day when…

“I don’t think we could be friends”, Javed had told me.
“Javed, you remember how you admired it that I go an extra mile if something really matters to me? You are special for me and our friendship precious. I can go an extra parsec to save it! I just need you to be in on this. Willing to make a little bit of effort.”
“It doesn’t work like that Akshata. I just don’t feel like! Please understand.”
“What of the letters I wrote to you which ‘made your day’s? Don’t they mean anything?”
“Sadly, at this point, frankly, they don’t. It just doesn’t feel like it!”
“But aren’t you and I supposed to look beyond ‘just doesn’t feel like’, Javed?”

A friend that’s no longer a friend hurts an order-of-magnitude more than a friend that never was. I wish Javed understood. I wish I understood him better…

I remember, for his birthday, I got one of his favorite cartoonists to draw a personalized cartoon for him. He was so happy! Jubilant! Now? Ah, it hurts! Someone relieve me of this pain!


$> erase (associatedMemories (MemNet.getPoint (“Javed”)))

Every memory of someone that makes me happy, might one day turn onto me! I can’t handle this! It is too much to take! Amma, Appa, my dear Anna — gave me a treasure-trove of memories. How am I to know it won’t turn into Pandora’s box?

What does “cherish” mean anyway? Stupid word! Stupid brain!


$> erase (associatedMemories (MemNet.allPoints (type = person)))

Dr. Akshata hesitated before pressing enter. Was she overstepping? Was she going insane? Was she already insane?

“I’ll spare nothing that could ever turn into a sad thing!”
“A brave new world!”, she pressed enter, “oh, a brave new world!”

Two hours passed. MemNet finished the job.

Akshata stared at a wall: blank wall, a blank gaze.


It took a bit of time for her to get her bearings.

Empty room. Empty mind.

Colorless drapery. Faded dreams.

Dry hum of the supercomputer. A dry mind: without love, without warmth,
… without joy!

Akshata remembered that one of the major by-products of the pico-bot manufacturing process was cyanide. Securely tucked away in the storage facility in the basement.

Determined, she walked into the elevator. “Basement” read the button she pressed.


  1. Whoa that was a mini whirlwind!! Memory always is a two-edged sword....nice story to illustrate that. makes me wanna see Eternal sunshine of a spotless mind again :)

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