Iâ€™m not crazy, you know, even if theyâ€™ve sent me to you for an assessment! My husband wants me committed to a Rest-and-Reprogramming facility â€œfor self-protectionâ€. For his own protection, Jai meansâ€¦
The consequences of marrying a much younger man crystallised with my daughterâ€™s arrival; Jai didnâ€™t want to be a grown-up, let alone a father.
Asian cultural conventions still favour women marrying â€˜matureâ€™ men. But Iâ€™d realized men never grow up anyway, so their age at marriage is irrelevant. I chose Jai because Iâ€™d made more money from my robotics patents than Iâ€™d ever spend, and I yearned for a family, for motherhood. Was that so strange?
My male range-mates were all married. Most had multi-stage families by then â€“ their wives continuously getting younger, until some had daughters the same age as their latest marital trophy.
Little was said beyond the inevitable eye-rolling that accompanied the â€œmen will be boysâ€-type comments. Yet Jai was considered my aberrant consolation prize, the rich female singletonâ€™s â€˜joy-boyâ€™. Dowry violence and female foeticide are fragments of past shame, but some attitudes linger on.
Once I held Maya, I didnâ€™t care. Iâ€™d used frozen eggs, but carried her internally instead of seeding a bio-capsule for â€˜risk-free reproductionâ€™. Why do it, if you feel nothing?
My problem was I felt too much. Maya was premature, and after surreptitious advice that the colostrum would help, I went ahead. But when I continued breast-feeding, Jai claimed I was reverting to a primitive state.
My marriage flushed itself quietly but relentlessly down the toilet, Jai complaining of spousal neglect. Thatâ€™s what do-bots were for, he argued, to free humans from menialÂ work. Yet I actually found childcare enjoyableâ€¦
As for the role of do-bots, is there anything humans have left to do, or need each other for, any more? Artificial Intelligents undertake every conceivable task. Even the sex industryâ€™s pathetic creation, the inflatable rubber woman, was re-launched as a humanoid robot â€“ designed for a more â€˜authentic-seemingâ€™ experience. Who needs a real woman to fake an orgasm for you, when you can have one of the S-XÂ series (appearance modelled to your specifications) to do the very same thing? Its plastithene â€œfleshâ€ simulates intimate contact, GlobeNet wits labelling it the â€˜S-X4U seriesâ€™.
So I knew what was coming when Jai brought his sex-bot home, ostensibly to help me with childcare.He called her â€˜Pammieâ€™, modelled on some ancient TV show about lifeguards.
Pammie handled Maya well enough; she was programmed with over a trillion stories, songs and games for a childâ€™s entertainment. And she handled Jai even better!
All of which served to emphasise my redundancy. Especially after I made Jai co-chip-holder to my assets in a serious moment of oversight failure. Perhaps motherhood had done something strange to my mind, after all.
Nevertheless, Iâ€™m not insane. Or suffering neo-natal depression because of the â€œbackwardâ€ birthing system I chose. The vertical learning curve aside, Iâ€™d never been happier than I was experiencing the sudden raptures and hormonal firestorms of new motherhood.
Unlike Jai. So he decided to get rid of me. We all know no-one comes out of those reprogramming facilities intact.
Sadly, technological progress notwithstanding, human cupidity remains constant. And Meditechs arenâ€™t immune to â€˜persuasionâ€™ either; not on the scale of my patent income. Now theyâ€™re expecting you to provide a laser-scan of my supposedly addled brain thatâ€™ll send me straight to where theyâ€™ve decided I belong.
Anyway, I know youâ€™re not really listening, but youâ€™re my last hope. After all, if an Alphatek-series machine canâ€™t be objective when itâ€™s doing a scan, who can?
Farah Ghuznaviâ€™s short fiction features in the anthologies “Woman’s Work: Short Stories” (USA), “The Rainbow Feast” (Singapore), “Journeys” (UK), “Curbside Splendor” 1 and 2 (USA), â€œWhat the Ink?â€ and “From the Delta” (Bangladesh), and one of her stories was first runner-up in the Oxford University short story competition held during the Gender Equality Festival 2010. Farah is a columnist for The Star Magazine, the largest-circulation English language publication in Bangladesh. She has most recently edited and contributed to the anthology â€œLifelinesâ€ â€“ a collection of new writing from Bangladesh â€“ for the Indian publisher Zubaan Books.Â