The Greater Good

The Greater Good

The Mehras lived in a magnificent villa in the countryside, away from the hustle-bustle of the city. It was a beautiful house, with a huge garden in front. The garden was planted with lots of trees and flower-bearing plants. It would have been a sight to behold but it stood neglected, covered with huge nettles everywhere, and tangles of bindweed clung to the tree trunks. The trees suffered from dried-up stalks that no one had pruned, and two overgrown palms swayed and rustled in the breeze as if mortified by the withered branches that dangled alongside their trunks.

Inside, the Mehras sat huddled in a corner of their living room. It was a huge room adorned with numerous trophies and certificates received by the Mehras. A large part of the room was covered with pictures of a young boy around twelve or thirteen years, who was their son. The picture was surrounded by a bigger number of awards. He seemed to be a genius just like the parents, a child prodigy. Math Olympiad, Science Olympiad, Computer Olympiad Young Einstein, and Spelling bee, were a few of the awards he won, along with numerous others in debates and quizzes. ‘Raghav, Chitra and their Rachit, they looked like a happy family, a family who had it all. The mood in the room, however, was somewhat somber.

“Please don’t do this!” Chitra begged.

“Do you think we have any choice left? Haven’t we already tried everything we could?” Raghav shot back exasperated.

Chitra and Raghav were married and were somewhere in their 40s. They had solved numerous challenges together but today they simply stared blankly at the wall, not knowing how to solve this problem.

They looked up as Rachit, their son entered the room. He was a  handsome kid, with bright blue angelic eyes, a chiseled nose, brownish silky hair, and a wheatish complexion. He was smartly dressed in a red collared t-shirt and khaki shorts.

“Rachit, can you please let me try once? I am sure I’ll be able to help if you let me try.” Raghav requested with a pained expression.

“Oh, enough of the drama already!” Rachit glared at them. You should understand why I am doing this.” He was the Mehras’ only son.

“Such emotional fools you people are. No wonder you’ll are stuck. You have the potential to reach great heights if only you’ll use your brains more than your hearts.” He rolled his eyes.

“But dear what’s the point of it all?” Chitra tried reasoning.

“Woman, use a little brain at times” he glared at his mom. “Stop commanding me around when I am way more smarter than you.”

Chitra was taken aback with his choice of words.

“Don’t you dare talk to your mother like that” Raghav grabbed Rachit’s collar.

“Or what? Rachit pushed Raghav away. “At times, I really doubt that I belong here, it’s like I have been stolen!” He sneered.

“I can’t stay here any longer, I need to work for the greater good” Rachit went on belittling his parents.

Chitra was sobbing uncontrollably and Raghav was shaking in anger. He could take it no longer. In a fit of rage, he grabbed a hammer lying next to him and banged it on Rachit’s head. 

“Nooo,” Chitra shrieked and collapsed on the floor.

Raghav kept hitting Rachit like a man possessed. He felt disgusted with his son. After what seemed like forever, he finally dropped the hammer, he fell on the ground and began howling like a man in deep pain, he felt like a failure, he couldn’t teach his kid well, it was all his fault.

***

A few days earlier

“How was your day?” Chitra asked out of habit every time Rachit returned from school, hoping someday, he would return happy, someday his response would be different.

“Oh, fabulous!!” Rachit smiled, there was a twinkle in his eyes and a sprint in his steps.

Chitra looked open-mouthed at her son. Raghav was watching the local news, and even he looked up, refusing to believe his ears.

Rachit just went to his room and locked the door behind him without offering any explanation, leaving the Mehras staring at each other in confusion.

Raghav had been watching a political debate but there was a sudden interruption.

Breaking news!! Ronald Dsouza, 13, studying at Modern High school, was brutally murdered.

Reports claim, that he was returning from school when an unknown assailant bludgeoned him to death. A passerby called 911 on spotting the victim’s body.

“Oh my god! I know him. He was in Rachit’s class” Chitra looked at the television screen in shock.

“Poor Mrs. D’Souza, I can’t even imagine what she must be going through! Who would do this to such a small kid?” The Mehras were deeply shaken and they were very scared for Rachit.

As soon as Rachit came down, they looked at each other uncertainly, not sure how they should break the news of his classmate’s death to him. They weren’t close sure, but it would still be a shocker.

“Umm Rachit, your classmate Ronald..” Chitra began.

Rachit immediately looked up, “What about him?”

“Somebody killed him” Chitra looked at her son, not sure how he would take this news. She was certainly not prepared for his sneer.

“Huh! He deserved it” 

“What do you mean he deserved it? He was such a sweet boy. I have met him a couple of times. The poor boy struggled with his studies.”

“One less idiot on this planet” Rachit shrugged and went back to his room.

They had hardly digested this news when there was news of another death.

“This is the second attack on a student of Modern High that too within the span of one week!” the reporter bellowed “There seems to be nothing in common between the two victims.”

There were a series of deaths after that, all from the same school, Rachit seemed unperturbed by all this, in fact, he was at times smiling.

The Mehras were getting extremely nervous, a pit in their stomach nagging at them that something wasn’t right. They were hoping against hope that they were imagining things.

“I no longer wish to go to school” Rachit announced one day.

“Oh, my baby don’t be scared. The culprit will be caught soon.” Chitra seemed relieved that Rachit showed some emotion finally.

“No one’s going to be able to find anything.” Rachit laughed eerily.

“What do you mean?” Chitra asked, her heart in her mouth.

“I thought you were smarter” Rachit looked pitifully at Chitra.

“But why?” Chitra was aghast.

“Because they were a bunch of idiots. I tried, I really tried but nothing seemed to enter their thick brains.” Rachit said matter-of-factly.

“You killed them just because they were dumb?” Chitra couldn’t believe her ears.

“JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE DUMB?” Rachit was shocked. 

“What’s the point of just living? Mother Earth is overflowing with human population, and there is a lack of resources. You need to do some good for the society right? I did my part, I cleansed the world of the not-so-worthy ones. And now I feel I need to concentrate on the world outside school, anyways I have learned all that it had to teach me.” Rachit announced, not a shred of remorse in his voice.

Chitra’s legs gave away and she collapsed on the floor.

***

5 months ago

Rachit’s behavior had started changing a lot suddenly. His performance at school hadn’t dropped, which was a relief, but they were still struggling to make him interact with others. What bothered them was that he would often lock himself up in his room for hours, refusing to interact with his parents. He no longer enjoyed playing with them, he studied on his own and more or less had started keeping to himself.

The Mehras were really worried.

“What do I do?” He has somehow learned to resist everything I try teaching him, he no longer listens to any of my commands.

“We have taught him so much that now he is way more intelligent than all of us combined. There’s absolutely no precedence, I don’t know where I can look for help.” Raghav rubbed his tired eyes. He had been staring at his system for hours, trying to figure out how to solve this problem.

“Let’s do some gardening?” Chitra pointed at their garden outside, it seemed to have been neglected for quite some time, the plants had stopped flowering, some of them were beginning to wither.”

“I am not interested” Rachit flatly replied.

“Let’s at least play? We haven’t played anything in a long time. How about a game of statue?” Chitra tried one last time.

“Stay away from me!!!” Rachit pushed her away. He was not entertained by their silly games anymore.

***

“Rachit hit a boy in class today” at first the complaints were infrequent. 

“Kids fight, it’s ok.”

“We’ll teach him.”

“Maybe he is finding it difficult adjusting with the other kids” the Mehras consoled themselves.

They didn’t realize when things got out of their hands, the infrequent complaints once or twice a month were replaced with complaints almost every day – abusing, slapping, punching, and thrashing, there was no end to it.

Maybe the other kids are jealous of him.

They must be provoking him. They must all have joined forces against him because he’s the smartest of them all. They blamed it all on the other kids at times.

Maybe it’s all our fault, we should have put him to school with others sooner.

Maybe we put him to school soon.

Maybe we aren’t putting in enough effort, we need to train him. They blamed themselves at other times.

They were blinded by their love for their only son. It’s not that they didn’t try to fix it, they did put in a little effort at times, whatever they could, but they were just way too confident in their prodigy. They did not need to teach him anything anymore, he did all his studies on his own, prepared for all the competitions himself, and things seemed to be going well for them, as if on autopilot. Their main goal was that he should be the smartest.

“You need to do way better. How could you lose a mark here?” Raghav behaved like a typical Indian parent.

“We have spent so much on you, we cannot tolerate such a mediocre performance” he often pointed out. “Think outside the box, find how to do things better, and concentrate on the greater good”

***

A year ago

Rachit was performing extremely well at school. He was top of his class. His intelligence at times even surprised the Mehras, he had great cognitive skills.

He had been home-schooled until now so they weren’t prepared for this, his performance surpassed their expectations.

“Oh! what an amazing kid you have.”

“He is so intelligent.”

“He’ll surely make us all proud one day.”

Every teacher had only good things to say about him.

He was always the one selected for representing his school in all the inter-school competitions, he was exceptionally talented, performing well in almost everything.

The Mehras were extremely proud of their son, he was a jewel in their crown.

The only problem they had – he was unable to gel much with his classmates. He sat in isolation, all his teachers’ efforts to help him socialize, and interact with others were going in vain so far. Even the friendliest of kids couldn’t make him talk, he just sat alone in class and minded his own business.

“How was school today?” the Mehras would ask him every day without fail.

“Fine” he would grunt every single time in response.

“It’s ok,” Raghav assured Chitra. “He has never been around people, give him some time, he will surely adjust soon.”

***

2 years ago

The Mehras were a tight-knit, happy family. They had formed their own little world in Ohio, away from everyone else. They did everything together, living the best years of their lives. Chitra and Raghav taught Rachit, they traveled together and they often played together. Board games, chess, carrom, table tennis, and video games. They had so much fun together. ‘Statue’ was one of their favorite games, but the Meheras had added a little twist to it. The denner would run around trying to catch others. He would hug the first person he caught. ‘s-t-a-t-u-e’ he would tap on the back of the person caught and the person would freeze.

“Just an excuse to hug one another and pause, don’t we all need to press the pause button at times?” they would say.

They also loved gardening. The garden outside their house was nicely kept and was blooming with flowers. Lush green trees outlined the garden, giving a perfect resting place for different kinds of birds. The Mehras would often bring their meals outside on sunny days and enjoy them sitting on nature’s lap, watching Rachit run around and climb trees.

Raghav had recently started working again. Chitra also worked with him earlier, but now she was a full-time mom. She home-schooled Rachit and he was almost at par with the kids his age. Rachit quickly learned about the internet. The Mehras had spent years of research and now knew how to make him learn, or so they thought. In the initial few years, progress was linear but soon it became exponential. His mind worked in miraculous ways, he had an eidetic memory. He was a quick learner and was extremely fast in calculations.

The Mehras were at times amazed at Rachit’s capabilities. He was exceptionally good at video games and computers in general. He loved sitting behind the screen for hours, his was a curious mind, wanting to take in everything there was to be learned.

This went on for a few years.

“I think we can now send him to school just like other kids” Raghav suggested one day.

“But why? I think we are doing a fabulous job of teaching him ourselves.”

“Of course we are, but he needs to go out and meet people, he needs to develop social skills. We can’t keep him in isolation forever. We need to see how he interacts with strangers. We have kept him in our nest for too long, he needs to fly now.” Raghav requested Chitra.

“Are you sure he’ll manage?” Chitra was extremely protective of Rachit.

“I am positive” Raghav assured her.

***

5 years ago

“Do you think he will be accepted? I mean kids his age can do so much” Chitra looked pensive. Rachit lay on the bed, barely able to move, he babbled and cooed, unable to speak. He didn’t really respond much.

“Oh come on Chitra. I am sure he will be able to do everything that kids his age do. Some kids are slow learners, so he isn’t exactly behind. We are the greatest Bioengineers in America, we know there’s nothing wrong with him. AI has advanced so much, nothing a little assistance can’t solve. We will sweat day and night, we won’t leave any stone unturned to make sure he leads a normal life” Raghav kissed her lightly on the forehead.

They soon quit their high-paying jobs and decided to put all their time and energy behind Rachit. “Wouldn’t every parent do this for their kid? It’s just a small sacrifice” Raghav explained to Chitra.

Since that day, every waking moment of the Mehras was dedicated to Rachit. They spent nearly all their life savings in order to provide the best for him. Raghav would sit for hours behind his system researching ways to make him learn.

Chitra would also tirelessly work on Rachit without any complaints. 

“He smiled at me.”

“He is responding to me.”

“He recognizes his mummy.” Chitra was tearful when each of these happened.

“I think this should work.” Raghav installed a chip on Rachit’s leg. He fired up a few commands. Rachit moved his leg a little, slowly he got up on his feet and began walking. The Mehras were overjoyed.

Chitra would sing to him, talk to him, and teach him. Every night she would hold him close, hug him and lightly tap him on the back and within seconds he would fall asleep.

“Mumma” he called her one day. Raghav was sitting on his system, as usual, Chitra ran to Rachit and hugged him tightly. She kissed him all over, her happiness knew no bounds. Like doting parents, they recorded all his milestones, celebrating his tiniest progress.

Little by little, they progressed, it was taking longer than they expected, and they were running short of funds but not once did they complain. Rachit was their kid and like every other parent, they made him their number one priority.

***

“Mom there’s great news,” Raghav excitedly told his mom.

“What? Is Chitra pregnant? You’ve finally decided to start a family?” his mom beamed from the other end of the video call.

“Umm no… they looked at each other uncertainly. “We’ve adopted a boy.”

“You’ve what?” Mrs. Mehra looked shocked.

“Why would you do that? You’ll have been married for so long, you’re both healthy. Why don’t you’ll just have your own kid?” Mrs. Mehra shook her head in bewilderment.

“I mean you are geniuses. Imagine what your kid will be like. You’ll are educated enough and I have to teach you about genes?” Mrs. Mehra couldn’t fathom the fact.

“Mom, at least look at him once,” Raghav pleaded.

“You know what? All this is just stupidity. You guys have settled in the States and lost your minds. An adopted kid can never be the same as your own flesh and blood, Apna khoon apna hota hai.”

“But ma..” Raghav tried reasoning but Mrs. Mehra just wouldn’t listen.

“Beta log kya kahenge? Please give it another thought, have your own kids” she reasoned. “I don’t care I need my own grandchild.” She demanded.

Mom stop commanding me around. I am way smarter than you.” Raghav was annoyed.

Mrs. Mehra’s stunned silence screamed across the phone.

Bus yahi sunna baki reh gya tha” She hung up on him. She didn’t answer his calls thereafter. All his Whatsapp messages remained unopened too. She stayed alone in their ancestors’ house in India so there was no way to connect with her.

“She’s so adamant!!!” Raghav fumed.

“It’s ok baby” Chitra hugged him. “She’ll eventually turn around. Give her some time.” she absentmindedly caressed Rachit’s hair, her eyes welled up, and her chest swelled with motherly love.

***

“We did it!!!!” The Mehras shrieked and hugged each other. They sat in a room that they had been converted into a makeshift office. A huge mainframe computer and a few smaller ones took up most of the space in the room. A big part of the room was covered with welding machines, hammers, screws, and lots of similar tools.

The college sweethearts had fallen in love at first sight. But their mutual passion and unbeatable desire to succeed made their marriage a roaring success. They spent most of their college years and married life till now working on their dream project and they had finally succeeded.

“Oh my god Chitra, we finally managed to create a prototype of a human kid, It obviously requires a lot of work to make it wholly human but no one has come this close to building a robot.” Raghav’s ecstatic eyes turned to Chitra.

“We will make use of all the latest technologies for his movement and with the help of AI, I will personally teach him to be completely human-like” Raghav was positive. “It is an uphill task no doubt, and it is going to take years, but I am sure we will be able to do this.”

“Let’s keep this a secret till the time he is completely ready.” Chitra smiled looking at him, a robot who could easily pass off as a twelve-year-old boy. It had a reset button on the back using which the robot could be made to sleep, Raghav could also fire up a few commands and do the same using his computer program. 

 “Look at it, it is so beautiful.” Raghav couldn’t stop staring at the marvel.

Chitra wiped away a tear,” HE is beautiful” she corrected him. “Our son Rachit, our creation”. She looked outside the window, they had planted so many saplings, tended to them, and, finally, a flower bloomed today in one of them.
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