somewhere in the second decade of 21st century:

Once again they were together. Two of the youngest, and arguably the stupidest employees of kskt. Youngest, because they had been hanging out with overly mature ones way too much and way too early. Stupidity as always is, is subjective.

To have an actual piece of news, you have to go to someplace from where everyone is trying to get away from. Now, this was seen as a large chunk of stupidity by their loved-ones, and a deeply unsettling courageousness by their paid-ones. But for them, each and everything at its very core was always just a mini project – a small adventure, something to successfully get away from the awareness of the wierdness of the earth.

This adventure started when they received a WhatsApp call from one of their viewers, on the number they display for first and new news-drop-ins. This was the first of many similar calls to inform that a number of rallies have been organized; blocking all four highways of the golden quadrilateral at multiple points. After the organization’s motive of getting the first tip was done, as well as the first tip, got the advertised online-shopping coupon, still those calls kept pouring in. The number grew from tens to hundreds within an hour. This time, kskt couldn’t just send a van in the fire-zone. Everyone in the organization had to leave their desks and get to work.

2 hours before the ban:
“As you can see behind my back…” Singh moved the camera, resting on his right shoulder, so as to capture in the direction KK was pointing at; then signaled him, that he was out of the frame. KK was frustrated every time Singh did this. Singh knew this, and KK knew this. So, KK continued professionally, “…a number of drivers have come together, and they are wearing some kind of mask shaped like a steering wheel. A number of protesters have cleared this, a number of times, the only reason for the superficiality of these masks is just to protect their identities. When all of this is over, they don’t want to go to jail for something useless. They are here just to show their support, for the Law on the ban of self-driving vehicles in India. From what I can tell, everyone here seems pretty sure the decision will be on their side.”

Singh yelled ‘pause’, and they both moved to a new location.

KK picked up right where he had left, “If you’re tuning in just now, let me quickly fill you in with everything: Earlier today, around a thousand vehicles came out of nowhere and blocked NH-11, near a small village of Phalodi in Rajasthan. Through this Thar horizon, just as Sun rose up, also came a group of ran-out-of-options drivers. Down this road, for at least 1500 meters is just a streak of vehicles standing uselessly; and its length is growing every minute as we speak. This protest is in support of all the drivers, who are taking their vehicles to one of the Golden quadrilateral and leaving them there. As you can see it’s almost 3:30, and everyone is just waiting to hear what the government decides. Everything is peaceful all around here, and there’s nothing much that we can really call any real news. So, with Cameraman Shatranjh Singh, this is Kiku Sharda, reporting for kal se kal tak.”

Singh turned the camera towards him, and began mimicking KK, “And logically I’m supposed to retake this shot because it was ruined by this dickhole. So, if you are someone from human resources department of kskt, I’m soooo….sorry….and cut! You can stop bull-shiting any time you like now. Seriously! Hit the pause guys. Shut it down, before I fuckin’ start cursing…beeeeeeeep…”

KK after seeing his work not taken seriously went on with his typical passive-aggressive bullshit which Singh deflected by his even more stereotypical answer, “Don’t worry. No one’s gonna watch this. What’s next?”

Singh zoomed into KK’s wrist watch, just as Kiku forwarded it 105 minutes, and restarted his monologue, “As you can see it’s been 15 minutes since the meeting has ended. Our Union Transport Minister will address a press briefing anytime now, to inform every one of the final decision. But, you’re hearing it from us, before anyone else, that India won’t allow any self-driving vehicles in the country. Earlier it was speculated that the ban if imposed would only be on heavy-duty vehicles. But no, even all the cars and SUVs have been banned too. But, the big question now is, ‘what are they going to do about the people, who have already bought these cars, which are already equipped with some basic self-driving features?’ Because let me remind you, something like this happened in the early 2000s in the US when the first electric vehicle EV-1 came into the market. After giving the excuse of “safety issues”, General Motors ordered a recall of all the already sold EV-1 units. All the coal and petroleum-based jobs would have been affected at that time, by it. Now, are we once again heading towards a parody of what ‘they’ did earlier? They wasted more than 15 years to correct that mistake. Are we going to learn from their mistake, or are we also going to even start copying their mistakes? Keeping all that in mind, let’s talk to one of the Drivers from rally about how they feel about this decision?”

Singh widened the frame to take the driver into it and acknowledged KK. After a bit of hesitation, driver removed his mask and responded, “I think the government has taken the right decision. Western culture has been ruining ours, since British Empire. This has to stop right now. And we are very…very glad about the decision our government has taken.”

What started with just a two frame shot, had been rushed by more than 15 faces. Of all the deadly sins, Singh hated this one the most: never-ending hunger of attention, inside most of the people.

He zoomed out and signaled KK about it. Kiku in his own rhythm, laid out his boiler-plate question, “Why do you think it is bad?”

By this time, everyone in the frame had removed their masks. One of the wannabe leaders stepped in, filling the empty opportunity, “You see, there is at least one person in most of the families, who drives some kind of vehicle. All of them will be out of a job. But, let’s leave the money thing out for a moment, my question to you is, ‘How can you trust a truck to drive itself?’ If something like that had happened, I’d have locked myself; and all of my kids, and my grandkids; and never left home, ever. And what I can’t understand is, who is going to benefit from all of this? Millions of people are going to lose their jobs, and for what? I just don’t see any good coming out of it.”

Kiku’s worst nightmare was this: when everything went off their plan because the person standing in front of him was prepared even more than them, in that other plan. He either had to improvise everything or say, “Thank you so much for sharing your views with us. So, with Cameraman Shatranjh Singh, this is Kiku Sharda, reporting for kal se kal tak.”

“When will this come on TV sir?”, asked one of the photo-bombers.

Singh continued packing his individual pieces of equipment. It was KK’s turn to handle this. After another similar inquiry and an intense eye-contact with Singh; Kiku took the bait and answered, “It’ll not be on the TV. Go to Youtube tomorrow and search ‘Imaginary Journalism'”

“Which channel are you from?”, enquired another curious mind.

Before Kiku could answer, someone else shut him up by pointing towards the big ugly yellow font on the van saying ‘kal se kal tak’. The same someone couldn’t help himself and followed them to the van. OSCAR pushed him away with his favorite thing — barking from the window.

Singh’s relationship with OSCAR was just like a parent. The same barking which felt like laughing and talking to him also worked as child’s cry in this type of situation. Singh followed up, opened the side door, slid the mirror up, and pointed to the sticker-sign saying: “Beware of the owner. The dog is just fine”, and quickly followed all of this with a wide fake smile, and a sorry.

Taking it all in, the same someone took out a visiting card from the pocket, near his heart, of his shirt, and said, “We’re starting this new hotel, and if you are looking for a place to stay, just give me a call. I’ll come and pick you up anywhere from the village.”

Singh returned his head-salute with a similar-salute while saying, “Thanks!”

KK was already packed. Singh walked towards the front passenger seat, leaned inside the window and pointed the visiting card towards them and said “Look baby! we have acquired resources for two more roaches.”

After putting on the seat-belt, and with an I-am-ready look on his face, KK responded,”I don’t think you have sufficient “resources” to spend on two roach-projects. Get inside, first, we have to do the silly bit. Then you, and your doggy can do whatever they want.”

KK wasn’t the one to get up in the morning and do his job as the first thing. But still, he wanted to get through all of it as soon as he could. Singh’s plan mostly constituted doing just enough workable procrastination, to help KK come up with something. And both were just enough narcissistic, to believe that the other person just would not work without them. Both were also smart enough to know this. In fact, one day they discussed this for hours, and after the argument became so heated that, it had expanded to the whole bar, all interested people concluded that that was actually what made them the best team. Both of them have mutually exclusive strengths and weaknesses.

But, this is what they had tried to get away from, especially Singh – beliefs, opinions, and generalizations like that. But somehow, always found themselves in the presence of some dysfunctional family. This had something to do with another quality they both shared – pessimism, just this undefinable, even though a little, but constantly present hatred and anger towards just about everything. But if every team in the world thinks, they are the best in the world; most of them are bound to be wrong.

That night, both zoomed in on some-ongoing-fucked-up-thing in the world, and explained to each other, how they both were involved in that, and would end every such conversation with, “But, you know we wouldn’t have to care about it if we were a gay couple.”

They laughed about it more than 50 times that night, and then spent the whole night crying in each other’s arms, only to conclude in the morning; that theoretically as well as practically, they’re not gay. They immediately decided never to talk about that night, ever again; but ended up referencing it, almost every other day.

After driving for around 15 minutes, they stopped about two kilometers out of the village. Singh tightened his position, gripping the van floor as much as he could by his feet and adjusted himself-and-the-camera, getting comfortable to record from his seat.

KK stepped out.

To an outsider, it’d have looked like he was having a cigarette break. He checked out the neighborhood for any living sign of life which could interrupt what he was about to do. He walked few steps and transferred some of the heat energy from his half-burnt cigarette to a garbage pile nearby, and came running back towards the car. Singh was already ready to catch the action. KK was once again astonished by the way Singh and camera acted as a single organism. Singh signaled him a thumbs up, that he was in the frame. KK put on his seat while continuously chanting, “Oh! Fuck….Oh! Fuck.” KK started the van and rushed out of there. They would have gone around a hundred meters when KK again pressed the brakes so hard that the sudden halt was even visible from the camera screen. He got out saying, “Come on, we’ve got to get this.”

Both removed their seatbelts and came out of their respective windows. Singh positioned the camera on his ankle so that their van was in the frame, and the smoke was filling all the space between the van’s roof and sky. Singh followed KK from the driver seat to his side. KK was already on his top game, “As you can see behind my back, people have burnt down a bus. This is in response to the ban on self-driving vehicles in India. Our fellow citizens have once again resorted to violence. And, rest of the roads are mostly empty, now. And, people are requested not to leave their homes in any situation. And, all of our fellow reporters have gone too. And I think we should also get out of here. Stay tuned for further updates. With Cameraman Shatranjh Singh, this is Kiku Sharda, reporting for kal se kal tak.”

Singh switched-off the camera and signaled KK. Both immediately rushed into the van. KK drove the van in reverse as fast as he could, while Singh exchanged the positions of the camera and the fire-extinguishing cylinder. Singh was out, even before KK could pick up his foot from the brake lever. He took out out the fire within a few seconds, once again checked the surrounding, covered the land which was burning with a little sand, and then got out of there. Everything was again just as it always was.

Kiku was just getting his act together, when Singh pondered his rigorous assessment, “You’ve got to stop starting every other sentence with ‘and’. It’s annoying to listen you fumbling at the start of every sentence.”

Kiku went onto ignoring that last remark, and onto synchronizing his watch to the numbers displayed as time on his phone. But you can only illusion the other person about ignoring; the self-satisfactory monologue in your mind, keeps on repairing the damaged ego, ‘I was not born in a library, like you. It’s just English. It’s not that big of a deal. Only if I had also studied Shakespeare, like you, in my childhood, my English would also just be like thou. But, whatever. What’s even the point of all of this? Each and everything, about each and everything is totally messed up. Why should I, a single male adult worry about everything?’

1 hour before ban:
It was two minutes before exact four, which meant an hour before the actual results had to come. But in Kiku’s world, he was free for the day and that’s all he cared about. Singh was always waiting for KK to reach this state. All that he needed now, was a cup of his evening tea. So they drove around the whole village twice, before settling on a place where Singh could have his juice and Kiku his much-required tea. A big glass full of sugarcane, cheering with a third of its size of the glass of tea; that’s how the rest of the world looked at them.

Always accompanying them was also a seven-inch tv in between the front-seats, residing at the back seat, which was always playing something; if not their own channel, like some version of fire-place or f.m. radio; always filling up silences with some noise. Kiku broke the noisy silence with one of his another boilerplate question, “So, what do you really think, is going to happen about these self-driving things? I mean who his right and who is wrong in this case?”

“First tell me, what the hell are we even reporting over here? When they wanted someone for Uttrakhand floods, we were the only capable reporters for that type of situation. But now we can only handle a remote village in the middle of the desert?”

KK wasn’t expecting the response to the question with more questions. KK quoted Singh, back to him, “Second wisest man I’ve ever met, once said, ‘It’s not about the answers, It’s about the better questions’.”

But Singh wasn’t in the mood of playing any of his own useless mind-games. He had hoped that he would be answering this question inside some fully air-conditioned cabin to a hot anchor sitting across him, live at kskt.

They both independently decided to remain silent.

Singh knew this was one of the projects about which KK didn’t have the complete picture of what was going on. So, he wanted some good material for tomorrow’s reports. ‘Maybe that’s why their dual team is here, 1000 kilometers away from the capital region, where the real action is happening’, Singh didn’t put those thoughts into blaming words, even though it was clear KK’s ignorance was the reason it had cost them another great project.

KK blamed whatever he believed the guy up above, the one who takes cares of all his dead relatives. We all find someone other than ourselves to blame.

After finishing his drink, Singh cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and finally channeled all his frustration, “You wanna know what is really wrong? Because this…, this specific bullshit that is going on, is just a symptom, just like all other symptoms: corruption, and inequality, and unemployment, and war, and… all that. You’re just trying to pick only one symptom and hoping somehow it will cure the whole disease. Just look at what is happening around you, in the rest of the world. Think about all the chefs that are protesting to ban cooking robots, and mechanics protesting to ban construction-robots. Imagine if, just a drone could fly over here, and report all of this, instead of us. Then the thing that we have come to believe, after getting through years of that tedious workload, that we were put on this planet by some God, suddenly disappears. Now we have to think about another way of spending all this new-found resource of time, which suddenly is abundant and over-flowing. So, what do you think is going to happen to millions of people who are suddenly free and have nothing to do? They’re gonna bring their near-obsolete-vehicles on the roads and leave them there. These are same people who bloody well know that carts became inefficient after cars. But no, just because they don’t understand how this mysterious thing works, they are gonna call it black magic and create drama around it.”

KK again blew some wind in the fire, “You and I have sat inside and let the car drive itself. Don’t you think if we could just get them in a Tesla, and let it give a drive and…”

Singh preprocessed and interrupted KK, “I’ve driven my brother’s Tesla maybe 4-5 times, and that shit was scary each and every time. You have driven it once, that too in the US. How much do you think it changed; how much you know about self-driving cars? And you think putting an already terrified protesting truck driver in a self-driving car is a brilliant idea?”

KK wasn’t the one to abandon a healthy debate. Afterall he was a journalist, or at least that’s what he identified himself with, in most of his introductions. So, he took his question and turned it on itself, “How good is the latest model in India? Like if it’s auto-driving and I pushed you in front of it, will it detect you, and automatically stop? That might help. Right?”

This was it. Singh couldn’t take in anymore without getting personal, “You’re supposed to be reporting about how people are reacting on the banning of self-driving vehicles, and you don’t even have the slightest idea, what it is. You know what, you’re an idiot and half the people we are working for are also idiots. So, all of you should be put in a room and taught how to code and then should be left in some village to teach that same coding to farmers and drivers, and should be left to wander like that for the rest of eternity. Now pass me your glass, let me return them before one of it gets smashed on one of our heads.”

Everything, that had to happen, happened by the time Singh went out to pay the bill. A tweet from the Prime Minister was out, “Need any Al Machine? You’ll have to get a license, just like a normal automobile. But still, banned for using for any financial purposes. More details soon. #AI-Ban”

Singh heard KK yelling his pet-name, “Chess! Oh, Chess!!”

He returned as soon as he could and both went on to reading the 14-page document on instructions and restrictions on artificially intelligent machines. Singh expressed all of what he was feeling earlier with just, “This was probably the best thing they could come up, at least for India, at least for now. Why didn’t I think of that? A License? Really? Will this work though?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care. What now? hotel check-in, or an all night drive home?” KK was already working on planning the upcoming projects.

“Who the hell are you saving all this money for? Let’s stay for a day and we’ll figure something out tomorrow.”

Singh was the king of his comfort-zone.
“Yeah! sure. Why not?”
“Okay. Drive, lets go.”

Liked what you read? Check out more of their adventures in: Volume-2 (Begining of the End of the World)

We all have our addictions. Now, some addictions take fewer hours than others; while some other addictions may make way for even more addictions.

Singh and KK learned this the hard way. So, to manage the addictions that got out of hand, they found some new and less harmful addictions. At least, that’s what they have convinced themselves. What looked like an addiction to fake online gambling; slowly matured into addiction to watching useless youtube, while playing some fake online gambling; somehow then took form of ‘Imaginary Journalism.’

3 hours after the ban:
They parked their Van and started brain storming ideas for this Imaginary Journalism, that one addiction, without which other more serious addictions would start ruining their nights of sleep.

“Remember that video where a programmer got drunk and purposed to marry his Tesla 3 as soon as it arrives?”
“That one from Hyderabad?”
“Yup, with that epic Char-Minar and Moon-shot. Let’s play it with that driver we interviewed today. I’ll get today’s video, you get that one.”
“Okay, as soon as I finish this mini-Veronica-project on Instagram.”
“You know some teenagers consider chatting on Instagram, a crime?”
“And what is the source of your information, Mr. Journalist?”

go to volume 2: