An essay by Doctor Riya Khan, as provided by Farah Ghuznavi
Art by Justine McGreevy
I’m not crazy, you know, even if they’ve sent me to you for an assessment! That’s the first step they take with any behavior considered deviant. But the real reason is that my husband wants me committed to a Rest-and-Reprogramming facility. It’s for “self-protection,” he’s told the Meditechs. For his own protection is what Jai actually means.
The consequences of marrying a much younger man crystallised with my daughter’s arrival. Jai didn’t want to be a grown-up, let alone a father. Asian cultural conventions still favour women marrying “mature” men. But I had realised that men never grow up anyway. So their age at marriage is irrelevant.
Yet despite my passion for working with Artificial Intelligents (or AIs, as the robots I had spent my professional life crafting were more commonly known), I found myself missing human companionship. I chose Jai because I’d spent too many years soaring in that lonely space above what they once called the glass ceiling. I’d made more money from my robotics patents than I could ever spend, even in our enhanced lifetimes. 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. Their wives just kept 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 “men will be boys”-type comments. Yet Jai was considered my aberrant consolation prize, the rich female singleton’s “joy-boy.” Dowry violence and female feticide have been relegated to fragments of past shame in the New Subcontinent, but some visceral attitudes linger insistently on, ignoring the fact that the welcome mat wore out long ago.
Once I held Maya in my craving arms, I didn’t care what anyone thought. I used eggs that I had frozen nearly two decades ago, but carried her internally instead of seeding her in one of those ubiquitous bio-capsules that litter the maternity units these days. “Risk-free reproduction,” they call it. Pain-free as well, of course. But then, why do it, if you feel nothing?
My problem was that I felt too much. Maya was premature, tiny and vulnerable. So after surreptitious advice from an older Helptech that the colostrum would make her stronger, I set aside my inhibitions and went ahead.
But when I continued breast-feeding, Jai claimed that I was reverting to a primitive state. And of course, nothing scares us more in the 25th century than the idea that we have anything in common with our backward ancestors!
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2016 collection.
Born in 2253, in the region of the New Sub-continent once known as Bangladesh, Doctor Riya Khan is one of the greatest scientific minds of our times. Renowned for her work as a roboticist, Khan has pioneered multiple breakthroughs in her area of specialization, including the development of adaptive Artificial Intelligence. Author of several works considered standard texts for robotic students, Khan wrote the New American Times bestseller Adventures in Robo-Psychology, based on her experiences as troubleshooter for I-Corp, the largest global producer of Artificial Intelligenta. Currently on a leave of absence for personal reasons, Khan lives with her husband Jai, and baby daughter Maya, in Upper Bengal-Uru.
Farah Ghuznavi is a writer, newspaper columnist, and development worker, whose writing has been widely anthologized in the UK, US, France, Canada, Germany, Singapore, India, Nepal, and her native Bangladesh. Her story “Judgement Day” was awarded in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2010, and “Getting There” placed second in the Oxford University GEF Competition. Farah was Writer in Residence with Commonwealth Writers in 2013. She edited the Lifelines anthology (Zubaan Books, 2012), and subsequently published her first short story collection Fragments of Riversong (Daily Star Books, 2013). Her Facebook author page is at: https://www.facebook.com/FarahGhuznavi
Justine McGreevy is a slowly recovering perfectionist, writer, and artist. She creates realities to make our own seem slightly less terrifying. Her work can be viewed at http://www.behance.net/Fickle_Muse and you can follow her on Twitter @Fickle_Muse.
This story originally appeared in Fragments of Riversong.
The Assessment is © 2013 Farah Ghuznavi
Art accompanying story is © 2015 Justine McGreevy