Sunday, July 29, 2012
He doesn't do penance high in the frozen landscape of the Himalayas nor does he wear scant clothing and live the life of an ascetic. He is not the cool guru (Kul Guru) of the Pandavas and Kauravas who shaped their destiny nor does he bear the stigma of unfairness to Karna and Eklavya. On the contrary he has a degree in aviation engineering from a renowned Indian technical university and weighs a little over 80 kilos and uses his i phone only to call his mom (for those of you people who are clueless- ‘i ‘ is mother in Marathi). He was in the team who developed the first predator drones. Although his real name is Sid Acharya, his colleagues call him Drone Acharya.
Some say he was part of the brain drain from India but he insists that he came to the US for making his country proud and as a natural byproduct of that noble work, earn in dollars and buy real estate in rupees back home. Moreover he valued his individual freedom and this was a land that guaranteed it. When he was headhunted, he was told that the flying machines they were building were for the sole purpose of unmanned reconnaissance. He gladly took the offer believing that his work is going to prevent wars. Later as the war on terror expanded, he got the orders to see the possibility of attaching some kind of payload for targets. By that time he was already famous as Drone Acharya among his colleagues and he took as a matter of respect to look into such possibility. When the initial trials were successful, his friends in Pentagon and White house appreciated him for the work he had done to save countless American lives. The drones were killing terrorists without having to risk the lives of fellow Americans in combat.
Later when the new President assumed office, the number of missions per year also increased. Some douche bag journalist published a report of civilian casualties in drone attacks. Droneacharya was concerned but his mentors quickly provided an antidote for this sudden rise in conscience. It was a word called collateral. It was a beautiful word that had the ability to absolve anyone of anything. Those civilians-men, women, children were collateral for the war on terror. Droneacharya and his team had no personal animosity with them and slowly the drones would be upgraded for precise attacks. These dead civilians provided vital test data that would help in precisioning of this weapon system. Sometimes he thought he owed a lot to these dead people. They died an unsuspecting and impersonal death. One moment you are doing your daily chore, the next moment you are struck by a missile without any warning. All because your next door neighbor had featured up in somebody's most wanted list. It was like the wrath of the biblical God striking the immoral in Sodom and Gomorrah. Sometimes he would get nightmarish dreams. He would see dead people-their limbs splattered and blood spewing out of their exit wounds. Probably this was because of too much CNN. He would then turn online to Facebook for seeking a way out of this melancholy. Once he went to a nearby Dunkin Donuts and met his old friend Ankur. He discussed about his condition and his desire to move to some other project or go back to India to his family and start some new business there. Next day when he reached office he was surprised to see a bottle of champagne and a letter from the director of his department stating that he was a valuable resource and that they cared about him. They would also increase his paycheck.
He was moved by this warm gesture and had already started feeding numbers to the currency converter software to measure his increase in wealth. However something felt amiss. This expediency of his department in understanding his expectations was unnerving. It took him few hours of grueling interdepartmental phone calls and accessing some restricted documents to unearth the information that drones were now also being used for doing civilian surveillance for homeland security. This was a being beta tested by another unit of his department. He went to the nearby window and looked up at the sky, as if he can see one flying by.