Sampurna Chattarji: The Imitation Game

This machine has never felt pain.
Never slept in a too-soft bed dreaming of murders committed centuries ago, never drunk too much red wine and bared its soul to its drinking companion, talking of everything but love.

This machine has never
felt the pit of snakes in its stomach drop down past the reach of rope and basket, past the help of hands, has not known what it might be like to wake up wishing it were dead.

This machine has never worn
a too-big straw hat to keep out the sun on an October afternoon, never laughed so much its belly ached, never sat sipping tusli tea from a borrowed glass under a winter moon, listening to an old Hindi song sung by a young South Indian voice…

This machine has never wolfed down
aloo parathas, astonishing its male companions with an appetite so unfeminine, because this machine has never known what it is to be feminine, it has rarely thought about its sex, or gender, it has seldom paused to listen to the sound the trees make when its opposite approaches.

This machine has never felt
that something was missing from its life, for this machine has not known what a life is or that it has one and could, if it liked, have contemplated what it meant
to live.

This machine has not known contemplation,
just as it has not known the smell of a beloved armpit, the shape of cut fingernails, the way each room changes as you enter and leave, touching everything, pulling the books off shelves, unsettling the curios, carrying inside you a gift for speech.

This machine has never spoken
unless spoken to, never offered bad advice for free, never criticized your new boyfriend and bitched about your ex, this machine is so alone and alien, it has no sense of loss and so you hate it, as it sits and regards you, outdoing you with a cold clinical skill, never wanting to replace you, merely to be in the same room with you, its light on your face, hoping one day, after a period of deep observation and prolonged silence, to learn what it is about you it must imitate to win the game, fool the questioner in the other room into mistaking it for you, and in that moment of deception, to suffer the heartbreak that will shut all its systems down.

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