Excerpt from Trinity by the Horns: A tale of Gods & Bots
08 November 2019
The board room was hot. A stiff tension prevailed in the air at Trinity headquarters. The directors were unusually punctual on this occasion. Rahul Khattar was already looking at his watch, wondering what was taking the attendees so long to show up. He valued his time a lot also because he was a part-time director in several overseas businesses that converted black money into white. “Haa, the first of the three musketeers is here,” he said. “Or the terrible trio,” mocked Ketan Desai. Bramhanand Lal entered the room and said, “they should be here any moment now”. “We don’t have all day, give them a call and get them here,'' yelled Chandra Krishnaswamy, with her closed fist firmly resting on the teak-wood table.
“Sure, Ma’am…,” Bramhanand said as he tried reaching his teammates through his handheld. Bramhanand, fondly called Brammy, was in charge of product engineering of this startup. Brammy single-handedly was responsible for the mock-ups and prototyping. Within minutes, Balaji Venkatraman, fondly called Bala, entered the room and said, “my apologies. Shiv just had a minor incident in the parking lot. I saw him get into the elevator. I just took the stairs,” catching his breath. Balaji was the next in line, from the process standpoint.
Once Brammy created the bots as a prototype, Bala’s job was to keep the bot running through maintenance, security and protection from hacking. He went the extra mile to protect his teammates from the wrath of the board members, like he was just trying to save Shivpal’s face. As the door opened, Sunny Manda entered the room and took his favourite seat. A stickler for protocol, Sunny rarely ever showed up late. More often than not, he would arrive at the stipulated time and make people wish he left sooner than he intended to. But, no one ran the risk of displeasing Sunny with snide remarks for he was also in charge of internal audit and compliance, besides being a board member. Mangal Mishra was seen sharing a private joke with Buddhadeb Bannerji. Gurpreet Singh was seen rolling his eyes. The giggle loop prompted Balaji and Bramhanand to exchange glances but they could not afford to even smile, for all eyes were on them. Suryaveer broke the awkward silence and asked Shukra, “so, what are your sons up to?”
trying to make small talk until Shivpal arrived. “Amar & Sandy are into consulting. They are…” his gloating was abruptly ended by the sudden opening of the door and the much-awaited entry of Shivpal Sharma, the third among the trinity, as the three of them preferred to be called. Shivpal was in charge of terminations. When a certain technology or product would reach its end of life and Balaji was too attached to them, Shivpal’s role would be ruthlessly to pull the plug so that the next batch of Brammy’s bots would find a place. An unapologetic Shivpal said, “Oh, we have a full house. Let’s get started” and grabbed the pointer. “So, we would like to take you through our current stat-” Shivpal started speaking, only to be interrupted by Chandra. “Hold on. There are ground rules that need to be abided by. Not only did you arrive late, but you are not bothered about what the board wants to discuss. We are not here to be taken through a woeful presentation of hits and misses; not to mention most of them are misses, as per the pre-read. We have some questions that need to be answered.” “Certainly,” said Shivpal, trying hard not to express his annoyance.
“What is the status of your initial mission? Dave, did you name it?” “Deva,” Gurpreet said under his breath. The Devas were trained by him, as their Guru in every sense. “No, ma’am. DEVA. Drivers of Economic Value Addition.” “Yes, about that. Mangal ji here had a different expansion” said Chandra. “Let’s hear it” “Dainty Emasculate Vestigial Assemblies; I doubt if they are even capable of surviving a stray natural disaster on the planet” said Mangal Mishra, with the same smile after having shared as a private joke with Buddhadeb earlier. “Much as I wouldn’t want to allow such below-the-belt attacks, folks, I must say we are all in agreement with what Mishra said. Are they too delicate, or…” with a short glance at Mishra, “dainty to be deployed?” asked Chandra. “Oh, now I may speak? That’s great” said Shivpal in a tone loaded with arrogance, evoking a contagious irritation among the board members. Disregarding it, he continued. “We may not be able to send the Devas to the planet” declared Shivpal. His statement was a slap on Gurpreet’s face.
Gurpreet cringed at the usage of the word flop. Some board members sat up leaning forward in their chairs. Some stopped talking. And the others waited for Shivpal to continue. “However,” he continued, “we are not far from being successful. By tweaking them, we are not going to get anywhere close to where we want to be. But that is the reason why we have gathered here. To know about the next prototype.” “Hold that thought… I want to know your version of why we went wrong and how” said Buddhadeb. “Well, the modules we created are such that they play by the rules. Virtues, if you want to call them so.
Devas would rather resort to inaction than making a decision that could warrant a marginal deviation from agreed norms,” Shivpal said, trying to sound confident. “That’s a gross understatement. The word you are looking for is wuss,” said Sunny. “RESPECT….” yelled Shivpal and added “Sir”. Heaving a sigh, he continued, “Out of respect, these units do not indulge in any actions that enrage others.” “Shivpal…. When I started out after engineering, I ran a start-up successfully for seven and a half years. It’s only then that I decided to fund other start-ups. So, I know exactly what the difference is between a start-up and a cover-up” said Sunny. “Your point is, Sunny?” asked Shukra. “Sir, these guys created a big blue book based on which the Devas operate, called the Deva standard operating procedure, authored by GurpreetTruth is, if there are any areas that are not covered in that book, the units just freeze without making any move.” “I see” said Suryaveer. “Wait, there’s more. They’ve pledged their allegiance to a certain beacon,” added Sunny. “You mean Indra?” “Yes, guess we now know where all that money went,” Sunny concluded as he stared at the trio. Devas, though bots, needed training. Their structure was such that their learning algorithm recorded a new use-case when presented with a variation of the datasets they were programmed on. Gurpreet was their trainer on various modules. Indra, however, was their hero, for he was the chief of staff for the Deva division.