It had landed safely at the dockyard. They had said someone would be coming to receive it.

A tap on its hair.

1: You don’t look from around here.

2: Yes I have come from the south to apply for a job to increase neurodiversity.

1: To what?!!!

2: To apply for a job to increase neurodiversity.

The arm that had tapped on its hair now curiously revolving around it.

1 (to itself): This is surely not the one who was coming to receive me or else it would not have asked such a question.

2: How do you know about neurodiversity?

1: Well someone sent me a message that there was a vacancy up here and that I should apply for it to increase workplace diversity and inclusion. The message said that this was the latest trend in all organizations and so I shouldn’t miss my chance. Anyways, I wasn’t very happy down there.

2: And who exactly has been sending you such ‘intellectual’ messages?

3: I have. Came a voice from behind.

2: You…you don’t look like a Prenat, said the voice of the arm coiling tighter around the newcomer, lest it escape.

3: No. I am not a prenatal like you Oldie, said the neuron who was born out of adult neurogenesis in the Hippocampus.

Oldie Neuron: And what nonsense have you been telling this cell? And how dare you let it come all the way up here? And what are those bloody T cells doing? They are supposed to be guarding the borders…

2: Listen Oldie, you may not like to hear this, but we need some neurodiversity around here and that is why I thought of recruiting someone from another part..

Oldie Neuron: And who are you to decide that? Are you a DM from 8, 9, 10 or 11?

2: No I am not a Decision Maker, just a freelance imaginer.

Oldie Neuron: So you are a rebel without a cause challenging the status quo!!!

Rebel Neuron: No. It’s just that I was hanging around the depots of semantic memory where some key words were stored, for some preliminary research about a new thing that I was working on, when I came across these terms adaptability, workplace diversity, social inclusion and I got curious. But there wasn’t anything stored in the long term memory. So I tweaked things a bit here and there and made the metaorganism google them up again.2b

Oldie Neuron: So you are the one who has been causing so many memory recalls of late…go on continue with your story…

Rebel Neuron: Yes, you see since I was born in the Hippocampus, seat of learning and memory formation, I also am fond of learning new things…and so in collaboration with a few motor nerves and photoreceptor cells of the retinal ganglion, I caused the metaorganism to flick through many webpages, reading about promoting workplace diversity in multinational corporations and specially about neurodiversity in the top software companies being considered as a competitive advantage due to increased mathematical abilities, pattern recognition, special memory, bringing in new perspectives and creating new value etc. etc… and so I thought that we should do the same here. And hence I recruited this foveolar epithelial cell of the stomach mucosa to come to the prefrontal cortex.

Oldie Neuron: And how the hell did you choose this one from all the gazillion cells of the metaorganism?

Rebel Neuron: Well, I have some good friends among the gut microbes…we often chat via the Vagus nerves and I asked them to be on a lookout for anyone who might be interested in changing jobs. And guess what! Within days my friends in the Lactobacillus helveticus community, who are stationed in the stomach reported back about an epithelial cell that was bored of its task of secreting mucus to protect the stomach lining before the gastric chamber fills with hydrochloric acid and with all the muscular rumbling-tumblings during digestion.5cThe oldie neuron by now having wrapped its entire axon around the epithelial cell almost like an anaconda, causing it to suffocate… So you think that secreting mucus is below your dignity huh… let me scorch you with some hydrochloric acid so that you know what a bloody important job it is… ever heard of ulcer, YOU SMARTYPANTS???


Rebel Neuron: Hey leave it alone! It has already been too depressed and had often tried to break all the tight junctions between itself and its neighbours and escape into the lamina propria below… the Lactobacillus helveticuses had sensed its despair but even they could not cheer it up with their serotonin secretions. They signaled me that it was feeling meaningless, although a voice inside it kept saying that it was meant for something more. And so following a tip from the gut guys, who by the way, I think are pretty smart, I got a few dopamine molecules to escort this stomach epi cell up the vascular channels riding on some red blood cells.3e

Oldie Neuron: And how did it cross the borders of the brain-blood-barrier? Did you drug the T cells?

Rebel Neuron: That I will reveal on the sole condition that you will employ this epi cell here to promote neurodiversity.

Oldie Neuron (turning to the Epi cell with a sly grin): Why don’t you work at one of our branch offices? Not very far from where you originally come from. You could become an enteroendocrine cell in the gut lining and send us reports and signals via the Vagus nerves. We will fit you with the nicest pairs of axon terminals.

Rebel Neuron: No, it shouldn’t be a foot soldier doing the dirty work on the ground! It needs to be here. We need diversity at all levels! Even at the top management, otherwise it’s a bloody farce. The glass ceiling must be broken!

Stomach Epi: With all due respect, Senior Neuron, but in the gut, I will still be dealing with the same old shit, the same food related processes. No. I am interested in exploring other avenues. Like creativity, imagination, decision making…

Oldie Neuron (to itself): Decision making my foot!

Rebel Neuron (to itself): Decision making my foot! These oldies will never hand out any decision making to an outsider. Xenophobic pigs! These bloody Prenatals sitting in 8, 9 10 and 11 won’t let go of their powers. The oldest, hence the most experienced… there since from the time inside Mother’s Womb… having faced the Great Squeeze of Birth bla bla bla… the rightful heirs to the throne, the captains in the cockpit without whom the metaorganism would be lost…not to forget the tall tales of the Mighty Reboot…which is a complete lie…the bullshit these oldies propagate! Bloody arrogant assholes with their pompous sense of the Self! They have not promoted me from imagination to the creative department since the past two years. What’s the difference you ask? Well, all imagination doesn’t get translated into creative output, now does it? The creativity department vets all the proposals by the various imagination teams and then selects the best ones to invest the resources of time, energy, amino acids, dopamine, vision, muscular movements etc. to materialize that ‘imagining’. So one can jump about imagining as much as one wishes, without any of the imaginings seeing the light of the day as it has happened with me since the past one year. All my imaginings- brilliant! would have made the metaorganism win the Most Creative Genius of The Year award… but no…rejections one after the other. With all this bloody bureaucracy, raw talent is bound to suffer. Dirty business this politics.

It recalled how it had once tried to break rank and chain and had reported directly to one of the oldies in the Decision Making Department…

…That night, the metaorganism had been feeling thirsty and had gotten up in the middle of the night to drink water. Noticing its chance, and also the fact that some oldie must be up commanding the hand muscles to push the blanket aside, the spinal cord to lift the upper body, the knees to bend, the feet to dangle themselves out of the bed, the soles to fumble in the dark in search of the slippers, to push the heavy ass upwards, to steady the knees to bear the weight of the body, to take a step forward, to extend the right arm outwards, to curve the fingers of the right hand around the bottle of water, to flick the cap upwards using the left arm and the left hand fingers, to bend the right elbow to raise the bottle at an angle to the lips, to part the lips, to throw the head backwards, to raise the angle of the right elbow even further, to roll the tongue to push the water into the esophagus… why there might be more than one oldie up at the moment to do all this work and the Rebel Neuron barged into one of the offices where the lights were sparking and came face to face with an oldie.


Rebel Neuron: I have solved it for you (pointing at the models it was carrying and before the oldie could fire any words it continued speaking)…

You should keep the first drawings without any labeling. Let the reader appreciate the visual quality of the drawings without being burdened by all the technical info of the labeling. Then right at the end of the story, after the signature and the date, you should add a sentence: IN CASE YOU MUST REALLY KNOW, the word really in italics…and beneath this sentence insert the drawing again, this time with the labeling. And don’t make the labeling all on the right side…it just makes it too right-heavy. Spread it out radially between the left and right sides. No need to keep them all on a horizontal plane. Radially like the rays of the sun…That will go visually very well around the various spherical objects you have in the composition.

The oldie was stunned and eyed the neuron silently. The neuron looked around and thought nice office…some legroom.

Oldie Neuron: Which department?

Rebel Neuron: Imagination.

Oldie Neuron: Aren’t you supposed to report to Creativity?

Rebel Neuron: Yes, but they are all asleep at the moment and I thought that I could directly…

Oldie Neuron: Where is your cabin? Visual cortex… Area 17, 18, 19?

Rebel Neuron: No, I am still hopping around, haven’t been assigned a fix place yet. (The rebel neuron lied fearing that it was best not to disclose its location. Besides it was precisely this secret which every imaginer was sworn never to reveal- its true location and its work process. That was their code of honour… never to be breached…even in the face of all the torturous experiments conducted by white lab coats.)

Oldie Neuron: Are you from the active team or the spontaneous gang?

Rebel Neuron: Do you think this is happening in a dream? The metaorganism was just awake for god’s sake! Of course I am from the active team! Not one of those hallucinating hippies. I just solved your problems, didn’t I?

Oldie Neuron: How did you know that these were problems? No decision was made regarding calling these issues ‘problems’.

Rebel Neuron: I just sensed it. There was some frustration in the chemical signaling amongst the creative department when Photoshop couldn’t handle the large files and the computer kept hanging and was finally switched off. I felt there was something dissatisfactory when the ceiling lights were switched off and everyone went to bed. Had there been no aesthetical hiccups requiring some let-me-sleep-on-it, the creative department would have all sat through the night and finished the project that they were all super excited about publishing on the website asap…and so I looked them over and these are your solutions.

The oldie was writing an entry in its memo: Vacancy in Intuitions???

Oldie Neuron: Huh..good. Thank you.. But next time don’t barge in at the middle of the night. Please maintain office hours 9 to 5. Luckily the metaorganism is currently not with its spouse, otherwise you would have encroached upon its privacy, interrupting its sexual pleasures or even killing the mood, and I would have to deal with sorting marital squabbles beyond all the normal work that I already have on my memo. Now look what you have done! You have woken all the others up with your lecture.

The oculomotor nerves and the sympathetic nerve fibers of the optic nerve had retracted the upper and the lower eyelids and the metaorganism lay with its eyes wide open.7c
Oldie Neuron: And now because of all this new business of reflective practice for the PhD research, a memo of our conversation will have to be recorded as fresh as possible which means I will again have to make the metaorganism sit up at the table and write or make a voice recording in the smartphone, that two brain cells from the imagining and decision-making departments are talking to each other…bla bla bla… and this can potentially be an idea for a piece of fiction bla bla bla….and then if the sleep is broken for good, those billion idiots from the guts, who think they are the second brain, will keep grumbling the whole of next day.

Rebel Neuron: But you never have time during the day. There is no Introspection department working during the day…although there used to be one, doing the rounds after lunch, nice folks saying Whatssup guys? Aur sunao or Naaah! Alles klaaaar?… sympathetic folks always wanting to know if anything was troubling us…I think you oldies have outsourced them to some other organism in the opposite time zone.

Oldie Neuron: What rubbish! Of course we have our own in-house Introspection department. Why I am the chair of the committee…

Rebel Neuron: Then how come there has not been any introspection since the past three months?

Oldie Neuron: We are just too busy processing the all the news articles about the lockdown, avoiding depression, overeating, maintaining sanity, catching up online with friends etc. etc. to have had any time for introspection. Conversing with oneself might not give the right impression during such times. There’s the danger of being declared insane. Anyways, it was found to only induce more anxiety and hence we have actively dissolved Introspection for now.

Rebel Neuron (fearing unemployment): Are you also going to decommission Imagining?

Oldie Neuron: No, in fact we will deploy more resources in that field. We need to imagine a new future after this lockdown or something to that effect. It’s the latest thing all over the news right now. We just has a meeting about it. In fact we have got reports from the Auditory department that the decision-making departmental chiefs of other metaorganisms are also working on envisioning a new future and that artists have an important role to play in it. So ya, we will be getting down into this project on both our hands and knees very soon. Now you may go…

This conversation had taken place less than a week ago and this is where the Rebel Neuron saw its chance and spoke up.

Rebel Neuron: We need the Stomach Epi… for the new project of envisioning a new future. Let it work under me. We need all the resources we can get. You have been reading the papers, read some business journals too. We need new ways of thinking if we want to create a new future. New team members on board. And we need to do it fast…to beat the other metaorganisms at it… be the first to propose new novel scenarios…

Oldie Neuron: No. No outsiders. That’s unprecedented!

Rebel Neuron: How do you know that other metaorganisms haven’t already hired cells from the other parts of their body to create divergent thought patterns? You think they will let out this trade secret?6At the thought of competition…of other metaorganisms upping their game…of the glories of fame and fortune passing on to someone else… the Oldie felt a sharp sting of panic. The heartbeat of the metaorganism started racing wildly, blood gushing all over with greater force, its breathing became heavier, the tips of the fingers grew colder…the oldie accidentally triggering a cascade of norepinephrine…quickly refocusing again…calm… calm… attention.

The oldie swallowed its ego and lowered its guard.

Oldie Neuron: Okay! But we will hire just this one for now. Show me some proof and then we will think. But I want results, and quick! If this fellow is a no-good, it will not take me much time to hunt it out and tazer it to dust. Deck you new assistant with the proper outfit. And not a word to anyone but me! Now leave.

The Oldie felt a little intimidated taking such a big decision alone, in secret. But 35+ years in charge…right in the cockpit at Brodmann 10…never faltering…right at the position of the third eye… a Prenatal who had faced the Big Squeeze and the Great Migration…nerves of steel… making decisions before conscious thought even knows that a decision needs to be made….who else if not it should take such decisions… the ambition to be the first…the first to…to..the Oldie paused to chew some glucose…oxygen more oxygen…why was it so suffocating in here?

The air around it was getting foggy. What was all this clinging on to its body? Dopamine…Dopamine?…Dopamine… hormone for motivation…determination, for the go-get-it attitude… neurotransmitter for increased risk taking…reward…gratification… gambling and addiction…in schizophrenics associated with hallucinations and delusions…DOPAMINE!!!12b

The freelance imaginer had been smoking all this dopamine and had rubbed it all over the oldie…

…and now…

…and now where were they…

…the rebel neuron and its new recruit from the stomach?


Priyanka Jain


Disclaimer: This text has been produced from information available on the internet but without consultation with a living expert.

Other things worth knowing:

Neurodiversity: A viewpoint that brain differences are normal, rather than deficits. It refers to the variations in mental functions amongst humans in society in a non-pathological sense.

Adult Neurogenesis: Most of the neurons i.e. the nerve cells of the human brain are formed in the womb and within the first few years of infant life. However a small percentage are also formed during adulthood through the process of neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Neurons do not have a definite life span. Some can survive as long as the human does.

Enteroendocrine cells: Specialized cells found on the surface of  the gastrointestinal tracts, stomach and pancreas that release hormones in response to stimuli and they also have protrusions similar to nerve endings to be able to communicate with the brain.

The Big Squeeze*: During vaginal birth, the infant brain undergoes a shape change in order to pass through the birth canal. It also has to undergo functional changes to adapt to the new environment outside the mother’s body.

The Mighty Reboot*: It is said that the fetal brain shuts down temporarily during birth to reduce the oxygen needs of the body when the body has to switch its oxygen supply from the umbilical cord to its lungs and to also protect the brain from the shock of transition. This has however only been confirmed for rats.

Imagination is said to be of two kinds: Active imagination driven by the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and spontaneous PFC-independent imagination such as dreaming, daydreaming, hallucinations and spontaneous insight.
Aur sunao: A phrase in the Hindi language meaning you say. A common phrase spoken after a greeting and followed by what news like in the sentence:Namaste Chacha, aur sunao, kya haalchaal? (Greetings Uncle, you say, what news?)

Naaah! Alles klaaaar: Actually written as Na, alles klar. A phrase in the German language meaning everything okay? Na doesn’t actually mean anything, alles means everthing, klar means clear. Often used to enquire about the clarity of briefings by saying Alles klar?, but with addition of Na in the beginning is also used as a greeting.

Norepinephrine: A hormone that prepares the body for fight or flight response in face of imminent threat.

The Great Migration*: Neurons often have to migrate from their site of origin to their final destinations, then mature and form their neural circuitry. For example, neurons formed in the lower (ventral) portions of the brain migrate radially to the form the cerebral cortex.

*These terms do not actually exist in the Biological sciences, but have been created for this piece of fiction.