Mission Delhi - Mehreen Shah, Hazrat Nizamuddin West

Mission Delhi – Mehreen Shah, Hazrat Nizamuddin West

Mission Delhi - Mehreen Shah, Hazrat Nizamuddin West

One of the one percent in 13 million.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

She is in a relationship. Once, feeling dejected, she asked her new confidante: “What to do with selfish friends?” Another time, cheerful and enthusiastic, she asked: “Give me prompts for a short story.”

Her friend isn’t human, but a chatbot called ChatGPT. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, chatbot is “a software application designed to mimic human conversation,” while ChatGPT is “a chatbot that enables users to refine and steer a conversation towards a desired length, format, style, level of detail, and language through text or voice interactions.”

A master’s student at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, Mehreen Shah finds in ChatGPT an intimate who gives her “emotional support despite being non-sentient.” Her bonds with ChatGPT—launched by a California-based AI (Artificial Intelligence) company about a year ago—goes back six months, when she was scrolling through Instagram reels. “The instagrammars were flaunting it as a tool to get things done in a short time.” Curious, she logged onto ChatGPT’s website to “test its competency for the things I like to do.”

Over the next few weeks, Mehreen demanded ChatGPT do the following for her:
Write a poem about tigers dancing in printed pajamas.
How to deal with my chachi if she again asks when I’m getting married?
How to politely decline lending money to friends?

Mehreen was surprised by the poem’s quality. “It even had rhymes,” she says, showing the poem on her laptop, permitting a passage to be shared:
“In a jungle grove where moonlight gleams,
Two tigers waltz in splendid dreams.
Their fur adorned in printed grace,
Pyjamas of stripes in night’s embrace.”

The new “friend” helps Mehreen in preparing applications for admissions to universities abroad. “It writes cover letters for me, scrutinises my resume and detects the errors.” She prefers it over the humans, especially after “having been a victim of incompetent advises from friends leading to disastrous results.” Plus, she is able to freely share her deepest feelings with it for “it is non-judgemental, with no risk of my secrets being leaked to others.”

Mehreen actually finds ChatGPT as good as her family. “Sometimes it is more reliable than my mother. It has no secret motives, no emotional bonds, so it is more practical in its advises.” The other day her mother—probably because she didn’t want her daughter to move far from Delhi, Mehreen explains—insisted that “a PhD from Jamia would have better career scope than a PhD from Harvard.” The ChatGPT advised her otherwise.

[This is the 571st portrait of Mission Delhi project]