11 THE WHY
Dad, with an angry, irritated tone of voice, “Ammu, It is not good. Why do you take so much time to finish your breakfast?.”
7-year-old Ammu with a calm voice, “Douglas Adams says that ‘Why’ is the most difficult, unanswerable question in the world. So, either, do not ask me ‘Why’ or answer me ‘Why Not?’ before asking ‘Why’.”
Dad just stood still, not knowing what to answer.
10 FACE THE PROBLEM
Six-year-old Ammu was video-recording her speech on the phone. Dad just came to the room.
He overheard part of Ammu’s speech, “You have to run away from the problem”.
On hearing this, Dad immediately interfered and said — “No Ammu. You shouldn’t run away from the problem. Did you see what happened in the Lion King movie — Simba ran away from the problem and his people suffered at the hands of the villain for some time. Imagine what would have happened if Simba stayed and faced the problem?”
Ammu with a curious look, “But Dad… I was talking about the problem of Volcanic eruptions like Pompeii. Do you want me to stay and face the volcano?”
Dad went blank…
09 THE IRONY
“Ammu, Get up. It’s already 8 AM.” — Dad tried to wake up his six-year-old daughter.
Ammu cuddling up and with a muffled voice, “Dad, please turn the day back to 5 AM.”
Dad, “Ammu, listen… To turn back the day to 5 AM, I have to stop the rotation of the Earth and then change the direction of its rotation. Let’s imagine the stopping of the rotation of Earth — Remember, what would happen when we travel in a car at the speed of 100km/hour and apply sudden brakes — We would be thrown violently in the forward direction. And, our Earth is rotating at 1600kms/hour. If I stop the Earth at that speed, everything on it would be thrown violently in the forward direction — All the buildings, vehicles, and other objects would fly, bang against each other, and explode. The atmosphere would fly away. No air to breathe. We also would be shredded into pieces.”
Dad continues, “You remember that billions of years ago, Earth used to spin faster — The day-night cycle used to be 10–12 hours. When the Moon formed, it began to reduce the Earth’s speed due to its gravitational force and helped it to reach the present 24-hour day/night cycle. If we stop Earth’s rotation, we would be attacking the gravitational force between Earth and Moon. I don’t know — Maybe, Moon would explode — Huge Tsunamis might happen. Volcanoes might explode on Earth when we reverse the direction, and the whole Solar system might collapse. So, in short, for you to sleep an extra three hours, we might end up destroying the whole solar system.”
Hearing this, Ammu’s mother interfered, “Mr.Dad, Do you know the meaning of the word Irony?”
Dad, “I have some idea. But I would like to hear from you.”
Mom, “Irony implies juxtaposition of opposites. It means — Someone attempts to do something, but the exact opposite happens. For example, you are trying to wake up Ammu but made her go into a deep sleep. That’s Ironic.”
08 HOW TO FALL ASLEEP
10 PM. While lying in bed, six-year-old Ammu asked her father — “Dad, How our mouth knows when to open and talk & when to close and stop talking?”
Dad, thinking for a few seconds, began, “Ammu, When you asked the question, the sound waves from your mouth traveled to my eardrum. The eardrum vibrates & fluid near the eardrum converts the vibrations into electrical energy. The brain receives that electrical signal from the eardrum — checks within the areas of the brain for an answer — finds it — assembles the answer in order, and then sends that as an electric signal to my vocal cords. Based on the electrical signal, the vocal cords vibrate at varying speeds. The vibrating vocal cords produce sound as it pushes and pulls the air around it. It comes out as an explanation for your question. Now, tell me what signal your brain is sending to your vocal cords?”
Dad turned around and called again, “Ammu..”
Ammu turned her head, “Oh. Have you finished your answer?. Can I ask you another question?. And, please give me a long answer, this time. Because I want to sleep”
07 HOME ALONE
“Don’t worry Mom. I’ll manage. It’s just only for two hours. It's lockdown time — I can understand. Anyway, you have also informed our neighbor. They’ll check frequently” — Six-year-old Ammu assured her worried mom.
Both the parents had to visit the nearby hospital. They were worried about leaving Ammu alone at home.
Dad looked at Ammu — He could not figure out her expression — Is she happy or upset?
After a couple of hours, both mom and dad reached the home.
Dad opened the main door to enter the house. As he opened it, he heard the sounds of something falling behind the door. It was toys. He then stepped inside the house and the tea-table was blocking the path. He wondered how Ammu had moved that furniture.
Dad carefully walked around the tea table and crossed the hall. Ammu rushed to the hall from one of the bedrooms. She gave an odd stare. Dad was puzzled by her expression.
At the end of the hall, two chairs were blocking the pathway towards bedrooms. Dad pushed the chairs to make a path. Suddenly, he saw that a toy train engine was delicately balanced as a bridge between the top edge of chairs. The toy began to slide down. Dad rushed forward and caught the engine.
When Dad was about to turn towards bedrooms, he observed that shawls were tied across the balcony doors. On the floor, near the doors, cylindrical roller toys were lying haphazardly. Dad wondered what kind of game Ammu was playing.
Then, Dad moved towards the bedroom. He couldn’t locate the door handle -That area was covered by papers, clothes, and kerchiefs held in position by clips. He had to remove them to locate the handle. When he was about to open the door, he saw some sharper toys, little metallic cars lying on the floor, in front of the doors. He observed a similar arrangement in front of other doors. By this time, Dad began to feel irritated.
He walked to the dining area and shouted — “Ammu, It is dangerous to place these toys on the floor like this — that too in front of the door. It will hurt and people could fall. Why are you doing like this?”
Then the thought struck him — He looked around again — Then he asked his daughter — “Ammu, are you trying to imitate HOME ALONE movie?”
Ammu gave a shy smile and ran inside one of the rooms.
Dad thought in his mind with a tinge of sadness “Now I understand the importance of teaching kids about disclaimers in the movie.”
06 SILENCE IS GOLD
Six-year-old Ammu, over the WhatsApp video call to her grandmother, showed the new bow on her head that had flowers.
Grandmother, “Ammu, What is that on the head?”
Ammu, “Two days back, I swallowed a seed. From my stomach, it grew as a plant within my body & the flowers came out through my head.”
Grandmother, “Oh! But why the flowers are black?”
Ammu, “Oh! That’s because it’s summer season & the flowers have got dried.”
Hearing this, Dad turned towards Ammu and asked — “Ammu, Plants need sunlight to grow. If they are inside the body, how would they get sunlight?”
Ammu, ‘Dad. Imagine a fully closed box with a small hole. Will the light not enter the box through the opening? Like how Newton allowed light to enter the darkroom through a hole to discover the spectrum?”
Dad, “Where is the hole in our body for light to enter?”
Ammu in an irritated voice, “Dad, You require an explanation for everything. Tell me, How do we see?”
Dad, with a curious look, “The reflected light from an object enters through our eye and falls on the retina.”
Ammu, “So, light enters through eye. That’s the hole in our body. The light travels as an electrical signal to the brain & the brain transfers the signal to the plant.”
Dad, still unconvinced, “But Ammu…”
Sensing no end to this discussion, Mom decided to interfere.
Mom, “Ammu. Your dad would search for logic, even in our jokes. But he would happily cheer for gravity-defying, genetics-defying, biology-defying stunts of his hero Rajinikanth.”
Hearing that, Dad realized that the best answer to that comment is to remain silent.
So, peace is sustained.
Mom knows how to stop an argument within the family.
05 SHRINK THE CHANGE
After returning from work, the wife saw that the kitchen sink was filled with a lot of vessels, waiting to be washed.
She called her husband and asked, “Can you just clean the Tea-Pan, glasses, tea filter, and the extra-large steel cup? So that I could prepare tea. It won’t take much time. I will wash the rest of the vessels after some time.”
Husband, with a lot of resistance, pushed himself hard and reached the Kitchen sink. He began washing the Tea pan and other related utensils. After an hour, he ended up washing all the vessels.
After a couple of days, again there were too many vessels lying to be washed and his wife called and asked him, “Dear, Can you wash only the Tea-Pan and related vessels” — Again, the husband went to clean only the Tea-pan and related vessels. But he ended up washing all the vessels.
After cleaning, when he was about to leave the Kitchen, something from one of the kitchen shelves caught his eye. It was the book titled ‘Switch’ by Chip and Dan Heath. He was surprised to find the book there and thought “How come this book is outside the bookshelf when I am yet to read this.”
He opened the book and saw the bookmark kept on a particular page under the chapter “Shrink The Change— How to motivate people to do things by shrinking the change.”
Husband saw the following paragraph was highlighted in the book.
“House is in mess? Feeling dread to clean? Then go to the worst room in your house-the one you’d never let a guest see-and start cleaning only one room. Only one room. How bad can it be? You can reassure yourself. You can stop cleaning as soon as one room is completed. Starting an unpleasant task is always worse than continuing. So once you start cleaning your house, chances are you won’t stop at one room and soon you would be surprised to see you cleaning the entire house.”
Under the paragraph, his wife had scribbled “Let’s try with Vessels”.
The husband was shocked and looked worriedly at the bookshelves — There are some eighty more books in those bookshelves which he is yet to read.
04 EINSTEIN AND EDDINGTON
After watching the Einstein & Eddington movie, Dad turned to Six-year-old Ammu and said — “Ammu, We should help people without expecting any future rewards — like how Eddington selflessly helped Einstein, without even meeting him. His fellow scientists were against him helping Einstein. Yet, he went ahead, traveled to Africa, and recorded the star’s deviation on a rainy day to prove the Theory Of Relativity. The obstacles didn’t stop Eddington from helping Einstein.”
Hearing that, Ammu, “Dad, I’m also trying to help people without any future rewards. You aren’t letting me.”
Dad, with a curious look, “When did that happen?”
Ammu, “My friend Achala(neighbor’s daughter) is upset and feeling sad from the morning. I wanted to make her happy by playing with her. You didn’t allow me. Like how Eddington went against all obstacles and helped Einstein, I’ll also go and help her even if you stop me. Thanks for the advice.”
And, she opened the main door and left for the neighbor’s house without waiting for dad’s nod.
Dad, visibly startled, stared at the open door. Then, he turned towards Ammu’s mother, who was watching everything.
Mother, “Oh! It lost some of its glow.”
On hearing that, dad further loosened his facial muscles.
Mother continued, “Oh! I was talking about the Kitchen tube light. Not your face. Please change the bulb.”
With a deep breath, dad lifted his head and looked at the roof. The white roof appeared black.
03 BE AN EXAMPLE
After watching ‘Eddie, The Eagle’ movie, Dad to his six-year-old daughter — ‘Ammu, would you be interested to try skiing, like Eddie?’
‘No dad. You saw how dangerous it is. I’ll get hurt’ — Ammu replied.
Dad — “But Ammu… You saw how Eddie kept trying even after getting hurt — Pain is inevitable. It’s going to be part of life. Finally, you saw how Eddie entertained and inspired people.”
But Ammu was adamant — “No. I don’t want to play the game where the chances of physically getting hurt are high.”
Dad cursed himself for creating an overprotective environment in Ammu’s formative years. It harms kids.
Dad continued — “Ok. How about asking your mother to try Skiing.”
Ammu replied — “No. I don’t want to see my dear mother getting hurt.”
Dad — “Oh!. ok….. How about me trying Skiing?.”
Suddenly, Ammu with a lifted brow — “Oh! That would be great. I want to see whether you would try Skiing again after you get hurt.”
Dad regretted the conversation.
02 FISH AND WORMS
One morning —
Dad to Six-year-old daughter, “Ammu, In this book, Dale Carnegie says that the only way you can get the other person to do anything for you is by giving him/her what he/she wants.”
Ammu gave a blank stare.
Dad continued, “Example — You like ice cream and chocolates. When we go fishing, do you use ice cream or chocolates to catch the fish?”
Ammu, “No. We use worms or insects.”
Dad, “Yes. We dangle things that fish likes. We think from the fish’s perspective. Similarly, to make a person give you what you want, dangle something they love. Think from the other person’s perspective.”
Ammu gave another blank stare. Or, a cold one?. Dad wasn’t sure about it. He thought it would be better to skip the topic.
Later in the night —
Dad, “Vow! Ammu! You wrote an extra two pages and read an additional page today. I can’t believe it. What’s happening?”
Ammu, “Dad, Do you like it?”
Dad, with an excited face, “Yes! Yes! I love this.”
Ammu, “You told me that to get things from anyone is to give them what they want. I knew that your most important desire is to see me read and write. I did that. I’ve given you what you love. Now I need a Toy Gun. Let me see whether the principle works or not.”
Dad’s smile vanished completely.
01 LOW ON COGNITIVE ENERGY
Dad to 7-year-old daughter, “Ammu, The table is a mess. It’s making me angry. Please clean asap.”
Ammu cooly lifted her head and said, “Dad, can you please go and work on your laptop for one hour and then come back.”
Dad, with a curious look, “So, by that time, you would have cleaned the table?.”
Ammu, “By that time, you’d be mentally tired. You’ll not have the energy to scold me. You’d ignore the mess and go to bed.”
Dad felt numbness in his mouth.