Adventures of an engineering dad – part 1

It is interesting how everyone becomes an expert in the general theory of kid management on the basis of having just one or two of them in a lifetime. It’s a bit like reading Shashi Tharoor’s tweets and claiming to be an expert on post-independence Indian literature. Everyone has theories on how to put them to sleep, for instance, but that is a silly notion because babies have their own theories on how and when they will sleep, and that rarely seems to match with the suggestions put forward by these experts.

It’s been a year since this curious object with fully grown nails and a mildly peeved expression came into my world and I have been making certain observations of the changes in my life. The wife now preens and struts around family weddings, baby in tow, with a look that says “Duty over. Now let me go back to reading Transmetropolitan“. Tambrahms have this great fascination for doing things early. We wake up early to do holy rituals at unholy hours. We wake up early to study for exams. We have our lunches at 9.30 am. Grandfothers will extoll the virtues of proper early morning bowel movements before early morning baths and early morning Sandhis and grandmothers will insist on an early booking of the uterine tract, much like how we book train tickets. If you don’t do it early, there will be problems later.ย 

But these social games apart, the subject in question has been, in his own way, going about the business of growing up in what must surely seem like an alien world to him. My observations of the subject have stretched across several pages of cloud synchronized iPad & iPhone notes, Evernote clippings, text files on my laptop and a large number of visual recordings of the subject. Um..and a few carefully designed experiments that did not sit well with the ladies in the house but well, for science, I say.

For the first 1 or 2 months, he was largely asleep most of the while and when he was not, he was making strange movements with his mouth that originally seemed to suggest that the Klingons wanted to send us a message. Despite detailed internet research, the messages were indecipherable. After a while, hand movements accompanied mouth movements and I was pretty sure that mankind was missing something important. By the third month, we had cracked it. He was hungry. Pouty expression, fingers to mouth accompanied by Klingon phrase meaning “I shall destroy you to dust” – I am hungry. Random transition from smiling face to intense wailing – I am hungry. Frantic handwaving indicating imminent invasion of the Earth by Romulans in American sign language – I am hungry.

With a strategic eye towards ensuring the safety of my many musical instruments, I was keen on inculcating in him, an early interest in the arts, or shall we say inculcating a lack of interest in creatively destroying fragile instruments at the first available opportunity. I first had to establish what genres of music the subject had a preference for. Blues was attempted. St James infirmary. Not bad. Despite the crushing sadness of the song, It did not induce crying in the subject. If anything, subject proceeded to turn my stringed instrument into a percussion instrument with a dramatic vocal accompaniment that was clearly off key. Second experiment – Air – by J.S.Bach. The long violin notes immediately induced crying. In true scientific spirit, I had to find out if it was the plaintive notes of the piece or the sound of the violin itself that was the root cause. So I played the Schindler’s list theme next, but the experiment remains inconclusive because the baby’s mother arrived on the scene with implements designed to destroy my instruments if I continued this experiment any further.

Subject does not like objects placed on his head. Despite very poor hand eye coordination, such objects are flung away with great force. At this point, it takes about 14 or 15 repeated attempts to cause subject to get annoyed. This is based on a poor sample size because the baby’s mother has put a stop to further validations of this number.

Subject now moves around in a walker. And to considerable consternation of the ladies, the subject now conducts scientific experiments on the temperament of household dogs post high velocity impacts from babies in walkers. Strict territorial delineation had to be done to avoid further escalation of the situation.

Subject now constantly executes Houdini like manoeuvres to extricate himself from adult hands and be set free on the floor, and much like characters in Hanna Barbera cartoons, the legs and hands are perennially in a state of motion to the point where setting the subject down instantly results in an exploitation of Newton’s laws towards nearest small object that can be eaten.

Subject will attempt to eat any suitably sized object in his hand. If said object is not in his hand, subject will marshall his limited mobility and hand eye coordination to grab said object and then eat object in hand. Subject often unleashes extreme violence on objects that are beyond his ability to grab successfully. Subject shows great fascination for the Hindu newspaper, but we are unable to discern the scale of his political philosophy and the moral compass of his mind’s geometry box because subject ate the newspaper in question. If subject is held very close to one’s face for a detailed examination, an attempt to eat one’s nose will be made.

When subject gets hold of contraband substances (such as smartphones, balls of dust and fossilized food particles), subject initiates stealth protocol. He turns away from the line of sight of adults present in his vicinity and attempts to eat said contraband. However, if eye contact is established, subject smiles, leading to an embarrassing giving away of aforementioned stealth. Subject may not be suitable for RAW recruitment on the long run.

Subject has a precisely defined micturition schedule. Just after every nappy change.

Subject now recognizes his nickname, Sumo, and the tone of voice that means “Do not continue to do what you are just doing”. But subject smiles, as if to say “Here, take a smile in exchange for your tacit approval of this banned action” and proceeds with illegal activities till he is physically lifted and transferred to a neutral zone. Subject uses the airlift time to plan his next moves.

Subject, after extended periods of action, does not, as common sense would indicate, fall asleep. Subject goes into an intermediate stage, much akin to hibernation of MS Windows and indicates that to us by plugging in his tools of mischief (index and middle finger of his right hand) into his USB port (his mouth) for charging. Subject then also seems to require a small piece of cloth for moral support before eventually proceeding to close his eyes. Subject presumably has dreams involving the Wehrmacht because when he is asleep, the bed turns into the map of Europe circa 1939 as he rolls across with impunity to colonize and subjugate all parts of it.

Subject, despite possessing very poor knowledge of basic science and mathematics, is keenly aware of the melting point of the cardiac region and one hopes that as he grows up, he does not forget this all important secret to a happy life.