With two girls four years apart, conversations take us by surprise almost every day. Words fly in every direction just like fireworks during Diwali. You place a rocket in an empty bottle aiming for the sky and light it up, only to find out it has a mind of its own. Before you know, the rocket is heading for the neighbor’s balcony. Motherhood makes me feel exactly like that neighbor, caught off-guard, rocket on fire, aiming for his stoic face.
So, the other day my dear little 6-year old came up with her one thousand two hundred and forty-seventh most impressive question – “What are vocal chords?”
My first reaction to anything curiosity-driven is that feeling of my lungs swelling with pride while I make a mental map of jumping on cloud 9 yet again for raising curious kids. At age six, the two words VOCAL and CHORDS never made it to my universe, either individually or grouped together.
The very next moment though, it’s time to brace myself to handle this scientific attack that has shaken me to the core. I quickly reconnect all dots that date back to my school days where I first encountered the words – VOCAL CHORDS! Simply put, Science and I didn’t exactly make the best of friends. On the contrary, we were always at loggerheads. The subject made me all jittery, except for chemical formulae. It is little wonder then that I was thrilled to leave school after class ten, in the hope of abandoning Science for the rest of my life.
But life always has a plan, doesn’t it? You decide to hate Science during your childhood and life is sure to present you with an engineer for your spouse. Is there any escape then from scientific approach getting in your way every single day? Not to mention, your offspring carry the same DNA that their father and their father’s father put together have been so proudly flaunting for over a century!
At times like these, I wonder where my side of the genes are hiding. Were we not supposed to show off language and drama instead? Helloooo…oh?
While I struggle hard to get to the all rusted corner of my brain that reads – ‘BAD SCHOOL MEMORIES’, my 10-year old jumps in with an impressive answer. And her sermon begins, “Ok Monu, tell me, is piano a string instrument?”
I am tempted to declare, “NOOO” with a ghoulish laugh and continue with my utmost boring version of the definition of vocal chords when the older one continues without any commas or full-stops.
She declares, “Well, the piano is actually a string instrument. When you open and look at the insides, the keys are connected by strings. And when strings touch certain points because of keys being pushed, a vibration is made and a sound is produced. Do you know what’s a vibration Monu?”
Then, she quickly uses the opportunity to pat the bottom of her little sister and tells her what she felt was a vibration. Left to me, I would simply use my smartphone to demonstrate one. I love the novel idea though. As far as strings are concerned, I am waiting for my turn to explain the insides of my throat to the younger one but give up for my lack of imagination. It is time to visit the Human Body Exhibit at the Science Center just like we did four years ago.
The older one is unstoppable by now. She is the role model here, ready to satiate every curiosity her little sister may display.
“So our vocal chords are our sound box. They are like the string instrument. They are responsible for producing sounds and pitch”, she ends in a grand finale!
I see a triumphant excitement brimming from her eyes after she has finished throwing up all jargon freely acquired from music lessons at school. I thank my stars, my sixth sense stopped me from making a classic fool of myself by calling the piano a non-string instrument.
My ego has taken a beating, nevertheless. I don’t believe that my little munchkin who I have been answering all these years has usurped my role as the authority of knowledge in Monu’s life. Redemption time.
I snap back, “Shonu, what strings get pulled each morning when the wind from your tummy turns into a fart?”
Before I can guffaw over my brilliance and crown myself as ‘Budding Scientist of the Year’, the little big scientist interrupts, “Heard of the trumpet Mommy? It’s a wind instrument. And that’s how farts are made!! Food and air get sandwiched in the intestines pushing one another until finally, all trapped air gets released creating you know what.”
That’s a clean bowled. I shut up gaping at her like some goldfish. Period. Within the next second though, my lips break into a smile. I am proud of the invasion of Science in my life this time round. If only my teachers came up with such explanations, the world would be one engineer richer (although, I am not sure the world needs one more).
The sound of music has indeed changed my love or shall I say hatred for Science. Life always has a plan. And it’s the best one, I confess.
P.S. My 6 year old went unscathed by the theory and examples provided by her sister. After 30 minutes of my power struggle with the older one, all Monu could figure out were vibrations she could create by spanking me and giggling. She sounded quite pissed when she mentioned, “I don’t understand a thing you say! So, what are vocal chords?”