The Case of the Gliding Shark

20130520_082829_rot[Editor’s Note: The Case of the Gliding Shark (Adventures of Detective Speedo) is the first in, what might become, a series of short stories centered around Speedo – a fish detective. The author is my older son who’ll soon turn ten. He wrote this story four months ago for a school assignment. Barring some editorial help from his mother, the plot and storyline is all his.]

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One day, in the ocean, a fish named Speedo was swimming around Fish City looking for an international fish-thief nicknamed “The Gliding Shark”. Speedo was a fish police detective. Minutes went by, hours went by and then suddenly he saw something. Slowly he crept towards it. It was only then he realized that it was a hole dug recently because it had loose sand. He also found a finker-chief with the initials G.S. Those were the thief’s initials. Wow! A clue! Soon it was time to go back after some more searching.

Later, in his crime lab, Speedo checked the fin-prints. They did not belong to the Gliding Shark. These unusual fin-prints must belong to one of his hench fishes, Speedo thought. Maybe one of them had his fin-kerchief and dropped it while digging.

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The next day Speedo came back to the spot he was searching and all of a sudden heard a sound. CLANK! SWISH! CLANK! Slowly Speedo peeped in the direction of the sounds and almost fainted at what he saw. A cruel-looking fish was digging away sand with a spade. He could dimly see G… and another letter on the spade. What was the other letter? he thought. In a flash, the thought came to him that it must be the Gliding Shark!

As slow as a turtle, as quiet as a mouse, Speedo swam away. After a while he began to swim faster and faster. Soon he reached Fish City’s police station, huffing and puffing. He pushed his way in and ran straight to the fish-inspector. Speedo explained all the important events to the fish-inspector who got excited and ran to bring his fish- officers. Soon, they all were swimming at full speed to the crime spot.

Instead of showing themselves immediately, the fish-officers had a plan. Each and every officer followed Speedo over the (cave shaped) mould of hard mud. First two, then four, six, eight and more eyes peeped down. The fish-inspector’s jaw dropped and he almost slipped off the mould. An extraordinary thing happened. First, Speedo quietly requested the fish-inspector to send an officer with fin-cuffs to the bottom of the mould and watch what happens.

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One fish-officer bent down to carefully inspect the fish-thief’s work and jumped up in a few minutes, scaring the other fish-officers. The officer excitedly explained that the fish-thief was digging out metal and other unidentified stolen objects. On hearing this, Speedo whirled around and dived straight off the mould and knocked the fish-thief’s spade down. Just as he signalled the fish-officer with the fin-cuffs and tried to get hold of the fish-thief – the fish-thief began swimming away at the speed of sound. When the other fish-officers and fish-inspector dived down, the fish-thief was even more scared and ran helter-skelter, pushing dustbins in his path, throwing rocks into fish-houses (CRASH!) and hitting anyone in his way.

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It was very tough for the fish-police to manage the thief. After a while, two fish-officers swam to a side path. When the fish-thief noticed that fewer fish-officers were chasing him, he was mystified. Suddenly, Speedo shouted “This is the real culprit!” Meanwhile, the Gliding Shark soon found out what happened to the other fish-officers.

Before you could finish blinking your eyes, the two missing fish-officers appeared. One of them put fin-cuffs around the fish-thief’s fins. In a few weeks, the valuables were found in the fish-thief’s home along with his fake fins.

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From the author (S)

This is my first attempt to write my own novel. It was a school assignment. I enjoyed writing it but it took a lot of hard work from me. I would like to thank my mother for her support.

About the author (written by his mother)

S is a bright 4th grade student who enjoys detective stories. At the tender age of 9.5 years, his first short story reveals an active imagination and promises to be the start of an exciting series of books. Stay tuned for more adventures of Detective Speedo in which he solves exciting mysteries.

Sulking, Darwin Theory, Barbers and More…

Google couldn’t help me with the right image for a sulky child. Best (feline) alternative courtesy catfacts101.com

It’s been ages since I posted the last kiddism. Lest our parental radar loses its sensitivity, here are the latest kiddisms that have survived the ravages of this. In reverse chronological order…

Kiddism #158 (S): “Even when I’m sulking, I’m actually happy. There’s so much to DO!”

This one (from the recent weekend) sparked off all those Kiddism memories.

Kiddism #157 (A): “What if all the barbers in the world want to have a haircut at the same time – what do you think will happen?”

This is from a year ago. I confessed to being checkmated.

Kiddism #156 (S): “A guy with long hair looks like a woman with a moustache.”

The recent incident of the Sikh student at Ohio State University served to remind me.

Kiddism #155(A): “How was the FIRST cat in the world created?”

Me: “Um.. err.. great question. I need to tell you about Darwin theory and God theory. It’s a long answer, ok?”

Also from a year ago. The long answer hasn’t been provided yet.. not because I’m not ready but because he has forgotten.

Kiddism #154 (A): “Everybody is wrong! the whole world is wrong.”

Kiddism #153 (A): “I don’t agree with ANY of you!

The previous two quotes were uttered at different times in the past year and, in a nutshell, define him.

 

Listen to Keith Jarrett or help dad change the tire?

Inside the hood of a Reva (Pic: courtesy team-bhp.com)

After two years of Reva ownership, I faced my first flat tire on Saturday. Fortunately it was discovered in the garage so no inconvenience there.

Sunday morning I headed downstairs to the parking area with an OMG-I’m-going-to-help-daddy 9-year old as my helper. A few minutes after we had surreptitiously exited the apartment, mommy had to face major fireworks from the young ‘un. The volcanic fire was eventually quelled with repeated assurances that next time would be his turn.

Replacing the flat tire with the spare was surprisingly easy – it took us about 20 minutes. If you haven’t seen a Reva in the metal yet, the spare tire and the jack are neatly positioned under the hood itself (see picture to the left).

Later in the evening, after we returned with a fixed tire and finished dinner earlier than usual, an opportunity presented itself. An opportunity to make amends to the young ‘un because, you see, the emotional health and well-being of the family rests on how well the mascot of the family is feeling. Does this sound like appeasement? Not in a hundred years.

When I announced to the young ‘un that he was going to help me put the fixed tire back in the hood, he seemed happy enough — but nowhere close to the OMG-I’m-going-to-help-daddy vibes I got from the older one. As we walked out the door,  on an impulse, I propped our 9 year old in the middle of the living room couch, switched off the lights, put on Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert and told him to just listen.

As we walked down the stairs, the little grumbler of course had to ask “When will I get to listen to music like that?” That’s when I delivered my killer line “There are always many awesome things we could be doing at any time. You are helping me put the spare tire back in the hood, your brother is listening to some nice music alone in a dark living room. Both of you are having fun, right?”

The normally argumentative and competitive child didn’t answer. It doesn’t happen often so definitely a hopeful sign.

 

I will if you want me to.

Pic: courtesy profimedia.com

Most people in the world, when asked if they’d like another serving of food, would answer either “Yes” or “No”.

Some people would defer the decision until such a point where they are sure. Let’s chalk their answer to “Maybe”.

The past few months our younger son has been throwing a googly at us with this reply: I will (eat more) if you want me to.

Depending on the parents’ mood, the exasperated (or amused) response would be “Well, do you WANT more or NOT?”

This is the part where it gets interesting. Sometimes the answer would be “Yes”, other times it would be “No”.

In his own personal version of “Maybe”, this seems to be his clever way of ingratiating himself with the parents. Heads or tails I win. At least that’s what I think. But what do I know? He’s the twenty-first century model, not me.

 

Does every living thing need to have some “use”?

India’s largest banyan tree, Kolkata

During tonight’s good night ritual with the kids, the following conversation with my 9-year old.

S: Does a banyan tree have any fruits?

Me: No.

S: Does it have any flowers?

Me: I don’t think so.

S: Then what’s the USE of a banyan tree?

Me: Well, it gives a LOT of shade. It grows up to be a really tall tree and, more importantly, a really broad tree.

After I returned to my desk, I learned a lot more things about the banyan tree (epiphytes, Bodh Gaya, Bhagavad Gita, etc.) which I’ll share with S at a suitable time. But.. the thought-provoking question for me was broader than a banyan’s boughs – does every living thing need to have some “use”?

Do leave your answer in the blog’s comments.

Update (Jun 28): I omitted to mention what answer my atheist friend (and Richard Dawkins fan) gave *last year* – “all living beings (including humans) have just ONE purpose/use and that is to reproduce!”

Kids and one-upmanship

Pic: courtesy cartoonstock.com

The conversation below is between four Indian kids. Indian kids who know that marathon equals the precise distance of 42.2 km and isn’t a modifier like “5k marathon” or “10k marathon”. The conversation took place sometime in 2010. I wasn’t a live witness but my friend Shalini related it soon after.

A: “My father has run a marathon!”

P: “MY father has run a 50k ultra!”

S: “MY father has run a 75k ultra!”

(pause… pause… pause)

A: “My father’s FRIEND has run a 100k ultra!”

 

In that case I’ll buy a cheaper car

Pic: courtesy Bing/Mercedes-Benz

A conversation between our 6-year old (A) and his mom. I was just a fly on the wall.

A: When I grow up I’ll buy a Mercedes.

MOM: Why Mercedes?

A: Because its your favorite car.

MOM: (gives him a sentimental hug and replies practically) Then you have to study VERY hard in school and college, get a REALLY good job, save money for SEVERAL years and then you may be able to afford a Mercedes.

A: Then I’ll buy a cheap car.

MOM: (looked at him disapprovingly for shirking hard work).

A:  But I want to buy a car as soon as possible.

MOM: Ok, so when you get a job, buy a nice used car and keep saving until you have enough for a Mercedes.

A: Thank you Mama, I really DO want to buy a Mercedes for you.

 

My 8 year old weighs in on the barefoot running debate

Pic: courtesy summerscurry.blogspot.com

Last Saturday, our 3rd grader had his annual school sports day. Since he had qualified for the heats in two categories (75 meter and 30 meter sprints), he was tickled pink and excited for weeks leading up to this event. Sadly, it was a low-key event with parents not being invited. When I went to pick him up, the first thing I noticed was that he was barefoot. As the sports meet was not over yet I was looking for body language clues on how he had fared. Besides flashing his usual gorgeous smile, there was to be no indication (I made a mental note that we need to play Charades more often).

As the line of 3rd graders walked towards the waiting parents, one of the kids turned to my younger son with “Your brother came first!” A few minutes later, a beaming S walks in to the frame and jubilantly announced that he had won the 75 meter sprint and came second in the 30 meter sprint. In one fell swoop, S had won more sports medals at school than the last few generations of Kurugantis combined.

For last year’s sports meet, S had trained for his runs with “spike shoes”. In a strange anti-climax, he ran his races in his regular canvas shoes because he “didn’t get time to change.” This year I advised him to just run in his canvas shoes since he had not trained with the spike shoes.

S couldn’t wait to tell us about his adventures in barefoot running. The story came out in breathless bursts on the drive home as he (and his brother) chomped down on 5-Star victory bars.

S: “I ran the first qualifying race with the canvas shoes. Came fifth but still qualified for next stage.”

Me: “Hmm…”

S: “I noticed a few of my friends running barefoot so I thought let me give it a try for the next race. I ran barefoot in the ‘semi-final’ race and came first. So I decided to run barefoot for the rest of the races.”

Me: “Interesting. So how was it running barefoot, S?”

S: “I LOVED it! I could grip the ground soooo much better, especially with all my toes! I’m going to run barefoot next year too. Can I run barefoot for the next 5k race too?

Me: (Clearing throat) “We’ll talk about your next 5k race later.”

S (chuckling a bit): “You know the best part about winning the 75m dash? …(continues) Beating AM, who was even wearing spikes!”

(AM is a good friend of S and they share a friendly running rivalry. Last year, AM had beaten S quite comfortably. On a coincidental note, AM’s father and I were classmates in Timpany School, Vizag circa mid-1980’s).

Back in November 2011, after reading The Once and Future Way to Run (by the legendary Christopher McDougall), I started giving serious consideration to barefoot running. Perhaps in the 2012 season, I thought to myself. Turns out my 8 year old has beaten me to it.

Can you live so completely that there is only the active present now?

From the chapter “A fundamental question” in Jiddu Krishnamurti’s The Awakening of Intelligence. This chapter was from a lecture delivered in Madras on Jan 12, 1968. The closing excerpt (reproduced here) made an impression on me.

Questioner: Sir, if we are not in the past, but in the present, does that also become the past and the future – how are we to know that we are right?

JK: You don’t have to be sure you are right — be wrong! Why are you frightened about being right or wrong? But your question has no validity at all because you are just talking, you are just theorising. You are saying, “If this happens, that would happen.” But if you put it into action then you would know there is no such thing as “going wrong.”

Questioner: Sir, when we go back home we see our children and the past comes in.

Questioner: Shankara may go.

JK: I hope it has gone. Shankara may go but the children remain. (Laughter) Are the children the past? They are in one sense. And as they are living human beings, can you educate them to live completely, in the way we are talking about?

Questioner: Right Sir, you have answered it, sorry.

JK: That means I have to help them to be intelligent, I have to help them to be sensitive, because sensitivity, highest sensitivity is the highest intelligence. Therefore if there are no schools around you, you have to help them at home to be sensitive, to look at the trees, to look at the flowers, to listen to the birds, to plant a tree if you have a little yard — or if you have no yard to have a tree in a pot and to look at it, to cherish it, to water it, not to tear its leaves. And as the schools do not want them to be sensitive, educated, intelligent (schools only exist to pass exams and get a job) you have to help them at home, to help them to discuss with you, why you go to a temple, why you do this ceremony, why you read the Bible, the Gita — you follow? — so that they are questioning you all the time, so that neither you nor anyone else becomes an authority. But I am afraid you won’t do any of this because the climate, the food, the tradition is too much for you, so you slip back and lead a monstrously ugly life. But I think, if you have the energy, the drive, the passion, that is the only way to live.

 

Looking for cross-training ideas? Here’s one: 4-year-old on a bicycle!

For almost a year now, my Sunday morning ritual has involved my two boys with their bicycles. The seven-year-old “S” is the veteran – having a couple of years of cycling miles under his belt. The younger one “A” (almost five) is going through a cycling growth spurt. After graduating to the big-boy cycle 9 months ago, he has become virtually unstoppable. His feet don’t reach the ground yet so I taught him how to get off the cycle without mishap – it’s the getting-on bit which remains to be mastered. Does this constrain his bicycling? Not a bit.

As he bicycles around the inner Raheja loop, I run alongside – the only time in the week when I look forward to up-inclines (where he labors) and dread the down-inclines (where he canters). The few Raheja denizens who are up and about would have probably heard me mouthing one of the following: “SLOW down or I’ll have to stop you!”, “STOP pedaling when you are braking”, or “DON’T go through that puddle!”. Meanwhile, the older one is not content merely riding solo so he constantly creeps up, eggs his younger brother to ride faster, making me yell “Don’t come so close!” or Don’t make him ride faster”.

After every lap or so, I’d ask him whether he needed a water break. The benign question (that it was!) would usually be answered in the affirmative or negative. Lately, he’s been countering with “Do YOU want to take a break, Daddy?” He’s catching on, for sure. He’s also started to notice my labored breaths after a few laps, slows down proactively and adds, for good measure, “I’m going slow so you won’t get too tired!”. And then two Sundays ago, he dropped the bombshell.

“Daddy! Today I was cycling faster because I wanted YOU to run faster!” He added: “I want you to win the next marathon and… increase your running distance to 50k and then 100k!” The hunter had become the hunted. The trainer had become the trainee.

So where did this come from? On Sep 19, 2010, my two boys saw me complete my 4th marathon at Srirangapatnam and noticed that (hmm…) there were several people who finished before their dad. Regarding the 100k distance, I had introduced them to Yasuhiro Honda as “the fastest 100k ultra-runner in Bangalore” – apparently it had made an impression!

So if you are a long distance runner and tired of the boring routine of tempo runs, interval training, and gym routine, you know what to do! If you aren’t yet a parent with an appropriately old kid, well! look around you – I’m sure ONE of your married friends with kids can oblige. Now why does this remind me of that Volkswagen Jetta ad from 5-6 years ago?