“Papa, come sit with me for breakfast,” my seven-year old son studying in standard two asks me on a cloudy Sunday morning.
On holidays I usually let him oversleep, to make it up for my tortures on school days — pulling him out of bed at 5:45 am absolutely heartrendingly, and pushing him to the basin to brush and get ready. With eyes tightly closed, he staggers, slumps, leans on anything that comes on the way. He stiffens his muscles, either ignoring my raised voice, or protesting with a cry, pleading with me to let him sleep for a few more minutes. Relegating my fatherly love to another time, I ruthlessly drag him out because school can’t be missed. There is never time for eating and I know he doesn’t properly eat the school breakfast either, served remarkably dispassionately.
He hates sleeping in the afternoon, no matter how many stories I tell him or whether I pin him to bed, draw the curtains and switch off the lights. Every day, we try our best to sleep early, but it doesn’t happen. It’s always 11 pm by the time we wind up for the day and hit the bed. The poor soul under-sleeps every day, at a time when he must rest enough to grow and get recharged.
I pity him when I compare his 7.30 am school to my 10:30 am. We had plenty of time to wake up, laze around, play with grandfather, fight with siblings and have a heavy breakfast before running off to school. My school was a breezy 5-minute walk from home amid rolling paddy fields, compared to his breakneck 30-minute drive alongside large SUVs and maddeningly fast yellow buses that hit the road simultaneously, all racing against time to offload the uniformed sleepy little kids on time.
Today, it is already 10:20 am. I have long finished my breakfast and just switched on the home computer to email an assignment to my students.
In the adjacent room, he has splayed himself on the bed, rolling the comforter around one leg, the other leg hanging out. It’s a happy morning for him and my morning of repentance. Of redemption of a week-long guilt.
After lazing around for about half and hour, shuttling between the bed, the balcony, the sofa, the recliner, and somewhere in between, my lap, he reluctantly brushes his teeth and comes to me for the usual quality check.
That’s my cue. I hold his chin up, and inspect the insides. He dutifully retracts his tongue to show me the back of his teeth. He then sticks it out with pride, to show me how “pink” it is.
Good job boy! Well brushed.
Then, as I was afraid he would do, he tries to push the keyboard drawer in, to create a gap between the computer table and me, to allow him to climb on me. He loves watching YouTube sitting on my lap, but the unending scroll of videos scare daylights out of me.
I keep pulling the drawer back. “Look, I have work to do. Go away, don’t disturb me.” I tell him.
“What work do you have today? It’s a holiday, ” he complains.
“It’s a holiday for you. Not for me. I have to send mails to my students.”
“Big students? Oh, in your college?”
“Yeah, BIG students.”
“What do you teach them Papa?” he asks unexpectedly.
“Ha ha, you won’t understand, ” I say, squeezing his cheeks.
“Tell me. I will try.”
“Okay, if you insist. ” I think for a second. “How many bits are there in the IP address?”
I have a disgustingly smug smile on my face, asking a little boy Computer Networking protocol questions. In digital electronics, a bit is one data unit, represented by single digit binary number. Millions of such bits combined store our music, videos and an assortment of other files.
“Aen?” He makes a face.
I repeat myself, “How many bits in the IP address?”
“Papa, what bits?” he asks me as I run my fingers on his smooth thighs which look a bit fuller. He has been eating better these days. Good boy!
“Bit is a binary number. Like you have decimal number, zero to nine and ten, eleven, there are binary numbers using only zero and one.”
“What happened to the other numbers?”
Big mistake! I immediately repent my decision. What kind of discussion I got into, I curse myself.
“They aren’t required. You can write all numbers using zero and one. Like, say…ummm….ten.”
I realize my stupidity, because ten already has zero and one. So, I correct myself. “Like nine. You can write nine using zero and one.”
I expect a puzzled expression on his face. I brace myself for more silly questions. I get ready to be irritated further.
Instead, he looks at me and gives me a brilliant smile. “Oh, like this papa?” Like a bulb has gone off somewhere inside his brain. Balancing himself on the floor and my thighs, he looks up at my face and neatly draws a ‘zero’ in the air and a ‘one’ underneath.
I clutch him tightly and burst out laughing, ignoring the now-puzzled boy’s requests for an explanation. After getting drunk on his innocence, I put my lips to his cheek and suck them noisily. He cries, but I don’t want to let it go as yet.
“What papa? Tell me na!”
Yes, that’s how you write nine in binary, I want to say. Nine is after all a zero balanced on one!