My school is shaped like a hexagon. I know that’s a big
word, but it’s simple. Really. A hexagon has six sides. My school is a hexagon
because it has six sides. Do you know why? Well, because six carbon atoms can
make a hexagon. When carbon atoms join up they do this with bonds. Like tiny
elastic strings that join them. One string is called a single bond and two
strings are called a double bond. Double bonds are stronger than single bonds,
of course. When six carbon atoms make a hexagon, they use one single bond, then
a double bond, then a single and so on. That makes the hexagon stronger. And
then, you can fix a hydrogen atom to each carbon atom, at all the corners of
the hexagon, and you get a molecule called Benzene. Benzene smells rather nice
and it burns like petrol, so you have to be very careful with it.
The benzene ring.
Benzene is very important. It’s because of Benzene that we
have life on Earth. Benzene rings can join up together to make really big
molecules. That’s what our bodies are made of. Trees, animals, food, plastics
are all made of benzene rings. Everyone knows this of course. I learnt this
when I was very little and now I look for more complicated things because I am
much older. I am nine, and a half.
My school is shaped to look like a Benzene ring from the
air. There are six circular domes connected by corridors, double corridors for
the double bonds and single corridors for the single bonds. The domes are
called C1 to C6. Connected to each dome there is another small corridor leading
to six smaller circular rooms called H1 to H6.
We can do what we like in my school. First, we decide what
we want to know and how to know it. Sometime we choose study. This means you
have to listen to a teacher and write down what she says. Most of the time we
learn – by getting together with our friends and surfing and searching the
Cloud. I don’t like studying much because it makes me feel sleepy.
On Saturday, Pa and Mum and I had a big breakfast, but
things were not good after that. Pa got really annoyed with mum and threw his coffee
on the ground. They were arguing and made me go up to my room. I didn’t want to
so I stood near the door until Pa said, ‘Jini, get out’ so loudly that I
started to cry and ran upstairs. I knew then he was going to hit mum and I
heard her sobbing and falling.
I tried not to listen but they were really loud, so I put on
my earplugs and told Prime that I was not happy. Prime said to take it near the
door so it could listen too. Pa was saying things I couldn’t understand and he
was kicking and slapping my mum.
‘Go to school, Jini’, said Prime.
‘But its Saturday’
‘GO TO SCHOOL’, Prime said, loudly.
I put Prime in its silicone case, hung it around my neck and
slipped out of the back door. It took twenty minutes of running to reach school
and it was all closed. Prime connected with school and everything came on at
once. I could not see very well because I was crying. Not a lot, you know. Just
All the walls in my school are of glass and I ran into H4
because I saw Granny Diane come on sleepily on the wall. She is my best friend,
although she was not looking her best, early morning in her country, Belgium,
four and a half hours behind Indian time.
‘Good morning, Diane, why are you here on Saturday?’, I
‘Your Prime called me Jini, are you OK?’
Diane has a soft voice and it makes me feel very comfortable
so we sat and talked for a long time. Diane told me about people and
relationships and how not to get worried about things. She was also typing all
the time, I could tell, although she pretended not to.
I ended up having a really good time that morning because
two kids from Malaga came on the side screen and we played with virtual Lego
for a while. It was a bit slow because we had to use Google Voice Translate to
talk – they speak only Spanish in Malaga, you know. Then Mr. Maskall from
Australia came on looking very sleepy because it was past his bedtime and told
me about the time we found life on Titan and how excited everyone was.
At four, Prime said I should go home, so I went and school
locked itself up.
My parents were out and Prime said they had gone to a
counsellor and would be back in the evening. I propped Prime up on the lawn and
played virtual tennis with it until I was really tired. Then we went in and
Played SimCity for a while. You know, a city runs really well if you adjust the
demand-supply curves properly.
Monday is curriculum day. Oh, I know it’s another big word
but we have to do it. Curriculum is about what we have to learn. Every Monday
we decide what we want to learn that week. We look for BIG questions on the
Cloud and also ask the Granny Cloud of course. Then we make up a plan and take
it to Mrs Steel. She then makes a plan for us. Prime said Sumeeta is online and
‘I don’t have any time, Jini’, said Sumeeta. She always says
that and then talks for an hour. She told me about how seasonal fruits have the
right vitamins for us, but the question is why is it that way? Really, do they know
what we need? That’s a cool question I thought. Prime said it will remember
that question for Monday.
‘I hope they don’t ask all this in the exam’, I said to
‘Exams are only to find out if you know how to learn
something’, said Prime
‘Of course I know how to learn things, stupid!’
‘Well the school needs to know that’, said Prime in a matter
of fact way. I put Prime upside down and it went to sleep.
Mum and Pa came back at six. I was a bit anxious but it was
OK. Pa said he was sorry about what happened in the morning and he will try not
to be that way again
I know! I know what happened. Their Primes must have
listened in the morning too. And then talked to my Prime. And they must have
talked to Diane, that’s why she was up so early and why she was text chatting
while talking to me. She must have organised the counselling.
I woke Prime up and asked about counselling. Prime said the
counsellors try to calm people down when they are angry and sometimes use
medicines. They used to do this to children a long time ago, when they thought
children who don’t pay attention have some disease. But someone found out that
it is adults who make children behave that way and invented medicines to treat
them, the adults. Lucky us!
Pa had got himself a very big whiskey and was sitting
watching 3V in the living room. Mum looked quite cheerful and was playing with
her Prime. I sat down next to Pa, his stomach is like a trampoline, very nice.
‘I am having a bad time in office’, said Pa, ‘the quantum
entanglement storage device isn’t storing half as much data as it should, I
can’t even get a thousand terabytes in a square micron’
I had heard him complain about this before.
‘I am going to ask Serge on Monday, maybe he will have an
idea’. I said.
‘Who is Serge?’, asked Pa
‘He is very old, more than 110 years, but he says he knows a
bit about quantum entanglement. He is there on Mondays on the Granny Cloud’
Pa sat up and stared at me, ‘Do you mean Serge Haroche?’
‘He won the Nobel Prize!’
‘Yes, I think that’s him’, I said, yawning.
Pa was silent for a while. Then he got up and went to the
kitchen sink and poured his whiskey out. Then he came back and we talked about collapsing
waves of probability. Even mum didn’t interrupt.
That night I dreamt of an old man with a funny German name.
He put a cat into a box with some poison that may or may not work, and closed
the lid. He said, as long as the box remained closed, the cat was alive and
dead at the same time. As soon as you open the box, it would be either alive
It’s funny what old people say.