Friday, December 30, 2016

Singing Elephants (With A Cobra Thrown In!)

Dancing Elephant. Photo Courtesy:
After a long, mentally exhausting day working, I reach Anna's house just after 5pm. That's the normal time he wakes up after his early evening nap. He is still in bed but awake.

Me: Anna! You awake?!

Anna (Looking up at me with a bright face and big smile): Bandiya-amma? (Loosely translated from Kannada it means - "You have come").

Me (smiling back at him): Yes Anna.

Anna: When did you come from Salem?

Me (realizing he is thinking of someone else): I came from Delhi, Anna.

Singing Elephants (c) John Lund
Anna (still smiling): You missed the elephants singing.

Me (deciding to play along): Really? What were they singing?

Anna: They were singing so well! Melodious songs.

Me: Oh good! Where were they, Anna?

Anna (pointing to the roof and high up on the walls): Here in the room.

Me: That's nice.

Anna: They often come and sing for me.

Me: Really Anna? How often do they come and sing for you?

Anna: Every other day. Some days they come and some days they don't.

 Me: Anna, what do they sing?

Anna: Beautiful songs.
Photo Courtesy: Kurt Halsey

Me (by now I am also smiling): Anna, do they trumpet-sing or do they sing like us.

Anna: They sing like us. Beautiful songs. With music.

Me: That is so nice for you Anna.

Anna's eyes move away from me.

Anna (pointing to the corner of the ceiling diagonally opposite from him): Oh see! One of them is there looking at us.

Me (looking up to where he is pointing, looking for an elephant on the ceiling or wall): Yes Anna. Do you think he will sing again?

Anna: I don't know. He is just smiling at us. He is also happy.

Me: That's nice Anna. Pause. Do you want to get up and have coffee.

Anna: Yes.

At the sound of coffee, Anna perks up more - as if that is possible in his happy mood, caused by singing elephants in his room! We lift Anna off his bed and help him shuffle to the dining room.

Anna: I haven't seen the black king cobra for some time.

Me (confused with the move from elephants to cobras): What cobra Anna?

Anna: The one who comes and dances for us sometimes.

Me: Really Anna?

I look at Anna's attendant and housekeeper, confusion writ all over my face.  They nod.

Anna: Yes. Is it because it is raining?

Me: Anna, it is not raining.

Anna: I should ask the elephants why the cobra hasn't come.

Me: Yes Anna. Do that the next time they come to sing for you.

 Photo Courtesy:
Anna's coffee arrives. His bother has sent a big box of jaangiri, laddu and boondi for him and I open it to ask Anna what he wants to eat. Of course, he chooses the jaangiri! And eats it with glee. And forgets the elephants and cobra.

And I? I drink my coffee and feel completely relaxed.

Friday, December 23, 2016

One Foot Up And The Other Down

The evil eye has fallen on Anna - Anna को नज़र लग गया !! Go grab 3 red dry chilies, some rock salt, and mustard seeds. Close your fists and rotate your fists over Anna's imaginary head. The right fist clockwise and then the left fist, anti-clockwise. Repeat to complete three sets. Then burn the contents of both fists on a hot tawa!! Don't tell me if it smokes and stings your eyes or not! I will just assume it worked. 

But jokes apart, let me tell you why I say, "Anna को बुरी नज़र लग गया". Since August this year, I have been unable to take Anna out for coffee every weekend as I used to. Not because Anna or I don't want to. Its because he is lethargic or sleeping on weekends. So 2-3 weeks can pass before I manage to take him out. 

So this December, after a couple of weeks of trying to take Anna out, we finally manage to go to Saket Select Citywalk. I've been prepping him for days. Telling him about our planned coffee outing, reminding him of the cookies and muffins he likes. The attendant spends the morning telling Anna again and again that we are planning to go out. I know this may seem like a lot of planning and enthusiasm for a coffee outing, but it is a big thing.

Anna is bright and awake. We park at our usual place in the P1 handicapped parking area. I ask Anna if he will walk or does he want to be driven in "his BMW"? (Anna affectionately refers to his wheelchair as his BMW). Anna, says he will walk. We shuffle-stop-shuffle-stop-shuffle slowly into the mall. I chatter on about the sights, from the mundane (the trophy case) to the exotic (decorations). I am just trying to keep him involved (and awake).

Anna is very interested and curious. He notices everything. We stop after a few shuffling steps for him to catch his breath and converse. 
Saket Select Citywalk Atrium

Anna: What are those small windows?

Me (looking at the new google phone and tablet display in the atrium): Anna, those are not windows, those are phones on display.

Anna: Very large phones.

Me: Yes, Anna.

Anna: People can build muscles using the phone. Two benefits for the price of one.

What?? We shuffle some more.

Mahatma Gandhi with Manuben and Abha

Anna: This floor is so bright.

Me: Bright Anna? Pause. Yes, it is shining.

Anna: Bright and shining. Means the same thing when we talk about a floor.

Me: Yes Anna.

Anna: I have to be careful. Pause. I may slip.

Me (referring to me and Anna's attendant): Don't worry Anna, you are being supported by two people.

Anna (referring to Mahatma Gandhi and his grandnieces Abha and Manuben): How Gandhi-esque!

What??? I don't want to get into the controversy surrounding Gandhiji and his grandnieces, and hence encourage him to walk (shuffle) some more.

The Nursery Rhymes of England:
Obtained Principally from Oral Tradition
By James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps
Me: Anna, you are walking a lot today. Aren't you tired?

Anna: No. I can walk more.

Me (impressed by his stamina): What did you eat for breakfast today?

Anna is confused by this statement. 

Me: Anna, if you talk a lot, then people ask if you had alphabet soup for breakfast. So if you walk a lot, I ask what you ate for breakfast.

I think this is too convoluted for Anna. It is. He just quotes a poem he and his brothers were purportedly taught for an entire semester in junior school.

Me (not even thinking of the dichotomy of London Town referring to an US Company's brand!): That's right Anna. One foot up and the other down.  

By now we are nearing Starbucks. What a feat!!! For a man who walks barely 100m on any given day.

Me: Anna, can you see Starbucks?

Anna (tilting his head a bit): No. Where?

Me (pointing to Starbucks, which is just ahead): Anna, can't you see the green logo?

Anna decimates an oatmeal and raisin cookie at Starbucks

Anna (squinting a little): Hmm! It doesn't matter if I can see the logo. I can smell the coffee. That is most important.

It sure is!!

The smell of coffee propels him to Starbucks and a table (they still do not have tables that are wheelchair friendly). He sits with a loud sigh. And then goes on to demolish a oatmeal and raisin cookie after drinking a cappuccino.

Caregiving sure feels like endless days of "one foot up and the other foot down"!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

My Father, The Feminist

Diversity Dialogs' Logo
I continue to chat with my father on gender and gender diversity.

A little more background on my father, Anna. He was born into a family that was not well off, with 10 children (7 of them girls). His mother was a strong woman. As were many of his sisters. He saw and lived thru' the struggles of his mother and his sisters (and there were many). I think his perspective on equal rights for women came from some of those experiences.

Anna insisted that we all study what we want and for however long we want. That we ask questions. That we experience the different. And that we work and became financially independent. Tho' Amma, my mother did not work, Anna and Amma would always say to us, "Do whatever you want. Just ensure you earn enough to support yourself."

Here are some more snippets of our dialogs.

Snippet 4 - The right to worship

Anna and I watch the news of women entering Haji Ali after 5 years.

Anna: What is happening?

Me: Anna for many years, women have been fighting legal battles and protesting to get equal access to places of worship. Like to Sabarimala, Haji Ali, Shani Shingnapur.

Anna: Why?

Me: Anna, women believe that they have as much right to worship their Gods as men do. And that religious institutions can not restrict them based on gender.

Anna: But every religion has the right to manage its religious affairs.  How did this change? Was it the court?

Me: Anna, I understand that the Dargah Trustees listened to the Supreme Court and made provisions to enable women and men to worship at Haji Ali.

Anna: It is a good start. I hope that other religions and shrines learn from this and make worship equal for all.

Snippet 5 - The Treatment of Widows

A child widow. From the movie "Water"
Anna: Only in Hinduism do we uglify our widows.

I am sure there is no such word as "uglify" in the English language, but I let it pass. I am sure that the conversation will be more interesting than correct English.

Me: Anna, why do you think that widows are treated so badly?

Anna: It was a way to subdue widows. Their heads were shaved. They were made to wear drab white. They were starved. Kept hidden away from people. All this was to make sure that no one would find her attractive and marry her. It was a way to keep wealth and property in the family.

Long Pause.

Anna: How could we forget that she was a daughter and sister first, and then a wife and mother. Treating your daughter, sister, or mother so badly is against humanity.

Long Pause.

Anna: Relationships are more important that state of a person.

Snippet 6 - One Child Can Make A Change 

My maternal grandfather, PR Krishnarao
Me: Anna, you remember the story about Daddy and his mother?

Daddy was what we called our maternal grandfather.

Anna nods his head. I get the feeling that recalling the story is too much of a strain for him.  So I retell him the story.

Anna, remember Daddy lost his father when he was very young. He was brought up by his widowed mother in his uncle's house. Daddy was sent to a nearby school to study.

When he was 8 or so, he had his first "exam". Being a studious boy, Daddy studied hard for his first examination test.

On the day of the exam, as he was leaving the house, Daddy looked everywhere for his mother. He wanted to see her face and get her blessings, but she was nowhere to be found. Finally, he heard her sobbing behind a locked door. When he asked her to come out so that he could see her face before he went for his exam, Daddy was told by his uncle that he could not see his mother. After all Daddy's first real exam was an auspicious occasion and it could not be cursed by even the shadow of a widow. His mother was considered the widow who had brought bad luck to the family and hence she would bring Daddy bad luck.

However, that 8 year old boy did not listen to the "curse of the widow". Stubbornly he told his uncle that he would not go to school for his exam if he could not see his mother's face and get her blessings. Threats were made, doomsday tales of perpetual ill luck were told but Daddy would not be swayed. He sat outside the locked door and would not budge. Till finally his uncle relented and opened the door. Daddy saw his widowed mother's face, asked for her blessings, and ran all the way to school, reaching just in time for the test. And he did extremely well.

As the story goes, after that day, no one in the house could ever claim that his widowed mother was the harbinger of bad luck.

Anna is slowly nodding his head as I recount this story and smiling a little. He has probably heard this story a thousand times.

Anna: See, even an 8 year old child can cause change. That is what we need. One child, one change, one family at time.

.... Watch this space for more snippets as our dialoging continues

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My Father's Take on Gender Diversity - Part 1

Ever since my father's hospital stay in Jul-Aug this year, he has been slowing down. It is visible. And palpable. Our conversations are short and simple. And, of course, repetitive.

The last month has also been the time when our new venture, Diversity Dialogs has taken shape. I have been chatting with Anna on many aspects of the business. From the mundane to the intellectual. These conversations have been spread over many days and many hours. I find his perspectives revealing - not just on the issue of gender diversity, but also on what he sees as simple actions to include more women.

Here are some snippets of our dialogs.

Snippet 1 - All Humans Are One

Artist: Vivian Zapata, 2005. Commissioned by the
Ford Foundation project
Documenting the Differences Diversity Makes

Me: Anna, Rosita and I are founding a company called Diversity Dialogs.

Anna: Sangeeta, what is diversity?

That is tough one to answer simply.

Me:  It is the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas. It can happen when we classify and segregate a natural group into more than one category.

He looks at me strangely.

Me: Anna, for example when we use different ways to classify people, we create diverse sub-groups. Diversity is recognizing that there are differences. But they are part of a whole. And it is the "the whole" that works.

I continue to get a strange look. So I decide to use examples.

Me: Anna, people are really one group. When we classify people by religion or gender or caste, we have diverse groups of people. Essentially one group split into more than one.

Anna: But they are still one group. They are of the same parent.

"Yes", I think. If we could all just think of people as just people and not as categories of people.

Snippet 2 - All It Takes, Is One Good Man

Me: Anna, we are starting with helping companies improve Gender Diversity. Pause. How to ensure more women join and stay in the workforce. Help them to grow and lead organizations.

Anna: That's not the first thing to start with.

Me: Why Anna? Should we start with something else?

Anna: It starts with educating all girls.

Me (understanding what "start" means for him): Yes Anna. But not all young girls are sent to school.

Anna: But they should be. All it takes is one good man in each village.

Me (jumping at the word "man"): Why one good man? Why not one good woman?

Anna: OK. All it takes is one good woman in each village. Then every girl will go to school. Pause. But men are the dominant group. Pause. They have to take the lead. Just one good man per village will do it.

Snippet 3 - Marriages Are Based On Sharing 

Anna: I did my part at home.

Me: Really Anna? Amma did most of the work.

Anna: I always washed my clothes.

Me: Yes Anna. Why did you wash your clothes when we had a washing machine or a washer woman?

Anna: I wash clothes the best!

Me (smiling broadly): And you have a Phd. in how to use blue to make your white clothes really white!

He smiles and sits for some time thinking.

Anna: When we got married, your mother and I had to learn to do a lot of things. I continued to wash my clothes to give her more time.

Me: So why were you always the one to make coffee in the morning? And boil the milk?

Anna: I love my coffee in the morning. Why should Amma wake up early in the morning to make me coffee. I could make it by myself. And your Amma could sleep a little more.

Me: Is that why you always did the grocery, vegetable & fruit shopping?

Anna (smiling broadly): Yes. And cooked when Amma went to your grandmother's on holiday.

Oh yes, I remember those days. Anna would cook, using us as his "fetch" and "cleanup" slaves! Till we learnt to cook. It was far less work!!

Anna: Amma had so much work to do with you four children. I shared in the housework as much as I could. I wish I had done more to make her happy.

.... More snippets as our dialoging continues

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Firecrackers in Anna's Childhood

Since early October, I have been telling Anna that Deepawali is around the corner. He has no recollection of last year's Deepawali.  He was unwell enough to be in hospital, on a nebuliser for 5 hours. So this year, he has asked me when Deepawali is, twice a day, for the entire month!!

Like most South Indians, we celebrated Deepawali for Anna on 29th. Normally the puja, crackers, and Deepawali feast is all finished in the morning. As Anna is sleeping most of the morning, I decide to do all this in the evening. He is tired and disoriented, and he can not even strike a match to light a deepa for puja. He gives gifts to all his staff (including their children).
We then light a few sparklers, vishnu chakras (Anna's favorite) and flower pots. I know we want to reduce the amount of pollution shrouding the city, but, Anna has a few pleasures in life and 6 sparklers, 4 charkras and flower pots adds only a soupçon of pollution.

He can't sleep on 29th night as the fire crackers keep him awake. So on 30th (Deepawali day in North India), he sleeps most of the day and is groggy, disoriented, and slurring with a low response rate to even direct question. 

As expected the firecrackers are even worse on 30th night. It starts with my father's neighbor solicitously inquiring if I have given Anna a sedative so that he can sleep while they burst crackers, right outside his bedroom window, for a few hours! Seriously!?! I know it is going to be terrible when I see Mr. Neighbor take crackers out from the overflowing boot of a Maruti Esteem. 

I am dumbstruck. At a complete loss to understand what this neighbor is thinking.

Anna sleeps all morning again.

On 31st evening Anna is quite a chatty-cathy with me. He tells me about the Deepawali fire crackers of his childhood.

Nov 2015: Anna in front of the
sparkler exhibit at Saket Select Citywalk
First there were the hand-made wire sparklers. It seems that they would buy thick wire and cover it with a paste of sulfur, aluminium powder and local glue. This sparkler did not need a high temperature to burn (just ~400C vs the minimum of 1000C). It was a cheap solution as there was never really any money to spare to burn in their family.

Then there was the atom bomb! It was a large iron rod with a hollow bolt at one end. This bolt was filled with a mixture of sulfur and potassium permanganate, packed down and tied with string and cloth. Then they would run around the village hitting it against walls (including temple walls) to create a huge bang! The iron & hollow bolt contraption was safely hidden after Deepawali to be taken out for the next Deepawali, as the village blacksmith made the contraption for a couple of annas. 

Photo: wackystuff on
There were also match box burners. It seems that they spent all year (from one Deepawali to the next), collecting matchboxes. They then built a matchbox snake. A matchbox was inserted about 1/3rd the way into another matchbox to create a snake-chain. If they wanted to have a bigger fire, pieces of wood were inserted into the matchbox snake. Then this was lit at one end and watched as it burnt, flames suddenly jumping when they hit the dry tinder in the snake-chain.

He says the most fun he had was with box trains. It seems that he and his brothers would save every box they could lay their hands on. Then tie them with string to create as long a train as they could. These were just boxes tied with string that they dragged around the house making steam-train noises. Then at the end of the day, all these trains went into a big bonfire.

It takes a lot of patient questioning to get the details from him. I am fascinated as we chat for nearly 2 hours of simple pleasures at a simpler time.

I leave him exhausted and asleep on the sofa.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Of Shopping and Delusions

One afternoon late last week, Sanjiv and I decided to do Anna's grocery shopping at Savemax.  Dushera was over and Karva Chauth many days away, so it seemed a good time to head out, given Delhi's now legendary traffic jams. But we were mistaken. Grossly mistaken. The traffic jam was so bad that it took us an hour to take a chakkar and return to our house.

So I decided to just order everything that Anna needs from BigBasket.  I had never done a full month's grocery shopping online, so this was a first for me.  

The next morning, BigBasket delivered groceries 30 mins ahead of schedule. I asked Anna if he wanted to see how the online ordered grocery delivery happened. He immediately said, "Yes", tho' he normally napped after breakfast. He loves grocery shopping. Anna sat at the dining table as I crosschecked the delivery, one item at a time, over the next 20 mins.

Me (pointing to the heaps of grocery packets on the floor and coffee table): Anna, how did you like the grocery delivery?

Anna does not respond. He is frowning as he looks at the groceries.

Me: Anna, now we have all that you need for the next 30 days.

Photo: The Time Of India
Anna: I hope we are not spending more than we can afford.

Me: No Anna. I've only bought the things you need for a month.

Anna still has a frown on his face. He just starts to look sleepy.

Me: Anna, will you nap now? I'll put away the groceries.

We take Anna to his bedroom and he falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.

That evening Anna is still looking worried.  The attendant and housekeeper tell me that he has been agitated all day. "It's going to be another one of those days", I think.

Me: Hi, Anna. How are you?

No answer.

Me: Anna, what did you do today?

Again no answer. We sit in silence for some time. I notice that Anna is looking at me with a piercing sideways glance.

Me: Anna, what is it? What are you thinking?

Anna (after a long pause): Sangeeta, you have to tell me the truth.

Me: Yes, of course, Anna.

Anna: I have been asking to see my accounts for months. You haven't shown it to me. What are you hiding?

Me: Anna, whenever you ask to see your passbooks, I show them to you. You have forgotten.

Anna: What are you hiding from me? Are you taking away money?

Me: No, Anna. I am not hiding anything from you. I will bring my laptop tomorrow and how you all your (bank) accounts.

Anna: How are you spending so much?

Me: I am not spending much, Anna. We are spending on only essentials.

Anna: You don't have an income. So where is the money coming from?

Me: Anna, we are spending only on what you need. And from your money.

Anna: If you are taking money from the company then it should be in proportion to your stake.

Me (confused): Anna, what company? What stake?

Anna: Show me that you are taking only the money that is in line with your stake. If you take too much, I will be destitute and on the streets.

This goes on for nearly an hour. I am unable to convince my father that I am not spending his money, not stealing from him.

This is the first time I have been a part of Anna's delusions. How frightening it must be for him to believe that his family is cheating him.

It just makes me sad.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Whining Fans at Lawley Hall

Sanjiv tries to get the fan's 
blades to move with a bolster
Earlier this week, while working at home on a project with my friend Rosita, the ceiling fan started to make squeaking noises. Noises that sounded as if a distressed mouse was trapped in the well of the fan. After being disturbed by it for many minutes, the fan decided to bow to the power of our irritated looks and just stop.

Most of my life, I have been known to be a trouble-shooter and my troubleshooting skills came to fore that afternoon. I got up and went to the drawing room and called Sanjiv, my husband, to come fix the fan! His first question should give you an idea of his confidence in my common sense and problem solving skills - "Are you sure you switched on the fan?"

Once he saw for himself that the fan's blades were not rotating tho' the fan's switch was on, he did what any good electrician will do - lifted the bolster to push the fan's blades to restart the fan. And it did! In the same squeaking fashion. Finally, he had to get some machine oil to fix the thing.

The squeaking fan reminded me of  Anna's tale of the whining fans of Lawley Hall.

Lawley Hall as it looks today. Anna says it looked
"somewhat different" in his time.
Photo: St. Joseph's College, Trichy
Anna did his BSc Chemistry at St. Joseph's College, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu. Lawley Hall was their mess hall. When I showed Anna the picture of Lawley Hall on the right, he said that it was "somewhat different" in his time.  The high ceilings anchored fans at regular intervals.  There was more space between the warm-wooden tables and benches. There were fewer photographs hanging below the high windows.

The boys of St. Joseph's College flocked to Lawley Hall for their meals, where the sound of their chatting was completely out-of-tune with the whining of the ceiling fans! For some reason the fans at Lawley Hall whined all the time.  And even though St. Joseph's was famous for it's science degree programs, there seemed to be no one (not one student or teacher or priest) who could quieten the whining fans.

A young working boy.
Source unknown.
Even funnier was how the fans were actually made to work.

30  mins before any meal, all the tables and benches were moved to hug the walls of the hall. Then a young boy (8-12 years old) dressed in a white "divided" dhoti would walk into the hall with a 30-foot bamboo pole and lay it down in the  middle of the hall.

This boy would then go around the hall and switch in all the fans. Low hums would fill the empty hall, but the fans wouldn't move a millimetre. Then the young, bare-chested, "divided" dhoti clad boy would pick up the pole, lock one end on a fan blade and run in circles under the fan, pushing the blades. The faster he ran the faster the blades rotated! And when he felt the blades move on their own, he would quickly pull back the pole and walk to the next fan and repeat the lock-pole-on-blade-and-run-around-in circles routine! By the time he got all the fans running (and whining) the boy would be drenched in sweat!

This happened every day for every meal at Lawley Hall.

It's odd how seemingly mundane happenings can trigger a memory of a story heard years ago.

And it still brings a smile to my face.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Anna's Reaction To The Surgical Strikes In PoK

The last few weeks have been more challenging than usual.

Then yesterday's surgical strikes in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) shows me a glimmer of my father that I haven't seen in some time.

Anna has been slowly recovering from his 20-day hospital stay. His stamina and humour have not returned to what they were earlier. Incidences of disorientation and hallucinations have increased. As has his slurring and inability to find the right word for things he wants to express.

Then there has been my illness. The hip and leg aches that woke me up in pain in the middle of the night for months, is diagnosed as urinary tract infection (UTI). I have been on medication for over a month now. Most common and effective medications didn't work to reduce the infection, and I ended up being allergic to the medications that did work! Today is day 7 of a 10-day regimen of twice daily shots of Amikacin 500mg. And we are not sure if Amikacin will work either.

When I meet Anna in the evening (after my painful evening shot of Amikacin), I find him looking blankly at the TV as NDTV re-plays the news on the surgical strikes on terrorist launchpads in PoK.

Me: Anna, did you follow the news on the Indian Army's strikes in PoK?

Anna (looking at me, confused and worried): We are at war with Pakistan?

Me: No-No, Anna! We are not in a full-scale war with Pakistan.  

I snap my fingers to get him to focus. And then point to the TV. Look at the TV, Anna.
I pause while he focuses his eyes on the screen. See the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes against terrorist launchpads in PoK, early this morning. It was very successful.

He watches the news for 10 mins, mildly interested. And then falls asleep.
I do some household chores and then wake him.

Me: Anna! Anna!!
I am greeted with a beaming smile

Anna (making a victory sign with his hand): Congratulations!

Me (confused): Congratulations for what, Anna?

Anna: We won the war!

Me (huh?): What war Anna?

Anna (excited): We won World War II !! 

I am still absorbing this when he says, So how are we celebrating? Let's have champagne.

Me: Anna, you can't drink champagne.

Anna: We should celebrate with something.  Pause. Champagne or coffee.

Only my father can equate champagne with coffee!

I then spend many minutes explaining the surgical strikes, restating slowly what has been playing continuously all day on TV.  This time he seems to understand.

Anna: It's good that we are in Bangalore

Me: Why, Anna?

Anna: Pakistan's nuclear warheads can't reach Bangalore.

Me: But Anna, we are in Delhi.

As soon as the sentence leaves my mouth, I Gibbsslap* myself!

Anna (now worried): Pakistan will fire a nuclear weapon at us!

Me: No-No Anna. They won't. It is easier to say that, than to actually fire a nuclear weapon.

Anna: All they have to do is load a 747 with nuclear warheads and bomb Delhi.

Me (not sure it is so easy to load nuclear warheads onto a plane): No Anna. I bet the other nuclear powers are already talking to Pakistan to prevent the use of (nuclear) weapons.

Anna (really worried): They are saying that they will use nuclear weapons!

Me: Anna, that is only sabre-rattling by the Pakistanis. They won't really use nuclear weapons. 

This goes on for some time. I tell him, with a great amount of assumed authority in my voice and tone, that the US, Russia, China, and France are all talking with Pakistan to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. For some reason, he believes me.

I know he has calmed down when he tells me that he wants to sleep. And does. In the blink of an eye. The threat of nuclear war put to rest.

* Gibbsslap - a term used to describe NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs slapping the members of his team on the back of the head if they're getting off topic or if they're just acting like idiots in general. Watch the video.