Knowledge of physics can save family from falling apart

A physics short story by Vedang Sati

It was the usual Monday morning for the Sharma family. The always so masterful mom Shweta prepared their breakfast in the kitchen while the lazy dad Raj tried to wake up the two snoring kids, Priya and Neel.

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At last, the four of them, neatly dressed in their uniforms, got together at the eating table. “Is it something special today?” the always so forgetful dad asked as soon as he laid his eyes on the table. There was 'Cholle Bhature' and 'Gajar Ka Halwa' when normally it’d be some vegetable or the other with plain chapattis.

Before the two kids could explain, their mom signaled them not to, and they thus continued eating quietly, while also keeping their eyes fixated on their father. Raj was, for a moment, puzzled, but he soon got busy, in his own little struggles, as he gulped down the delicious meal, without bothering further.. much to the displeasure of Shweta, who got up in a violent rush, and headed out!

“She is probably getting late for work,” Raj explained to the two stunned kids, who by then had finished eating. “Don’t you remember what’s special about today?” Priya yelled. “What is it then tell me!” Raj asked, now even more perturbed about the situation. “Clearly you’re getting old dad,” Neel commented. Raj stood up, “all right then,” he screamed, “if you’re not gonna tell me I will have to figure it out by myself.” “Yeah you better do that,” the two kids replied in unison and walked out the house to their school.

Later in the afternoon, Raj called home, “Hello, you home yet?” “Yes of course dad,” Priya annoyingly replied, “Who woulda picked it up otherwise, duh!?” “Hey, why’re you always irritated Priya I’m your father after all!”

“Ok forget it, you phoned because you remembered didn’t you?” with some hope Priya asked, “Yeah it was your mom’s birthday today,” Raj responded with a deep sigh of relief, “I feel so stupid right now, what do I do? You’d help me?” “Help you how exactly?” Priya questioned.

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“Put it on the speaker, let your brother in first,” Raj finally had a plan! “Well hi dad, and good afternoon, better late than never,” Neel was already sitting listening! “Hello dear son,” the ever so loving dad, requested, “Please will you two decorate the house with balloons and stuff before I get back home?”

“But it is already 3 dad and mom’d be home anytime soon. Aren’t you too late to let us in on your surprise party plan?” Priya said more furious than ever. “Oh but I forgot to mention”, Raj interrupted, “I am already getting a very fancy cheesecake at the famous bakery shop nearby. I’d be there in 15 minutes or so. Help your dad,” Raj pleaded.

“Oh so you’re going to come early today, wow, that is indeed a big change,” Neel was genuinely surprised, “Don’t you worry then, Priya and I will do what we can.”

Shweta would usually return from her teaching job at around 3.15 pm. Neel and Priya both started to blow up the balloons. Violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.. there were different colours of balloons.

The brother and sister duo were done early and yet didn’t have enough time to stick the balloons on the wall. “Finally there’s inflated balloons but what do we do now?” Priya wondered.

Neel smiled as he picked up a blue balloon off the floor, and said, “Don’t worry Priya because I have a solid plan,” he rushed towards their cat, Billy. Neel then rubbed the balloon on the cat’s back and put it nice and firmly onto the wall. “It sticks!” Priya was shocked, “But how?” she asked.

“Now’s not the time but I will explain it to you later, promise!” They repeated the same process with the remaining balloons and put them gently on to the wall. The balloons did not fall down because of gravity but stayed sticking in their places.

As soon as they were done, mom was home, and the two kids yelled, “Surprise!” although there was no cake and there was no dad, teary-eyed mom Shweta, hugged her two children. “You two mean the most to me,” she said.

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And then, at the same time, “surrrpraaaaise!!”, yelled Raj, with mix of excitement and guilt in his voice, as he stood at the main door with a big box of cake in his little hands.

With Raj’s loud energy, the balloons slipped off the wall and fell down one by one. Seeing that there was no tape or glue on the balloons, Shweta pondered, “How did they keep hanging? Magic?”

“No mom, guess what,” Neel explained, “today I learned about static electricity in the science class and it was very much fun!”

“Ah yes, I remember,” Shweta was overjoyed, “we also read about it back in the day,” she said. Priya who felt left out, asked, “you mean our cat billy has electrical powers?” “Yes in a way,” Neel replied, “you could however achieve the same result with other materials also,” he added.

Raj put the big cheesecake on the table, “sorry Shweta dear I forgot your birthday,” he said without looking her in the eye, “I know not how to make up for it but here’s a little something,” he opened the box and there was a pair of hand-made pearl earrings beside the cheesy cake.

“I was honestly pissed off in the morning you know, I mean, why would I prepare my specialty Gajar ka Halwa on a busy monday,” Shweta said, “and yet it did not strike you enough, but right now," she went on to say, "at this very moment, I feel pleased to see that we are celebrating together. So you are forgiven Mr. Rajesh!” she grinned.

“I still don’t get it though,” Priya wanted to know more, “Why did the balloons stick on the wall due to rubbing and why they did ultimately fall down?” she questioned Neel.

Neel replied, “all the things in the world are made up of tiny charged particles,” he described, “they come in two types, positive and negative, the likes repel and the unlikes attract, okay?”

“Yeah I get this much,” Priya was getting impatient, “But what exactly happened when we rubbed the balloons on billy’s back?” she asked. “The balloons got charged up negatively,” Neel said, “and then when we brought the balloons closer to the wall, the electrons in the wall moved to the other side because likes repel, remember?

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"And hence, the surface of the wall was left positively charged, which is why the balloons remained sticking, because unlikes attract, in this case though only for a while, because this is temporary induction of charges,” Neel elaborated.

“By the way,” Raj asked, “Where’s billy? Without his aid, this party wouldn’t have happened with so much joy and colour!” Priya and Neel looked for the fat billy cat but to no avail. It was Shweta who realized that the cat was to be found sitting at the main door, and there it was, nicely seated, although in a very funny situation.

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Story From Bhautiki Magazine