Letters of Life


Familiarity breeds contempt, the saying goes. In a marriage, familiarity breeds forgetfulness.

The eldest son has to choose his subjects of study next year. A lateral thinker whose favorite word is ‘Why’, the boy was considering physics and chemistry but not biology. He did not enjoy it as much.

The father, to put it mildly, suggested the son pursue biology as well as it might prove useful later.

This morning, I brought up the subject again. Let him study what he has aptitude for, I said. “He likes physics, math—he doesn’t have to do biology just because you think he might pursue medicine later.”

In life, you can’t just always do what you want, he retorted. “I like physics and I was good at math. I still did biology.”

I recalled that one of his youthful aspirations had included being an astrophysicist. Astrophysics is the study of the physics of the universe and astrophysicists apply many disciplines of physics, including mechanics, nuclear and particle physics and other kinds of scary-sounding physics to their research.

“Oh,” I said.

Suddenly I remembered the story of how his dad had dangled carrots to drive him to do well in the pre-university examinations: Every ‘A’ grade scored would earn him $1,000.00.
(The equivalent today would roughly be $8,000.00 per ‘A’ grade.)

He pocketed $4,0000.00 that year (or $32,000.00 today).

Still in forgetful mode, I queried,”Did you get an “A” in physics?”

“Yes,” he said, putting on his left shoe.

“Did you get an “A” for biology?”

“Yes,” he said, stamping his right foot into a matching shoe.

“Which was your favorite subject?”


“Which science did you like the least?” On hindsight, I fail to see the point I was trying to drive home with this line of questioning.


To redeem myself, I did the only thing I could do. I giggled.

Then out the door went the ear, nose, and throat surgeon whose sub-specialty is rhinology.

4 Responses »

  1. BRAVO!

  2. Thank you for sharing this interesting conversation!

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