No kidding, only coding

If you want your kids to become the next Sundar Pichai, then make sure they learn a motherboard tongue, or two

Published - August 15, 2020 04:00 pm IST

When my neighbour Donald Balasubramaniam (name changed to protect privacy) told me last week about Blue Lungi, my peace of mind broke, like a Harappan vase, into a million little pieces. Most of you would know about Blue Lungi. But for the benefit of those who are colour-blind and wear trousers, Blue Lungi is an ed-tech start-up that offers online coding classes for kids aged 2 to 10.

Coding, I learned this week, is the first of the four ‘Rs’ of education, followed by reading, writing and arithmetic. I also learned what every Indian parent other than me already seemed to know: a child old enough to walk is old enough to code. If you want your kids to have a fair shot at becoming the next Sundar Pichai, then make sure that in addition to their mother tongue they also learn a motherboard tongue, or two.

SEO-optimised

I was blind to this parental responsibility until Donald called to tell me that his son Mickey Balasubramaniam (name changed to protect his identity) was conducting a virtual boot camp on ‘How to Use Implicit Parallelism on a NoSQL database rooted in a Model-view Controller for better MongoDB’. He said he could get me a slot at a special discount, if I was interested.

“Nope,” I said. “I’m not interested in the parallelism of any manga or thenga .”

“Not you,” he said, “I was checking if you wanted to enrol your son.”

“But Kattabomman is just four years old!”

“He is four?” Donald said. “What all languages he knows?

“He can generate and manage SEO-optimised content in five languages,” I said. “Bangla, Hindi, Tamil, English, and Sanskrit. We wanted to play it safe, you know. What if tomorrow the three-language formula becomes a five-language formula? I didn’t want to take any chances.”

Special webinar

Donald burst out laughing. “These days every Tom, Dick and Harry is teaching his children five-five human languages. No competitive edge there. I’m talking about programming languages. My son Mickey, in July alone he created 72 apps in seven different languages.”

“Really? You don’t look that old.”

“What do you mean?”

“Which college does Mickey go to?”

“College?” Donald cackled. “Mickey turned six last month.”

“At least he won’t starve,” I said. “The world will always need cyber-coolies who can code.”

“I am still worried,” Donald said. “Sure, Mickey knows C, C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, PHP, SQL and Ruby. But they are only the bare minimum in terms of a fall-back option.”

“Fall-back option? You mean, if he doesn’t get a job?”

“Of course not!” Donald looked offended. “By fall-back, I mean if he doesn’t get Series B funding for his start-up.”

“Your son has a start-up?”

“We thought, since he has created so many successful apps, why not convert one of them into a successful business? If he gets adequate funding, he can scale it up, sell it to Bezos or Pichai for a billion dollars, and retire comfortably by the time he is nine or 10.”

“You want him to retire by 10?” I was incredulous. “What will he do for the rest of his life?”

Machhi ,” Donald sighed. “You ask the most obvious questions. Use your common sense- da .”

“I am using every ounce of my common sense,” I said. “I still can’t fathom what anyone would do if he makes a billion dollars by the time he is 10. I suppose he’ll become a monk and go live in a cave in the Himalayas.”

“Don’t be silly,” Donald said. “With financial security assured for the rest of his life, Mickey will be able to afford going to a decent school, enjoy a normal childhood, and learn at his own pace without worrying about exams, grades, college admissions or job prospects.”

Talk about planning for your child’s future.

I immediately filled in the online application form at Blue Lungi and booked a slot on all their highest rated coding courses. So Kattabomman’s daily schedule now is quite packed. His day begins with his school’s nursery classes on Zoom, which are from 9 to 11 a.m. From 11 to 1, he is logged into Blue Lungi for C+, then after a one-hour break for lunch, bath, and the occasional, optional potty, it’s back to work with a Java class from 2 to 4, Python from 4 to 6, SQL from 6 to 8, followed by dinner break from 8 to 9, before rounding off the day with Swift, Scala and Delphi from 9 to 11.

Kattabomman, as regular readers of this column would know, is an extremely fast learner. In fact, today I’ll be asking Donald to make sure Mickey is free at 9 p.m. next Friday. Why? Because Kattabomman is offering a special webinar for kids aged 6-8 years on ‘The Heuristic Evaluation of Nested Asynchronous Loops for Discrete Optimisation of Representational State Transfer in CRUD-based GUI’. In case any of you know of a start-up accelerator program for nursery kidtrepreneurs, do drop me a mail.

G. Sampath is Social Affairs Editor , The Hindu.

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