Monday, April 22, 2013

Human Computer Shakunthala Devi no more

Sunday April 21, 2013, marked the end of a life of a mathematics genius Shakunthala Devi, who lived with the sobriquet "Human Computer".  See the two links:

I have always wondered how she could do all those mental calculations accurately and in a nano-jiffy! 

It must have been a Thursday evening when Rotary Club of Mysore had its weekly meeting on which day the show by Shakuntala Devi was scheduled.  She was already into entertaining people with numbers and had already made a name by late 1960s. My Rotarian grandfather had taken us to witness the programme in the meeting hall.  

Numbers are dreaded as a subject to many but this genius would play with them.  The astonished gathering watched her write numbers on the black board and multiply them, starting with two digits by two digits  and writing answers before we could even read the numbers!  She then wrote a 3-digit number and multiplied it with another 3-digit number. Applause.... the audience were allowed to verify. Then she asked someone from the audience to write 10-12 digits of his/her choice to be multiplied by another set of some 10-12 digits.  She kept the audience busy by narrating something as the black board was being filled with numbers by that person.  She would just glance at the 'problem' for a couple of seconds and wrote the solution that stretched to 2 lines of digits in such a way the onlookers would think she wrote random numbers!

My colleague [now retired] Nagaraj enthralled us saying his family knew Shakuntala Devi and that she visited his house [1980s].  We were awe-struck when he told us about the acquaintance of great people that also included the writer Dr.Shivaram Karanth and Dr.VS Arunachalam! Another colleague had turned to Shakuntala Devi's mastery in Palmistry when he was in the midst of a very tough and tense life.  He had sent the impressions of his palms [on a sheet of paper] for her analysis.  It appears she had returned it reasoning that there were too many lines that indicated the very 'tough times' he was passing through.  He had shown me his palm some years after his problems [from all angles] had eased out and how those 'extra lines' on the palms had disappeared!  

This is a video done during her visit to Moscow, Russia. Eleven minutes. 
She toured a lot spreading the beauty of numbers saying 'numbers link the world'.  

She has always said her gift was 'God-given'.  None could match her.  May her soul rest in peace.

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