Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rounding off in style

My school days were fraught with difficulties when it came to Maths. I could never understand why 2+2 had to be 4 or why 1+2 had to be 3. It was like Swami (from RKN) learning to solve Math problems in front of his father. Addition and subtraction itself were leaning toward astronomical proportions of difficulty, so there was no way anybody could question my abilities when it came to the mammoth multiplication and division problems. It was at an abysmal dismal level. It took me days, rather years to figure out that multiplication and addition were related by an intricate complexity. 2x3 is nothing but 2+2+2 was a startling revelation learned over the ages, after several years of mutual painstaking experience; mutual because my teacher and my mother used to wield the stick and I used the bear the pain. I had a grudging resolve never to play with numbers because they played around me in weird ways.

Division was an altogether different experience. The strict voice still echoes in my ears, Put your pen on paper, and let's get to solving the next problem. What is 127/5? I had to think ten times to figure out 5/5, and 127/5 was an impossible ask from me. I did try to divide the number in random ways and the quotient would be a value that would be incomprehensible. As I said before, the mutual painstaking experience would surface, yet again.

I, on my current Bangalore trip, finally figured that I am not the only guy in the universe to rank dismally in Math problems. I went to a grocery store located nearby, and bought some items forty seven rupees. I issued a hundred rupee note, but got back only fifty rupees from the shop keeper. Where is the remaining balance? I asked. He grimaced and replied, Here it goes, and gave it to me as if I was receiving alms for some good that I had done in my previous birth. He sulked, I sulked, rather predictably, and came back wondering how things have changed. If this was not enough, I took an autorickshaw to pick up a friend from the railway station. I reached the destination and issued a fifty rupee note to pay the fare. The fare read Rs. 20.40, and I was expecting the appropriate change. I was stunned beyond words when he returned Rs 25. I was still waiting for the change. He looked at me as though he was Lord Krishna and I was the demon king Kamsa, and he was all set to slay me with one stroke. My tone lost all confidence when I asked him What about the remaining? He replied back rather gruffly, What are you waiting for? I have rounded off the amount. After some deliberation, I got back the four rupees. I, for nothing in the world, would have asked the remaining sixty paise. I dutifully took what was offered, went back and secretly prided myself on my skill in Math and I was sure that my high school Math teacher would have been proud of me as well. It also gave me a chance to realize what it is to be on the other side of the mutual painstaking experience.