My (Failed) Experiments With (Mathematical) Truth
As far back as I can remember, I always knew that I don’t want to study Mathematics. But that’s exactly what happened.
All kinds of numbers gave me a headache. I have always wondered that why can’t I read some book or play games instead of wasting time calculating how many steps did the boy went down in the well or what are pitaji’s and his daughter’s age while you could just ask them.
In order to instill some love towards maths (and most importantly to score some good marks in exams), Amma decided to make me join a tuition class, recommended by my friend-cum-neighbor.
So one evening, towards the end of 10th, I was sitting and trying out some trigonometry problems. One question on tan (I don’t exactly remember which problem is it. I think it’s on the left side of whatever textbook I was using that day) had two sub-divisions. I found that my answer wasn’t correct (which isn’t surprising), so I decided to redo it. Again the same results came. I went through the problem and the solution given in the book and checked whether the question is wrong (that’s my default thought whenever I’m wrong.) There wasn’t any difference between what I did and what it’s shown. Though persistence isn’t exactly my greatest virtue, I decided to try again. Onnil pizhachal moonu ennanalo chollu. Same wrong answer.
Sometime in between, my friend came in. The class begins at 4 PM and she, despite being living just behind the tuition, came in around 5 PM. She was observing me, sitting in the middle of a lot of crumpled papers (I love writing in papers torn from my old notebooks and stolen from friends and those taken from the floor of the classroom.) I threw away the book and was about to go to the next question. Out of curiosity and sheer boredom, she opened one of the papers. Suddenly a serious look appeared on her face. She opened all the papers and checked.
“You donkey, what is this?”, she asked.
“A paper, I guess”, I replied without taking my eyes of the next question.
“Oh. Sorry sorry. I know what it is. A stolen piece of paper that has been massacred by my palms due to a sudden burst of anger.”
“Not that, you fool. Do whatever calculation you’ve done in this sheet again.”
“No. I won’t. I’ve done this problem a million times.”
“Do. That. Again,” she told slowly and threateningly.
I was about to reply in negative — that’s when I saw her clutching a pen tightly. Fearing for my life, I took a fresh sheet of paper and started re-doing it (haven’t you heard the saying, “A pen is mightier than a sword”?). She sat beside me and watched my working. When I drew the double line to my answer, she gave hit me in the back.
"Now watch how I do it,” she told and took a fresh piece of paper to start working with the answer. I was about to scream “hey, isn’t this what I wrote?” when I realized my folly. Despite doing this multiple times, why didn’t I notice it? She underlined the portions where I went wrong: 1+1=0 and 1-1=1.
Ever since, whenever a discussion about maths arises, my friends would say this story to others. In exams, I lose marks for the silliest of calculations (leading one of my teachers asking me to quit 12th and join primary classes.)
The funniest thing is that my brain seems to have not learned the lesson. Even last week, I made this same mistake. When will this curse leave me? God knows.