Friday, October 23, 2015

A Math in Real Life Story

“When am I ever going to use this in life?” was a question that Professor Kashyap would long to hear from someone in the new batch of students every year. He almost always caught it being mumbled within the first week of his session. In his experience, it was the most asked question with respect to Mathematics, right after the one that asked you to calculate the value of x.

His class today did not disappoint, and he was glad to have found the opportunity to address this whispered wisecrack while attempting a question of Time, Speed and Distance – Two cars, A and B, are going around on a circular racing track. If cars A and B are moving at constant speeds of 70 km/hour and 45 km/hour respectively, and the track is 1.2 km long, how many times did car A overtake car B in 20 minutes?

“Did I ever tell you the story of how I married my wife”, he asked as he turned around from the board and placed the piece of chalk on his table.

It was the onset of summer in 1967. For months, Gulshan had been fantasizing about applying gulal on Savitri’s face and then slowly gliding his hand over to fill color in the parting of her hair. He thought it would be quite dramatic to marry her like that – like a “hero”. The thought of swirling phuljhadi’s in the air with his lady love by his side had been given up months ago when he could not gather the courage to seek her hand in marriage in the October that went by. He was not going to let this opportunity go.

And so he got up from his bed, and ran towards the spot where people from his village had set up the Holi bonfire a few hours ago. Savitri had been waiting while the rest of the villagers had left, and thankfully so. The fire had still not completely died out. Raman, the local priest’s son and Gulshan’s best friend, was nowhere to be seen. What use were his lessons in wedding mantras if he couldn’t make it in time for his debut performance?

Not wanting to waste any time, Gulshan held Savitri’s hand and started running around the unexpectedly large circumference of the bonfire while reciting the Gayatri Mantra. It was not a verse meant for the occasion, but running in silence did not seem ceremonial enough.

Soon, they saw a silhouette running towards them from a distance. Scared that someone from Savitri’s family had found out about the plan and was approaching to stop them, Gulshan ran with all his might, letting go of his lady’s hand in the sudden spurt of adrenaline – as if running around the fire seven times all by himself would consummate the marriage.

As both ran around the fire as if following each other, while keeping their gaze fixed on the approaching figure, it was soon evident that the guest was Raman.

“Why are the both of you running”, asked Raman.

“We thought you must’ve slept off. So we’re completing our wedding phera’s.”

“I’m late because I was checking Savitri’s birth chart, and I must tell you that...”

“Later, Ghonchu. Just start with the verses already!”

Vakra-tunda Mahakay…” And, the couple ran till the verses ran out.

“So what were you saying about her birth chart last night”, Gulshan asked Raman the following day.

“Nevermind that.”

“No, tell me.”

“She’s Manglik.”


“And you’re not. So, you are going to die soon.”

“Are you fucking stupid?” Apparently, there was something synonymous to the f-word even in the India of 1967.

“I only state what the Vedas say.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. The Vedas don’t say any such thing.”

“They do. You’re free to not believe me if you don’t want to. It was my duty to tell you.”

“Why the hell did you have to bring this up and mess with my head then! Is there no way to avoid this?”

“Apparently, the lady has to marry another person before she marries the love of her life. This way, the first husband, who for all practical purposes is either a tree or a dog, takes the curse of death for having married a Manglik, and the second husband is saved from the curse.”

“Okay, um, wait… Are you sure we got married last night? I mean, I would like to believe that we did. But you know how we were both running around the fire separately, and would that tantamount to not being married?”

“I recited the verses perfectly, and in all honesty, the verses and the phera’s are all that matter to consummate the marriage. Everything else is just symbolic of things that I’m supposed to study in the next few months. You know how I’m not a full pundit yet, right?”

“So you’re saying that the phera’s were legitimate enough to consider us married? I don’t even know the number of times we went around in circles!”

“How can you not know that? Can’t you fucking count to seven? I thought you were studying Mathematics. Evidently, you’ve bunked classes to meet her every day. ”

“It was your job as a pundit, you idiot! And you came late. I just knew that I had to circumambulate around the fire.”

“For every seven phera’s, there is a marriage. So, if the both of you took fewer than seven rounds, you’re still not married. And if you took more, I haven’t yet studied what the repercussions are.”

“Wait. We can calculate the number of times we went around the fire. It’ll probably take some realistic assumptions, but it’s not impossible to calculate.”

And soon, Gulshan ran to the spot of the fire to calculate the circumference that they ran over last night. He knew that he was at a speed of not over nine kilometers an hour. He made Savitri run around the circumference again to calculate her speed. Raman said it takes him five minutes to recite those verses, and Gulshan knew that they had not been running for over a minute before he the pundit arrived at the scene.

All the necessary facts were soon compiled and Gulshan had the answer.

“I ran a total of thirty-six times, while Savitri ran twenty-three. With a margin of error of about ten per cent, I can confidently say that we both ran a minimum of twenty-one times.”

“So, you were married thrice last night”, said Raman, delighted.

“Thanks, I could so not calculate that. And what are you grinning about, you moron? This means our marriage was successful, and I’m soon going to die.”

“But you married her thrice. So by that logic, only one-third of you must die.”


“I mean, you could get paralyzed in a third of your body. Let’s just hope it’s the middle third.”


“Yeah. If the top third gets paralyzed, your brain will die, and the one-third paralysis wouldn’t be any different from dying completely. And if the bottom third gets paralyzed, I’m assuming you’ll go inactive in your crotch, which will just make the whole point of getting married futile.”

“Why do I even call you my friend?”

“Relax. I think you needn’t worry as much now. Maybe, the first time, she married the dog in you, like all Manglik’s are supposed to. And then she married you, as a person, twice. So, I hope the dog inside of you will die, and you will come out a better person… Wah! The dog in you will die. I must use this line somewhere when I’m old enough to give sermons after the Sunderkand Paath at the temple.”

Professor Kashyap, a man of age sixty-eight was still alive – hale and hearty. All thirds of his body were intact, and he was known to be a thorough gentleman.

“So, that, my children, is how Time, Speed and Distance helped me find out if I was married to my wife or not. And, if I was going to die early from a curse, or live long enough to narrate this story today.”

“We can also use the track history function on the GPS enabled FitBit fitness band to track the number of rounds we would have taken during our phera’s. It’s much easier”, remarked Karan.

“Good luck wearing a fitness band to your wedding.”

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Tater Jack

While he held the stem of his champagne flute with the pinch of his right hand, a pinch of the left clutched a beedi. There weren't many who would attempt to taste the smooth tingle of bubbly with the hit of cheap, unfiltered tobacco. But the lines of socio-economic stratification remained invisible to him, and not just blurry.

Throughout his career that spanned decades, he had played a variety of roles. His depiction of secret agent "Brown; Hash Brown" was as loved as his performance in Ratatouille. He could play each character with panache - completely personifying the culture he attempted to fit in.

But tonight, Mr. Potato sat on his couch, paying no heed to the negative connotation his association with the piece of furniture had earned, and pondered over his import in the global culinary industry. Was his contribution ever acknowledged as much as it truly deserved?

A fan of Bollywood, he knew that life was not always just, and there was a lot other than talent that determined an actor's popularity. Fair skin and dimples took actors a long way – it was something that also led to the Paneer's success. He knew that even though the world liked its food fried deep, the people themselves were just shallow.

Paneer was the Shah Rukh of the vegetarian food industry – enjoying fruits of a wonderful stroke of luck over talent. And Soya, the Salman – winning thousands of vegetarians with nothing, but a muscular personality.

Paneer was smooth, no doubt, but there were many like him throughout the world. Gouda, Cheddar, Mozarella... You name it, and every country had its own version of that typical romantic hero. Hell, even Tofu fell in the same category. Where was the Paneer's individuality? But it was loved – dipped in a gravy of tomatoes, it became Shahi; marinated in spinach, it became the Palak Paneer. Vegetarians ordered for the Paneer wherever they went, but not one thought of the Aaloo.

To hold it in contrast, the Aaloo had displayed a lot more variation. He was the protagonist in The Burger Patty, and also played the role of a thickening agent in the Tomato Ketchup – something very few were aware of. He beat Aamir Khan at being socially active as the Bhaaji with the Poori at langars across the country. On the other hand, he was mischievous enough to let people believe that his character in Fries was French, when it was actually American - this sly thing!

Here was a man who had romanced with every possible partner one could imagine to work with. From French Beans to Okra, from Ketchup to Mint Chutney, and from Chaat to the Parantha – this gentleman had perfected all. Was he the Anupam Kher to the industry; extremely talented, omni-present, revered, and yet not the Best Actor winner at Filmfare?

He looked into the mirror and rubbed a hand on his bald pate. He had come a long way with these looks that still spoke of his past when he grew in the mud and rose from the ground. He wasn't going to let such thoughts bog him down! He had his own identity that he was proud of. At least he wasn’t pretentious like the Paneer, calling itself “Cottage Cheese” while travelling across borders. Bloody Cottage Chu!

He took a puff from the beedi and blew a smoke circle towards the mirror. "Anupam Kher nahi, Irrfan Khan hain, bh****od!"

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