As Teachers’ Day was celebrated on September 5 2020 on the occasion of the birthday of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India, I took a walk down memory lane to early 80s. I had taken model examinations before the Xth standard public examination. The first major examination ever as a student back then. Before summer vacation, results of the model examination were announced. My class teacher, also my maths teacher, approached me with my answer sheets tucked ‘neath his armpit. He unfolded them before me to reveal my marks, encircled with many red circles. I had expected to see those circles in red, going by the hate-hate relationship I was forced to strike with that subject called mathematics. My worst fears had come true. I failed in maths- the subject I loathed, and which I considered the biggest curse to have befallen mankind. Very close to that apple Eve was forced to take a bite from, falling to the tempter’s lure in Eden garden!
The teacher landed the edge of his wooden ruler forcefully on the knuckles of my hand he had asked me to stretch out. As I squirmed in pain, he tersely advised me to improve my maths before the crucial public exams. I went home for the vacation with a seemingly lost mission to accomplish- ‘to improve my maths’. Sensing my predicament my parents arranged tuition with a maths teacher in the neighborhood. His methodology which addressed the basics infused in me an unbelievable ability to crack math problems without much sweat. Rex Master rendered maths less imposing to me. I took on the public exams like Sachin Tendulkar took on hostile Aussie bowlers in his heydays! Not only did I stand first in my class division, the highest marks among various subjects were for mathematics. Something which blessed my mark sheet with reasonable respectability. I was in cloud nine. I thanked Rex Master, when I received my mark sheet. From Xth standard, I moved on to now defunct pre-degree course, in which I pursed life sciences. To stay clear from monstrous maths, and also to set myself on the road to the portals of the medical college. But, the second group of the course consisting of zoology, botany and chemistry also had the nightmarish physics rife with stiff dose of mathematics. The monster called maths, following me like a shadow looked into my eyes challengingly in the form of physics. A subject which required of me to unravel where two trains leaving a station in different speeds would pass each other and where. And also, where two objects weighing differently would cross each other when dropped together from a certain height. I used to squirm before such problems, with a ‘why should I bother’ mentality where there were more pressings problems in life to be addressed. Like getting permission from my grandparents to go for an Amithabh Bachchan movie! A quote that appeared on WhatsApp recently ‘there are 3 kinds of people in this world-(1) those who are good at math, and (2) those who aren’t’ aptly described my discomfiture with mathematics. That subject and I were as immiscible as water and oil! Tuitions in physics not helping me much had me learn math problems in physics by heart for examinations. The pre-degree course done, I cleared the university examinations unscathed, thanks to the good deeds of my forefathers. It was time to prepare for the next nightmare- the entrance exams for medicine. That was taken with maths involving physics all mugged up. I enrolled myself for B.Sc in zoology should I fail in the entrance. Maths formed an inevitable ‘evil’ in that course too. Tan theta and cos theta were unpalatable to me as kozhi thetta and kali theta (Malayalam for poultry feed and cattle feed respectively).
When I got into the medical course, it was good riddance to a seemingly untamable monster-mathematics. At long last!