(Love) letters & numbers

(Love) letters & numbers

Whoever loved that loved not at first sight’, wrote Marlowe in 1598. Then Shakespeare came along and wrote, ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’. These quotes bring to mind a streak of lightning and also the rainy monsoon season that better describes the unfolding of any worthwhile love course. Love is a deceptively small word, but then, so is hate. Here, however, we talk only of love; there is breathing space for just that. All about love and the way it struck and unfolded in my own life.

I was an English lecturer in a modest local college and he was visiting Bengaluru after three years he had spent getting a doctorate in Math at an American university. He was going back in a few weeks since he had accepted a faculty position on the East Coast. No sooner had we met briefly a couple of times on semi-formal occasions, than he had to leave. “I will write,” he said. “Goodbye!”

Days passed and I was about to conclude that this was another flash in the pan. Then the blue thin aerogramme arrived! I was thrilled and walked to the stone bench under the sampige tree and opened it. If the casual greeting of a ‘Dear Indu’ kept me level, what followed totally blew me off. “I will set you a math problem in my next letter, and I want you to solve it and write the answer in your reply.” That was it?!

I was dead meat when it came to math and had barely passed with the ominous 35% marks in the exams that came my way until college. I had abandoned it the first chance I got to bear allegiance to English literature. I put away the letter for now and left for college, for I had a class to teach.

When I entered the staff room, my eyes fell on Sharada, the math instructor who was also my good friend. I walked straight to her and said, “I need your help.” To allay her anxious look, I lowered my voice and explained to her that there was this math problem I needed her to solve for me. “Show me,” she said. “Next week,” I said with confidence, “I will bring it next week.”

The problem arrived in another aerogramme. This was about two trains, starting from the same station, travelling at different speeds, passing each other, and arriving at three stations, and so on. I felt dizzy just reading it and decided not to waste any more time hashing the competition between the trains or the clock face staring at me. I put it away till I could show it to Sharada.

Once in the staff room, I took her to a corner and showed her the problem. A frown was forming on her forehead even as she was reading it. “You built all this suspense for a week over this… this jutka-gaadi problem?” she fumed. “It is about trains, I think. Please, just give me the answer.” I calmed her. I made her sit down and write the correct answer clearly!

I sent back the answer and waited for the reply. The next letter that came began, “I didn’t really care if you could solve the problem…” That’s when I knew the course I was watching had taken the right turn. If I felt I had to confess I had cheated on the test, I figured there would be plenty of time to do so!

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily