August 2006


In medicine, the term syndrome is the association of several clinically recognizable features, signs, symptoms, phenomena or characteristics which often occur together, so that the presence of one feature alerts the physician to the presence of the others. In recent decades the term has been used outside of medicine to refer to a combination of phenomena seen in association. (courtesy: Wikepedia) Wait a second, this is not about definitions! is’t it? Lets get down to business.. Living in US for the past 8 years (little more actually!), I developed a strange syndrome called ‘patriotism’. A term which can only be felt but not experienced, a feeling which can only be expressed but not conveyed. Sounds strange? for me too, indeed. All these years, an irritating question that pops in my mind quite often is, “Who am I ?”, a very simple question to answer; human being, not that simple though; a male chauvinist tyring to make most of dollars that’s possible and live happily ever after in Bahamas, no, not that complicated even. Simply put, a ‘permanent resident alien’ (thanks to the green card I’ve got, which is yellow) for the citizens of USA, and an ‘filthy rich NRI’ (I have a townhome in Northern Virginia, which makes me filty rich with more than half a million in debt) for my friends back home in India. In reality I am a suspended material between the idealogies of US and India. You think of a thing, when you are most distant, like me thinking about India staying thousands of miles away. Things change though! good or bad, we accept them with refute. Addendum, my torpid imagination about India, make me look like a big fool. Changing times doesn’t get to me easily, specially when it come to the subject of India. You are a real patriotic, when you start feeling proud of what your country is and your services are offered to the country and the poeple with pure ecstacy and selflessness. Probaby I did some of those things in the past in India, but not without selfishness, and definitely not without the expectations of fame. Now I feel possessed about India, I enjoy its success and love to send money for causes like Kargil fiasco. I started noticing this syndrome called patriotism, very recently. When we gather around for parties and occassions, our discussions circle around India. How successful the BPO sector is (of course, we would love to bite a pie of it), how strong the GDP growth is, how good the Delhi Metro is, etc. These things don’t come up from thin air, there is something in our left part of the brain (for me), which constantly reminds us who we are, and where we came from. Having difficulties in ‘assuming’ that we have blended in American culture and living, we are caught in our sleep, reminding us that we have suspended thoughts, un-related ideas and non-coexisting philosopies. We debate on what’s bad in India, bribing, irregularity, uncleanliness, diseases, poverty, blah, blah and blah and end up giving accolades to its achievements, to sides of the coin, you know. We ‘decide’ what is good for it and what is not. All from where? 7000 miles away, wasting our time chatting in the clubhouse rooms and corridors of parties. This is definitely a syndrome, isn’t it. I once went to a local community fiesta, and the dias was decorated with personalities from various parts of North America. If one was a doctor, the other was a scientist. Nothing special! I was told by my friend sitting beside me that there is one doctor from canada, who is a good philanthropist. He sheds money like lint and uses them for good cause. No one remembers his name, no one. He came on to the dias, he did not introduce himself, but he introduced his wife, who incidentally is also a doctor. They both have crossed their late 50’s. He then announced that he will be donating $25,000 to a non-profit health agency in India, who operates on poor for FREE. I said, what the heck? Twenty Five grand, and just in a snap. He must have the heart of gold and soul of God. Some people clapped, while others witnessed with awe, some others were thinking and few more raised their eyebrows. I was jealous! YES! I thought that had God given me some riches I would easily shred Thirty grand (how foolish). Its un-intensional and ivoluntary, what? its my jealousy. To moist my thirst, I added more water to it, what? my jealousy, again. I thought, he had money, and he is giving it, what’s the big deal? He then left the microphone and braced his chair on the dias. Then came a spokesman and almost said with great respect, “the person (alogn with his wife) who just donated 25 grand spends 60 days of each year in India, spending his own sweat and heart to help people personally, who are poor and lend his support to numorous. I was shocked? Its is not that simple task for a naturalized Canadian, spending his daily life in luxuries un-imaginable, who is respected every single minute of his life in the hospital for his dedication and service, to go to the country side of India and spend time. My jealousy was whipped with the kind air that sensed that man’s breath. My jealousy faded, with the clapping resonance in the auditorium, my jealousy died listening to that kind man’s heart beat. Many thanks to that person, who made me realize that my syndrome is not ‘patriotism’. It is just a state of mind that people call un-necessary possessiveness.


I remember those days, when we know to do only one thing, ‘freak out’. It was my Degree admission time and the air was filled with a unique fragrance across my college, I wondered what could be it? It was filled with fresh paper scent, coming out of those thousands of application forms, a bunch with each one of”em. Coming out of my +2 (we call Intermediate in Andhra Pradesh, India), my family wasn’t too happy about the fact that I did not get an admission into one of those Engineering Colleges. That was not my take, never. Times were tough in my family, with debts growing like the weeds in front of my house and cash flows were synonymous to Hyderabad water scarcity. Father really couldn’t afford a lot for my college and we had not much choice. I could understand those times, but it was not an age to think too much and I was not really ready to carry those weights on my shoulders.

It was coincidence, may be destiny,that I got the admission into the same college as my close friend Anil (who was my neighbor) did. To add icing to the cake, his father was the superintendent to that college (see, we are already seniors in the college!). Our major was Math and Sciences (Physics & Chemistry) at the college, which is like a default choice for many, I should say millions here. Other disciplines are considered absolute rot and waste of time. Speaking about waste of time, it was our muse for most of our college time.

First day of the college was fun. We were in a bus that already knew Physics. It was mostly bent towards one side (the side being the hanging super-heroes like me would be seen), and the bus’s buoyancy was keeping it still on the road, probably earth’s gravitational pull was so strong that, it made the bus not to escape from its atmosphere. Of course, it took next 6 months to study more about ‘angle of banking’, etc, which is completely true about our buses. As ragging was more common than teaching in colleges, we decided to have some fun on our first day. Posing as seniors in the college (there were many disciplines in the college and the chance of knowing every other guy is not a reality) and called upon a guy. After ‘playing’ with him for a while, we came to know that he was actually a 2ND year student. We asked him “why the heck you didn’t tell us?”, his reply was, “I was just checking to see how you guys rag me”, (what a fool!) and he left. We are actually lucky that he did not ask us too many details about our class, nor found that we are freshers. We spent like couple of hours near the college (I forgot to mention you guys, that we actually did not went inside the college, all this drama was outside the college premises) and then went on to see a new English movie. Day one came to an end. We Hindus believe that we should never have obstacles on second day (no matter what you do, its obvious that this was meant only for good deeds). So we went to another movie on the second day.

It was the 3rd day that we ‘witnessed’ our first class. Interestingly it was a Physics class. It was that day, we both guys (me and my friend Anil) saw how many guys were in our class, approximately. There were others who believe in 3rd day and saw one more movie, which is another story. I think we had close to 30 guys in the class that day. We have roll numbers and the lecturer would first take attendance.

Remember, we just came out of the college and are ‘completely’ ready to taste the bite of graduate college, its freedom, irresponsibility and seldom education. Graduate colleges, specially Degree colleges are known for their freedom and liberty (British did not know this earlier). It was our first class, so our ears were little attentive and eager. The classroom was filled with air of excitement, and we guys were seated in the front rows that day. The lecturer (it will be bad on my part not to remember his name) Lakshman Rao, asked each one of us to introduce ourselves, and we did. You know what, when you hear a voice for the first time and you know that you are going to spend the next 3 years with that guys, its an experience, hard to describe, but filled with lots of fun.

As I said, we guys were little eager that day to see how a class goes in Degree college. The lecturer started his class. Most of us have already opened up our ears to maximum and our eyes were completely circular. He introduces himself to all of us, briefly, and told us the most important lesson, we ever learned in our lives.

“I know you guys are here only because either you couldn’t get an admission in Engineering or Medicine, or your parents really don’t care about you, as you are getting a ‘Degree’ for some nice dowry. Fortunately, this is life’s most exciting period and you will all have a big blast this 3 years. I advice that you put more concentration on what you do next than what you do now. No matter what Degree you have, you will have to write an entrance examination, to go further in your career. And you need a first class degree to write the entrance examination. Remember and mark these words in your brain and your heart.”

The next lines were the guiding principles of our lives, at least mine, and I never crossed the line he bestowed upon us, till today.

He continued….”59 is worst, 61 is waste and 60 is best..” He was taking about we getting those percentages, and told us not to under work that we get only 59% or over work that we get 61%. Its just enough to get 60% and then put all our efforts in the next entrance examination for our Masters Degree. Its looks like a simple formulae, but philosophically, its a great truth and our life’s realities closely match it. We should only so much effort to reach our goals that we only reach that goal, nor a post before, nor more. Its exactly like golf. When you pocket the ball, you should never stop before the hole nor cross it. Its a guiding ‘mantra’ that I follow even today, and with or without the knowledge, most of us DO.

This is the story of 60.


1996, December the 7th.
Place: On the dias of SriKrishnadevaraya Andhara Bhashaa Nilayam

What is 2 power 103?

The answer was 32 digits long, and he took no time to answer.

If you number the alphabet ‘Ka’ to ‘Ksha’ (telugu alphabet) serially like 1, 2, 3 etc., what is the product of ‘Sa’, ‘Re’, ‘Ga’, ‘Ma’, ‘Pa’, ‘Da’, ‘Ni’?

The answer came in a zip….80 Crores, 5 lakhs and 6 thousand.

Poeple might take hours to solve these puzzles with the help of a pen and a paper, but he takes no time and answers them with enormous ease.

Is he educated? NO.

Can he see and read texts with his own eyes? Unfortunately, NO. He is blind by birth.

Hundreds of questions were shooted at him that day. Perspicacious were his answers, sagacious were his instints and astute was his brilliance. Other mathematicians took hours to solve them.

The man in debate is the Mathematical Genius Lakkoju Sanjeevaraya Sarma. He is a ‘new moon’ decorating the Universe of Mathematics. The man, who performed more than 6,000 mathematical shows, displaying his acumen and shrewed undestanding of mathematics, across various states in India.

Remember the old ‘rice grains’ puzzle? As a reward for defeating the king in a chess game, the winner asks the king to put 1 rice grain in the first square of the chess board and then double it to 2 and keep it in the 2nd square, then 4 in 3rd and 8 in 4th, and similarly untill all the 64 squares are filled up. To sum up all those rice grains is no unpretentious task. But Sarma gave the answer without any hesitation. “1,84,46,74,40,73,70,95,51,615” (1 Crore 84 lakh 46 thousands of 74 Crores 40 lakhs and 73 thousands of 70 Crores and 95 lakhs and 51 thousand and 615), Sarma’s voice resonated from the dias, swiftly.

(Author: Just to make things more interesting….
If a square meter of rice bag can hold 1 crore 50 lakh grains, it would require 1 crore 20 lakh crore square meters of rice bags to hold all the grains on the chess board. If you fill these grains in a 4 meter high and a 10 meter wide tube, you would require 300 crore kilometers of tube, which is twice the distance from Earth to Sun.)

This sounds gargantuan of a task, but for Sarma, it is as simple as 1+2 for us. Sarma was born in Kallur village in Proddutur Taluk of Cudapah district in Andhra Pradesh in the year 1907 on November the 22nd. His mother was Nagamamba and the father, Peda Pullaiah. The home nurse adviced the parents to kill the baby and bury him, as he was blind by birth. Some relatives went far ahead and threw rice grains in his throat, to kill him. But death was not ready to pick up Sarma at that time.

Braille was not invented by that time, and Sarma doesn’t had any aided schools or organizations for blind to get trained. He just used to learn from other pupils when they read the lessons out loud for him. He followed small calculations that he used to hear from his parents and nurtured his skill on to became the ‘genius’ without knowing how 1,2,3s actaully look like. He was raised mostly by his mother as his father died when he was very young. His help to the local farmers with their calculations on their crop, got him some perks to live on. He was also attracted to classical music and started learning violin, while pioneering in math.

The first stage performance was held in 1928 and the saga continued till 1995, gaining high accolades and respects from various intellectual communities across India and eventually around the globe. He was the main attraction at the All India Congress Convention in Nandyal in 1928, held on November 15th. Many awards were won, many records were broken as time passed by. Nehru and prominent national politicians were impressed by his sheer genius, and he was soon recognized as a ‘National property’. He was the first person to design a calendar that fits in our palm and covers 4,000 years. The then president of India ‘Dr.Rajendra Prasad’ was so flattered by this genius, that he mailed his salary to Sarma as a kind gesture. He was an inspiration to the youth at colleges and Universities; many followed his footsteps and generated lots of interest in Mathematics. He was honoured with various gold medals from different institutions and presented with thousands of certificates. It is his back luck, actually more of ours, that his 14 gold medals were stollen in an railway compartment on October 1oth, 1964.

He was invited to US in 1993 by some local Telugu commities, but due to Visa delays, he couldn’t not attend the convention there. The Indian origins in US were not blessed enough to have glimpses of the genius.

John Milton, Braille inventor Louis Braille, Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu are some of the most respected blind people in the world. You know what, they were not blind by birth, they became blind in their later age. Indian mathematical prodigies like Bhaskaracharya, Srinivasa Ramanujam and Shakuntala Devi were well educated and trained unlike Sarma, who doesn’t have any education, and never saw any alphabet or letters. He cultivated his sheer brilliance just from listening to others. Sarma is one amongst the world renouned 6 mathematics poineers.

One of the Governer Generals of British time gave a statement in press, “We would unveil a statue of Sarma, in the middle of London and offer prayers each day, had he been born in England”. Sarma never lived in riches, his life was poor and he lived poorly. We Indians couldn’t preserve the legends like Srinivasa Ramanujam, let alone people like Sarma. December the 2nd, year 1997 witnessed his last breaths. He spent his last days reciting to his violin in the holy feet of Lord Siva in Sri-Kala-Hasti.

Nobel prizes, Magsaysays, Gyaan Peeths seem to be very small now…!?!

(Author: This is an as-is excerpt from an article in a local news paper, translated. I would like to thank the publisher and the writer for letting us know that there was person of heavenly genius in our country who pioneered the art of Mathematics. Many respects for a wonderful human like Sarma. I am proud to be an Indian.)

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