Maths was my waterloo, which prevented me from becoming Napoleon.
My father PEG was Ramanujam, the decimal man. While he was not administering Karachi, when I was yet to line up as an embryo in his scrotum, he spent all his time writing maths books, ‘Teach Yourself Maths’ series, five volumes, which became the first Maths Ram text books in Independent India as well as well as Pak. Unfortunately, when my turn came to line up as an embryo post-independence, my father did not pass any of his DNA to me, reason why I was Musth Ram and not Maths Ram.
At ‘Amba-La-Puzha’ where I was born and grew up, when I was rearing to go and be the goal keeper in the local junior communist football league match (with a tennis ball) on Sunday mornings, my father would snigger, ‘Come, let us prove zero is not equal to zero’; which was his funniest joke.
As I grew up, under the shadow of the comely Marxist terrorist Miss Kunnikkal Ajitha, nurtured and tutored by the Rasputin EMS Bumboo-Thiri-Pad, I became allergic to many people besides my father; Pythagoras, Calculus and Arithmatix in particular - all of them considered to be anti-people, all Maths Rams. Sadly, my father deposed my Napoleonic ambitions and sent me to St Elba (Rimc), where I was fed scotch eggs, like slow lead poisoning of Napoleon, to kill the commie worms in my tummy and turn me from vermin to soldier, still with a grudge towards my father, Pythagoras, Calculus and Arithmatix, the Maths Rams of my life. I didn’t have to worry about Mathematrix or curvaceously comely Cos Theta, just the silly 1/ 60 rule of navigation, till I decided to become a test pilot at the age of 32.
In the outback of Bidar, where I was posted as a flying instructor, salvation was in Papnash and Nanak Jeera. Life became difficult on a salary of around Rs 850, especially when my tiny son started eating like ‘Bhima’, one tin of baby food in two days. It made me bankrupt. After a combined visit to Papnash and Nanak Jeera, I got salvation, enlightenment. ‘Do A2 and go to Iraq, Saddam will take care of you’, the Gods whispered in my ears. So I dusted the old copies of IAP 124, FIS précis, and the ‘Naval Aviator’s Ki Voh’, but got stumped by illustrious finger master Punia Sir who took the viva, mother of all A2 tests.
He asked, ‘Why are golf balls dimpled’ ?
‘I have no clue’, I told him seriously. ‘I don’t play golf, only football with a tennis ball’.
He gave me another chance.
‘Why do bowlers vigorously rub one side, same side of the cricket ball, on their crotch, before they bowl ?’.
‘Perhaps they have a Dhobi’s itch ?’, I suggested with wit and a QFI’s ‘fault finding’ wisdom, hopping to be sent to Iraq. I was going to add ‘Elementary Dr Watson’, but didn’t, because of Saddam’s wet dreams were not supposed to have humour in it.
Punia told me to go learn Kutta’s theorem and Magnus effect, the things that happen in boundary layer. He told me to go befriend Maths Ram Mathematrix, whom I had avoided even in FIS. In any case, the Gods in Papnash and Nananjeera had given same enlightenment to every man and beast in Training Command, starting from the C-in-C to the AF police at the railway gate in Bidar which doubled as the quarter guard. The same Saddam wet dreams. The queue was very long, from Trg Cmd to AEB in Hindon. I realised that by the time my turn came, my son would have grown a moustache between his legs despite my bankruptcy.
So I went again to Papnash and Nanank jeera, bribed Lord Shiva with go-go nuts, put 50 Naya Paisa into Jeera Hundi, and sought further advice. Despite many appeals, the Gods were silent. Apply, apply no reply. Several days later, it was the ghost of Kutub Shahi Sultan Qasim Barid who gave me good advice. ‘Go become a TP, you will get Rs 400 per month, a 50% pay hike’.
So it was that I turned up in ASTE begging to be made a TP. They promptly handed me two question papers, and gave me an hour to answer each. The first was about flying and aeronautics, not difficult for a QFI with Saddam dreams. But the second one was pure Maths Ram, with Pythagoras, Trignometrix, Calculus, ‘Tadka Marke, with Khatta Nimbu and no salt’.
I could hear my late father’s ghost snigger, ‘come, let us prove zero is not equal to zero’. I scored zero, because the only thing I wrote on the answer sheet, my service number, it wasn’t even a prime number. ‘Go learn Maths and come back again’, venerable W/C (Later Air MShl) Philip Sir counselled. He was even kind to take me to the library, and loan me about 25 volumes of Abbot’s ‘Teach Yourself Maths Ram’.
While lugging 50 kg of Maths Ram, I missed my father for the first time. He had facilitated seedlings of independent India with only 5 volumes of his Maths Ram, and here I was lugging 25 volumes of Abbot Ki Voh. My Dad’s ghost was nowhere around to consult with, and Kutub Shahi was allergic to the curvaceous Cos Theta.
My wife helped teach me count backwards and forwards using Naya Paisa instead of abacus. She went on to teach me multiplication tables too, ‘Do Bata Do, Panch’. Soon she became PhD and I remained King of Zero. It took me about 6 months to become a Maths Ram, befriend Pythagoras, Calculus and Arithmatix and Mathematrix, even the curvaceous Cos Theta. Yes, I also converted my service number to a prime number. To cut a long story short, I passed the Maths Ram test, by the skin on my teeth. Immediately Philip Sir told me to go learn French, which was worse than Maths Ram. Learnt that too, in Alliance Francaise B’lore.
And that is how I became an ETP from EPNER in France, a Maths Ram using the same logic of ‘Bolivian Algebra’.