Saturday, January 14, 2006

Memoirs of a Last Bench Romeo-I

For the nerd who lurks within me, biding his time. For the nerd who lurks within all of us, awaiting passion.

I fell in love on, fittingly, Valentine's Day, 1999. I remember the date only because it was Valentine's. It wasn't really love at first sight, or anything as cliched as that. But if I had to pick one day of my life, as some sort of turning point, I suppose it would have to be this day.

It was a perfectly normal Valentine's day; the girls all giggly and the guys trying their best to act indifferent. Nobody really paid any attention to any of the classes, even the interesting ones. It was in a free period (granted by the exasperated teacher, after a few minutes of wasted effort), an hour or so after lunch, that it happened. Looking back now, I guess it was something like love at first sight, because even though we had known each other pretty much all our life, it was the first time I felt that way, a tantalizing whiff of what lay in store for me over the next three years.

Our class 'brain' (I'll call him B), oblivious to all else, was working on a geometrical proof he'd dug up from some obscure question bank. Surprisingly for him, he was unable to solve the problem. He started passing it around. The problem reached me through her, that is, she passed it to me. I looked up at her, smiled my thanks and looked at the figure on the piece of paper.

Parallelograms. A complicated figure looking something like the Great Pyramids, but with a trapezoid for a base. And areas. I had to prove that the areas of two triangles included in this figure were equal. I looked enquiringly at B; he said something about having to draw a perpendicular from the apex to the base. I shook my head, unable to understand, and got back to my piece of paper.

I concentrated. Unbidden, the thought came- parallelograms on the same base and between the same parallels are equal in area. I looked at the figure again. Two parallelograms-on the same base and between the same parallels. I smiled to myself, elated. I knew I'd got it, the rest of the proof was just manipulation. That was the moment; I'd never felt anything like that before. It was a kind of breathless exhilaration that made me so excited I actually had to get up and walk around a bit. The ego rush lasted for days; I was the only one in class who solved that problem. It intensified after the final exams, for that same question was asked. After the exam, B, all teary-eyed, came upto me and thanked me. He said that if it wasn't for me, he could have never achieved his lifelong dream of a hat-trick of Maths hundreds in all three term exams. By then, I was head over heels, what with heights and distances (in trigonometry) having caught my fancy, once I was done with geometry.

There was no looking back after that. I plunged headlong into her world; if it was geometry in 9th, it was quadratic equations and circles in 10th. I spent many a happy hour in the last bench with my friend Siva inventing theorems and finding, to our great disappointment, that they reduced to the original ones when manipulated a little more. Still, it was great fun and besides, we did come up with some new proofs which we showed proudly to our Maths teacher. But 10th was marked by one major mathematical event: the Horse Question. It was this question in areas that came in the boards (CBSE) that apparently very few people solved. It needed one very simple insight, and once you got that it was six marks for the taking. And it was the all-important boards, wasn't it? Six marks could mean everything. We (me and Siva) didn't have any trouble with it, considering the amount of practice we had (we'd solved two whole question banks apart from our textbooks, that's how obsessed we were). It became a matter of prestige for us, even after we joined college. I remember, in the first semester, when we were meeting new people almost every day, one of the first questions we asked each other (after establishing that we were from CBSE schools, of course), was almost invariably about this.
It would go something like this:
#1 (feigning casualness): Hey, remember that question in the 10th Maths exam?
#2 (knowing fully well which one): What do you mean, 'that question'? Which one?
#1 (knowing fully well that #2 knew which one he meant; but the farce had to be played out to its completion, didn't it?): Oh, you know, the one with the three horses grazing in the triangular plot.
#2: Oh, that one. (shaking his head) Man, I had a tough time with that one at first. I got it in the end, though.
#1 (nodding energetically): God , I know. I still remember how fuckin' good I felt when I got it.

And so forth. Everybody had a tough time with it at first, but always managed to solve it in the end. An instant bond would be formed; this conversation marked the beginning of many friendships. It didn't matter how many marks we'd scored, 'coz dammit, we'd solved the Horse Question. We would get all misty eyed over that paper, and nod knowingly to one another after long nights spent in fond remembrance, "Ah, but that was a good paper; it really was, that one".

Author's Note: I wrote this, and the rest of it (including the corny dedication at the beginning) around six months ago, in something of a melancholy mood. Blame unbidden, the thought came- on that. I mean, how crappy is that? I couldn't post the whole of it all at once because, scintillating though my writing is, I can't really expect you guys to take the time out to read the whole thing at one go. This is part parody, part fiction and quite a bit of fact. I'm not quite sure what it has ended up as. Hell, even this note thing feels like a parody.

59 Comments:

At 1:19 AM, Blogger A Hairy Snail said...

I lurrrvvved the corny dedication. :D

And, my dear meditative friend, you have touched a nerve somewhere below my feathers. And you stroked my downs as well! Geometry, trigonometry, amazing little theorems that reduced to the ones in the books... Man, those were the days! (Sigh.)

Tell me, did you ever waste innumerable hours trying to trisect an angle geometrically just because the books said it could not be done?

 
At 2:04 AM, Blogger the Monk said...

@the Quackpot: tell me about it...and elliptic integrals...no matter how many times my dad would say u can only solve them numerically...

 
At 4:36 AM, Blogger aria said...

Mathematics is a huge madhouse for me - sorta hallucination or a big trip to hell. I'm not sure I understood all the puns n wordplays galore .. but it was surely an amibitious playful marvel - fun read. :)

 
At 8:27 AM, Blogger A Hairy Snail said...

LOL - Atleast your dad could guide you thus far. Mine gave up sometime in the beginning of eleventh standard!

 
At 8:29 AM, Blogger snickersnee said...

i'm kinda partial to geeks.
feel they're the old softy kind.

Although, shouldn't come across so flirty on my first comment.
I absolutely love math too. This does sound like a long term relationship to me.

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger traveler said...

to those people who can think ...
MATHS is, like a ur LOVER ( all ways with u )...
for all those who fail to understand or simply works hard...she is a like a dream-girl ... not urs !!!

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger Diabolical Angel! said...

Your popst reminded me of last yr...i had my 10th boards then! The thought of them still creeps me out!
Liked ur post btw...eagerly waiting for the next one!

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger nandini said...

Amazingly good! those were the good days... I still remember the proofs and problems we did for the boards and the sense of accomplishment I felt after each one!

 
At 6:18 PM, Blogger Jasmine said...

For you, this is nostalgia. Me, I'm still living the nightmare! Yes, I know you'd probably refer to it as a dream. I'm doing my bachelor's degree in Maths and I have my internals going on and I have an exam tomorrow and what the hell am I doing surfing blogs?

 
At 8:10 PM, Blogger sthupit girl said...

valentines day and math??

wow.

:)

On a more serious note, i think i really loved 9th and 10th math... in 11th and 12th it involoved mugging up integration and differentiation formulae and working out 500 questions per chapter...We even came up with Mentally Affected Teacher Harassing Student..

i like the way you've written, thanks for visiting my blog..

'hope to see you again..
adios!

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger La_Surrealiste said...

LOLL!!! That was hilarious!!! and funnier still is the fact that I remember that problem!!! the quadrilateral problem..lolll!!! damn those days!!!

 
At 1:25 AM, Blogger Dreamcatcher said...

the dedication was adorably corny :P
and sigh i wish i could relate to your great love affair with maths.

 
At 11:50 AM, Blogger Phoenix Rises said...

Hmmm... I can relate to your love for trignometry with my love for the written word I guess! It's great you know that you can appreciate both Math and Literature. :)

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger Thetis said...

LOL!

Nostalgic.
Silent.

Still silent.
Staring into the screen.
Misty eyed.

Sobbing.



Uncontrollably.

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger Ashmi said...

wow! i always find your posts so different,interesting and above all hilarious( you seem to be blessed with a lot of wit)...man! my interaction with things such as theorems and parallelograms has ended long time back...and trust me i too used to lose my peace until i could solve them...it was a kind of addiction...still enjoy solving a few *easy one*...anyways keep it up!...

 
At 5:12 AM, Blogger ladyparadox said...

oh my god! you are one of those 'i like math' people! sigh... i hated math and if i did cbse, i would NEVER have gotten taht horse problem. :(

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Incognito said...

Tell me about it. Trignometry was my fort. More like an obsession. Missed it insanely in my 11th&12th. Not just 10th Maths, the other subject which fascinated me was Chemistry. Maybe more, because of our Sir. Carbon Compounds ..mm yumm. :)

 
At 11:45 AM, Blogger Jackal said...

hmm the theorams plz dont scare me....they did haunt me too.....nice post anyway...tcc byee

 
At 5:08 PM, Anonymous theLastJedi said...

Trignometry seems like a distant memory now. It was fun while it lasted.. I've lost all the "angles" now.

jedi

 
At 6:48 PM, Blogger >|' ; '| said...

i was pretty decent in math in the old days...but the funny thing is i don't even remember what kind of questions we'd had for the isc board exams...the 'horse' bonding tactic of yours sounds good!

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger Accidental Fame Junkie said...

It is a well-written parody!

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger Grafxgurl said...

am so glad i dropped by....this is such a refreshing post as compared to all the blogs ive been reading... completely new topic .. i like that.

thanks for dropping by my blog.
i was always bad with math but i loved Trig and ALgebra...thanks to my dad i passed!! and NOW my fiance is a Math nerd..lol. go figure.

 
At 12:33 AM, Blogger Harashita R. R. Bajaj said...

amazing...i too am in a NIT....did my 10th board frm CBSE in 2000 only...but i really can't remember any Horse Question...difficult one...nyways as always...nice post...u make me read long posts ...i just donn realise as i am reading...u rite really too well...

 
At 12:40 AM, Blogger Arunima said...

hello!! your posts are long and interesting. I envy that

 
At 2:56 AM, Blogger bronzmash said...

Hey Monk,
That's so superbly well written, i could start to envy you!!
Agreed, as to there's a Nerd within all of us and some control it better than others, i mean, i controlled it so well, i scored below 65 in Math (o.k. below 60 too!! who am i BS'ing!)
Kudos to you tho, for doing well with it; and hey, what happened to the 'Girl'!?!?

 
At 8:17 AM, Blogger TripleSix said...

watever u sadi bout ur writing in the concludin part of ur post..

"part parody, part fiction and quite a bit of fact"...

i dn't give a damn,cos honestly sayin,i really enjoyed readin it,n thts wat is necessary..to keep the readers glued,n make ur piece interstin,wich u have done so far..
i really liked it...n i liked tht corny dedication too..
:)

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger Neha said...

u r just amazing!lol..i don't noe how u managed to link vday n maths!cud'v never imagined this was the love of ur life ;)

 
At 12:47 PM, Blogger Ashish Shakya said...

With great geekiness comes great responsibility.Complicated theorems instead of complicated women seems to be the mantra.

I'm quite a trivia geek though.

And you have been tagged.Visit my site for details.

http://phoenix2100.blogspot.com

 
At 1:13 AM, Blogger karuna said...

Somehow it didnt exactly go quite as I expected, but twists in teh tale are always fun. I luurrvvvee trigo i say.
Anything that required logic and reasoning aswell... but its a good thing u like math what with engineering and all...

 
At 5:39 AM, Blogger Guruprasad Kini (Guru) said...

Maths, sigh! Used to be the love of my life, because I was totally inept at everything else. Maths helped me sail through the first few Engineering Semesters.
Maths seemed to be better than simulated sex in those days.
Good post!

 
At 9:12 PM, Blogger Pushuka said...

Nice post. I've always loved math too, but somehow I get the feeling that it was a classic case of unrequited love. Maybe it's because I always scored just a little lower on math than I thought I would... 99/100 on the CBSE X math board exams, 790/800 on my GRE quants... math might not return my love, but I'll love her just the same ... -sigh-

 
At 9:24 PM, Blogger The Individualist said...

lol @ pushuka. So evident it was. That Maths opted not to reciprocate.

It's always been a love-hate relationship between us. I solve her... Love her. Cannot solve her, I stare at her disbelievingly with an annoyed air around me. "Damn you suck!" And my maths professor was one person who was more intent on making students carry his chair around, than concentrate on those theorems. Now, I know why. I know he couldn't have blurted out the number of legs, that creaking chair he sat on had, even if it shouted out, loud and clear that it had four. Ahem... yeah, four. Was wondering if it was just four. :D Whenever I think of a dog, I, unerringly, picturise an animal with two legs. Don't ask me why. Am trying to figure out to this date.

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger hope and love said...

lol..!
great post..

 
At 2:31 AM, Blogger Camphor said...

:D I had no problem with it at all. I'd already solved it once. Thank you, Ms. Tuition Teacher. (It wasn't done in class, it was in the question bank).
Every time my tuition mates from that tuition - trust me, I went to 2n tuitions - they'd kick themselves for not noticing the third last sum in the question bank marked "looks tough".

As for me, I forgot all about it.
Well done, anyway. :P
On finding Her, I mean, not the answer.

 
At 11:26 AM, Blogger Dewdrop said...

Your love for the subject reminds me of a mathematical pun that goes 'Without geometry life is pointles' My favorite was rather algebra. The confusion of solving complex equations and functions was quite fun. But those were days..now these subjects only remain half forgotten things

 
At 12:33 PM, Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

dropped by and loved the way you built up the "love-story". Nice read.

 
At 3:49 AM, Blogger Canary said...

Nice one.. :) (shall i say as usual ?)
:)

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger Jayanth Madhav Barki said...

Good one man...Although I loathe math.

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger SmartOxymoron said...

And they lived happily ever after ;)

And where's the corny part? Either its not there, or I missed it, or Im too corny myself to notice.

 
At 10:46 PM, Blogger Alice said...

Alas! I detested circles and paralellograms (there were parallopipids also no?) and their ilk.. ghastly things!

 
At 6:33 AM, Blogger xtremely_insane said...

great.whichever the subject,this sense of accomplishment is unbeatable!
by the way,u have been tageed!

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger San said...

oh this post was great :)

but i can't relate to this love affair :S

 
At 12:28 AM, Blogger Siri said...

Oh yea baby!!!Trigonometry has to be the best thing about math!!!!!
I was bad at Math till say last year....but this insane love for physics helped me discover Math ka hidden glory!!!and yea..u were bang on target about the "sense of accomplishment "part!!!

Hey...one thing i have noticed is that...Ppl in d ubiquitous science-stream are almost always lodged in two factions. ones that love Phys and Math and hate chem and bio.....the other faction swears its loyalty to chem and bio and loathes phys and math....wotsay?

 
At 1:41 AM, Blogger the Monk said...

@bronzmash: I have no idea...
@pushuka:99 and 790(ok the 790 is a bit of a disgrace for engineers), but the 99????dude, and u say she never reciprocated?
@siri: I totally agree...I can't stand chem...dunno why, though...maybe bacause chemistry has more mugging up than either of physics and maths...

 
At 3:30 AM, Blogger Deepti said...

i fell in love with trignometry and calculus!!! :) i can still recollect those days when i would pour over a variety of book banks hunting for new kinds of problems to solve!! the only thing that equalled my love for calculus was organic chemistry !! ahh.. but now i remember none!!! :( that was a very nice post!!

 
At 12:31 PM, Blogger Ellie said...

And I thot such things happened only in fairy tales! Phew!A humane romeo for a mathematical Juliet...am sure shakespeare's turning in his grave!
Oh well...I would have been if I had been him! :-D I loathe to love maths...but the loved the parody of it!

Jus abandoned my plans to come to Prodigy in your college...it would have been interesting to make acquaintance tho!

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger ~*. D E E P A .* ~ said...

Heyyy ....

What was the " Horse question " ? My brain is itching to solve it ...

MAths was one of my fav papers .. the other ones being English and Bio ... weird , i know .. but that was it :)

Please do pass on the Horse qn .. ok ??

Well , ur lady love is fortunate ... and so are you ... she will keep u interested in her life long ..
*sigh* ... not too many guys are so blessed !!!!

Anyways , liked this post :)

See ya

 
At 2:22 AM, Anonymous kay said...

The dedication is anything but corny and out here is a great post!Nice twist to the story in between.I thought it is going to be a mushy love story"how i had my first crush" kind of story but looks like love can have a wholly different meaning...I wish i could empathise with u,but sadly,me being a victim of mathsphobia,cannot....:(...A sweet blog,an unravelling of a passionate affair with geometry.Somehwere upthere,Cupid pythagoras is working overtime!

 
At 4:32 AM, Blogger Siri said...

aaaahhhH!!!we agree on something here......
i hate chem too..and for exxactly the same reason!Too mch mugging!!!!!Damn!its just extended Physics as one very established Phys/Elec proff put it....Are u frm NCJ btw?

 
At 9:09 PM, Blogger the Monk said...

@siri:nope, from NIT Trichy...

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Siri said...

duh!lol..i think i kinda figured that part out...[psst,nittsermons??? ;)]
okay..lemme reframe that....were you in NCJ??i dun think so....
How abt coming up with sth abt phys...[and yea..a lil bit of bitchin abt chem]?

 
At 2:59 AM, Blogger TripleSix said...

arey...
when ru goin to update ur blog?
ok...i can help u...but dn't get mad at me plez....
i have tagged u...
yup
it's not goin to consume ur time..
jot down 6 of ur fav books n write a lil summary on it..

now get started....lol
YIPEE!!!

 
At 10:40 PM, Blogger Aslan said...

Ouch, you reminded me of my 10th std board exam math paper, which I cracked with 15 min to spare. I remember sitting back with a satisfied grin on my face for the remainder and then walking out slowly. The birdsong never sounded sweeter. As was the custom, my friends crowded around to ask how it was. I replied simply "100%".

It was only a couple of days later, when I was discussing the paper with my pal that I found out a 6-mark geometry question I'd missed. Even tho' its been 9 years since, I cannot forget it.

It was a ten line long polygon construction problem. At the end, the question continued, requiring the student to construct a similar polygon with a side given. I'd missed this part, which carried 3 marks. It was plumb-easy and I could have done it thrice with the time I'd had left.

The results came a month or two later:

English (Course A) - 76/100
Hindi (Course A) - 65/100
Mathematics - 97/100
Science - 95/100
Social Science - 83/100

I'd still scored highest in my school in Math, but so had four others. We got a certificate for being in the top 0.1% for AISSE Math '97.

The final nail in the coffin came when I realised the highest CBSE score that year was 98%. Nobody has scored 100%.

That was the day I came closest to committing suicide.

 
At 5:33 AM, Blogger .m. said...

and i was hoping for a mushy love story! This was much better!
cheers

 
At 3:55 AM, Blogger Sphinx said...

Fabulous post :-) I enjoy your writing a lot :-)

 
At 4:43 AM, Blogger onmyowntrip said...

abbbbbah! what a nerd
Have you tried falling in love with real people ? It could be more challenging a nd complicated than math problems !

 
At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Dee said...

Oh hell!!

Brings back memories indeed! :)
Thanks a ton for that...
Remember when I was the only one in class to solve this problem in a particular test in tenth ( think it was quadrilaterals, no..I'm sure it was quadrilaterals)..anyway, inspiration flashed just as the bell went..awesome feeling for days I'm sure..

You know, it's just that one point..you get it, and damn! It does feel good :)

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger Liquid Skin said...

i remember the horse question. damn animal. math was never my strong point. thank god i don't make my living from integral calculus, or horses.

 
At 2:19 AM, Blogger Melisa Marzett said...

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