When the announcer announced the name, Dr. Ashesh Sanyal faintly smiled and stood up. Keeping aside the bundle of books and his felicitation letter, he advanced towards the podium.
In his busy professional career, the accomplished Ashesh Sanyal had attended innumerable seminars and symposiums. Standing on the felicitation stage, feeling the light of the camera; all these things were now very regular to him. Earlier, he had to think and prepare himself for an acceptance speech, but, by now, he had given so many acceptance speeches that he did not have to prepare anymore, words just came out of him like an orator.
But, still, today, on the day when he was about to receive the highest honour; he froze on the stage, fumbling for words.
His un-mindfulness was suddenly removed by the mounting restlessness and murmur among the audience. On gaining consciousness, he quickly put himself together and started his speech with a big smile.
“You must have noticed, dear gentlemen, that today, when I ascended the podium, I became distracted for the first few minutes. Many of you may have become astonished, and many of you may have thought that, on receiving such a prestigious and honourable award, I had become speechless. Many of you may even have expected me to start my humble acceptance speech with ‘I am not the right recipient of such a prestigious prize’ and so on…… just as they are normally begun.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, all of your thoughts are,without doubt, true to their words. I really have become speechless by the sudden attack of emotions. I truly am not the rightful recipient of so prestigious an award. This is not my modest nature, neither the customary lip- service. I speak thus from the core of my heart.
Today, on this podium, I shall uphold one of my memories, hearing which; I expect all of you to be astounded. The announcer who used various ornamental words to describe my achievements would surely disbelieve my story.
But, it is true. I, in my childhood, was very very poor in maths!
Only the word “poor” does not completely delineate all that I wanted to say. I mean, I dreaded that particular subject. Whenever I was asked to solve sums, I felt dizzy. Maths class was just like a concentration camp.
At least, up to class VI, my marks never exceeded five. Yes, gentlemen, you have heard that accurately, it is five!
For improving my mathematical skills, my parents searched hard, and arranged for an imperious tutor. He was quite famous in the neighbourhood, for his extraordinary method of dealing with donkey-brained kids and changing them into exceptionally good students.
He had a bushy moustache, fiery eyes, and an unbreakable cane adorned his brawny hands. The rumbling voice of his sometimes sounded like thunder when he used to reprimand. He was regular for four days in a week, and for two hours each day, used to mash me up in his pounder with the cudgel of sums.
Even at this age, I don’t wish to hide the fact that, he was like meeting the real Yama on Earth!
His extraordinary way of teaching, as I mentioned before, was really terrible. Questionnaire after questionnaire he used to solve in front of me, never even caring to explain what he had done, or bothering to see whether I had understood the sums on my own or not. After solving all the sums, he simply instructed me to solve those again in another notebook, failing which, I could expect a thrashing from his side. For the sake of my dear life, I tried to by-heart all the sums, along with all the rough work and scribble; the resultant of all this hard work being me getting mixed up with the sums; my mind deceiving me, and my brain crashing down. The more I started receiving thrashing from my tutor, the lesser my marks in mathematics became. And, as a result, the greater my fear of maths became.
In the half-yearly examination of class VI, I secured zero marks.
Finally, one day, my grandfather dismissed the ruthless tutor. He told my father, “I think I have a man in hand…..I heard he is quite knowledgeable in mathematics, but is extremely poor. For a change, let’s see if this man can put some sense into him. Thrashing did not have any effect, I see.”
My heart started beating very fast. Again a new tutor! I only hoped he won’t be too hard on me. I started praying from time to time. Still, I don’t think that I could endorse my belief in the Almighty,because, it was my intrinsic belief, that math tutors are the world’s most harsh, rash and terrible teachers.
But the evening my math tutor arrived, instead of being depressed, I felt somewhat relieved.
Who is he? Are tutors even like this?
The man who just entered was a thin and pale figure, whose face was adorned by thick,unshaven beard. He wore soiled clothes and high-power specs over his eyes.He was slightly inclined forward, and his humble eyes were straying here and there. He had a long umbrella in his hand and a torn bag full of papers on his shoulders.
How can I be frightened of the man who himself always wears on a nervous face?
Most of my fear had disappeared on the first sight. That is why, when I went to the study room, I sat down with my books and copies with a smart look. My new tutor patted me affectionately on my shoulder. After that, he looked towards thecurtain-covered windows and sighed. Then, as if sharing with me a very secret word, asked me “Are you very poor in maths?”
I nodded my head for a yes. He again asked “Very frightened of that subject, aren’t you?”
On my second nod, he remained silent for a moment, and then lowering his voice and making a piteous face, said, “I too. Don’t tell anyone, please.”
I was blank. Dumbfounded. Bending a little more, my maths tutor said “If I lose this tuition, I won’t get even one square meal per day, do you know? That is why, I agreed. But I am not that knowledgeable in maths. I am even afraid of hard and tricky sums. Now, you are my only hope.”
I was almost panic-stricken, and could return only with a stammering reply “I……….I………….how………ho-hope……!”
Sir tightly held one of my hands and said “Please help me. I may, for many a times I may confuse myself while solving the sums. Please, please help me in those sums. You are a young child, have a youthful brain and can innovate unique ideas………You will surely do it. Please don’t tell anyone else about this, please……… or I will be in great trouble………”
With dumbfounded eyes, I was looking at my new tutor. What a shrunken face, what a sad voice! My heart filled with pity on looking at his eyes. Then suddenly, I felt a really strong thunderbolt of courage and self- confidence pass through me.
Sympathy is a very strong impulse- that, to help the helpless, even the weak and timid persons can forget the importance of their life, and get ready to face worst situations. I too felt like that.
Just like before fighting for a good cause, our senses are charged with refreshed energy, I toofelt the same surge of excitement flow through my heart. I decided that, I have to save that person by any means. For that reason, if I have to do hard work and solve sums on my own, I will do it alright. I will exercise my brains, think and rethink, and dedicate my heart to understand the logic behind the sums and master the examples. If I secure good marks in the exam, if people realise that I have improved- Only then will his job be saved.
You may not believe, but from the next day onwards, my fear of maths vanished. Leaving all subjects aside, I studied maths day and night. Seeing the examples, chapter after chapter I comprehended and practiced. I became persistent on maths. Wherever I found complicated sums, I started trying it over and over again for hours. The result I saw was that the problematic areas gave away at last. I exterminated obstacle after obstacle, with only one aim, to save my tutor.
Within three weeks, I realised that I had mastered all my chapters. Sums crawled on my head. Now, on just reading a problem sum, I could comprehend all the solutions step by step. I could now experience the one thing I was not able to realize all these days- the happiness and excitement felt, on solving a really hard sum.
My tutor also tried a lot. But, he frequently used to confuse up. Within a few days, the student-teacher role had interchanged. Maybe, the same sum we are trying to solve in two different notebooks, but even after my answer was obtained, he was still solving.
“Oh my! You have solved it already! Can you explain in what process you have solved?” He used to say and smile. Then as if I am the teacher, I used to pose and start explaining. “Oh, so this is it!” He used to remark, and as if to hide his shame, he would point at another sum and say “This won’t be that easy!”
I became persistent. Tightening my chin and straining my eyebrows, I sat, and exercised my brain; to find out the answers within a few minutes. My tutor’s face brightened up with a simple smile at my success. He told, “You do have a wonderful brain! See dear, will my tuitioncontinue?” But, by that time I had developed immense self-confidence in myself, I told “You see……… I won’t fail you, sir.”
Sometimes, my tutor brought bring tricky and complex sums from unknown sources. He told “I cannot even touch these sums. Try, and see whether your fresh brain has some ideas or not………. Very hard, really. I feel you won’t be able to solve them too.”
My blood boiled on hearing these words. Cannot solve! I immediately sat down to solve them with the pencil and my copy by my side. Sitting beside, my tutor also tried his hand at one or two sums. After that, suddenly I shouted “Eureka!” and solve down all the sums in a flow.
Realizing my dedication and persistence to solve the sums, my tutor used to comment me in a thankful voice “Oh! Thank God you were there………”
My school teachers were also astonished. Whenever a sum was to be solved, the first answer happened to be mine. Abinash sir finally expressed one day “With what magic did your blockhead brain become so genius? Can’t believe it!!”
With a slip of tongue, the reply came out as, “When you shall place the marks of the annual exam, it will be unbelievable for you even then, sir!!”
But when I returned home, my tutor did not approve of my statement and said, “You must not exaggerate like that before-hand. Suppose you forget all things like before?”
I looked at him with calm eyes and said, “How will I forget? I have now picturised all the sums in my brain, don’t you know? If not for anyone else, I must at least succeed for you; isn’t it?”
For the first time, I saw his two timid eyes, shine. Whether it was tears, or excitement, I couldn’t understand then.”
Dr. Sanyal drank a little water from the glass. Clearing his throat, he said, “I won’t waste much time. You have listened with great patience, and the story I am retelling is almost coming to an end.
“The day when the results came out, my schoolteachers were dumbfounded. It will sound like an inhuman story even today, that, the boy who never in his life touched even two digits in the mark sheet, was promoted from class six to class seven with complete three digits. Exactly hundred out of hundred!!
To consider it a ‘miracle’ is not enough to define the event.
Dancing with joy, I returned home and requested my father, “Please take me to my tutor, dad, please.”
I knew that, until I saw my tutor, my excitement won’t die down.
But, I saw, my father’s face was somewhat serious. He was irresponsive. The result of my maths exam had totally lost its value to him. I his calm, low voice, he replied, “Yes son, I had been waiting to take you to him.”
After a pause, he added, “He also wanted to see you.”
Our car did not stop near any house. Amazed, I saw that it was a hospital gate in front of me.
I turned to my father and asked, “What happened………why are we here?”
Your tutor isunwell. Since the day before yesterday, he has been lying unconscious on his bed. Then, we saw the situation and admitted him to a hospital. He has just regained consciousness a few moments ago, and is searching madly for you……….” My father suddenly paused.
My throat felt dry. Quietly I started to walk through the passage of wards. After crossing numerous passages, I found my tutor’s bed. Within these three to four days, his thin body had completely merged with the bed. The strain had formed ink-black rings over his eyes. But still, on seeing my mark sheet, his eyes brightened for a moment.
He was constantly facing trouble in speaking, and out of strong emotions, had pressed my hands tightly in his.
On realising that my tutor’s breathing trouble was constantly increasing, the nurse requested us to move out. Once again, I saw my tutor’s eyes shine with tears. With a heavy breath and broken voice, he told my father, “The thing I told you…….please see to it…….. must be all right…..”
Ashesh Sanyal stopped. He lowered his head for a few seconds, and clutched the microphone tightly in his hand. Then, holding his breath, he said “That was my last visit to him. He passed away that night. I was not shown his remains.”
“The next night, my father called me to his room. He told “Your tutor gifted this to you”, and handed me a file. Inside it were three to four old notebooks and some bundles of paper. Written in blue ink, the papers were full of strange and fascinating sums. There were hundreds of corrections in the sums, and the paper was full of numbers.
I could not make out head or tail of those sums. I only recognised the hand writing. And the untidy style of solving them too.
It was all higher mathematics. Research work.
“The man was so talented, but, we failed to realize.” Said my father with a deep sigh. “He gifted all his research to you. He told, that you should complete his unfinished research theories when you grow up….. and that was his last wish. He has blessed you to become successful in your research and make your country proud.”
Ashesh Sanyal has removed his specs. He is cleaning the lens. There is pin-drop silence within the audience. Ashesh Sanyal coughed a bit, and sighed.
“You must have noticed that, my voice is constantly cracking. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am constantly trying to control my emotions. I don’t have much to say now, just confess and agree to what you have already realised. Yes, my debt. Towards my heavenly tutor, who acted before me, telling that he did not understand mathematics, and awoke and aroused my suppressed and hidden talent. He was the teacher who sacrificed all his ego, just to ignite a student’s spirit. He changed my life.
No, he not only changed my life. The truth is, he, inside his file, gifted me a new life. He made me what I am. This honour is equally his honour. The honour and fame, which I am getting at this hour, for the successful research on the possibility of prime numbers- All this is the result of walking on the path of my poor and unfamiliar tutor’s research, who in those pages, himself introduced this deep and great possibility.
I just took the numbers to their destination, and just that is my contribution.
“Dear audience, with all the allowance that I get from this award, I have decided that, I will form a trust. The students who are bearers of exceptional talent in mathematics, but poor, shall be awarded a monthly scholarship from this trust. This scholarship shall be named, ‘Sibnath Sarkar Memorial Scholarship’.
Yes, dear audience, this man, Sibnath Sarkar was my childhood maths teacher, He made me what I am.