Experiencing a situation which posed a challenge to me
I loved arts, but my father was opposed to it. He belonged to an older cult where guardians preferred to adapt their children to the demands of the age. Naturally, science being the call, he thought that I was destined for it, what with my taste and propensities. But I stuck to my gun and my father had to bend his neck to the collar at the persuasion of his elders. But he did not call quits either. He agreed to my joining arts with a rider that I offer mathematics as one subject. I discerned that he felt that I was afraid of the subject.
I decided to take up the challenge. Although I was relatively deficient in the subject, yet I resolved to make up for it by devoting the superfluous time that I saved from my other studies.
But that is not the ‘challenge’ relevant to the subject today. The challenge that confronted me was at the annual examination of the subject. It was the days of stiff examinations. On receipt of the question as usual, I surveyed it thoroughly to assess my competence. Let me mention, here, that I have an odd habit of labouring at the most difficult things first. Usually I apply to it my best efforts and intelligence, solve it and go ahead with the characteristic aplomb of a man that brooks no hurdle. Napoleon’s utterance when one of his generals objected about the Alps, that there shall be no Alps, was a favourite adage for me.
One may call it foolhardiness, but it was a bent with me and I took up first the question on the forces of equilibrium. I laboured at it fourteen to fifteen minutes. The repeated failures reddened my earlobes and a treacherous diffidence seemed to get the better of me. I was literally in a fix and fidgeted on my seat trying to steal a glance at other answers around me, when I saw our principal gingerly walking along my lane of seats, shouting, “get out, get out.“ I knew I was done for; my pulse-rate doubled and my heart pounded inside. But he sailed past my thunder-struck look. I turned round to see that the poor victim was my room-mate Ram avatar. The principle tucked his copy under his arm, the hall shook with a tremor of nervous palpitation and the invigilator stood as if rooted.
I looked at my sum and then at my watch. Half-an-hour had passed. Although it was not an hour, the invigilator allowed me to have a head-wash. It wrought a change in me. What shall happen if I fail due to maths? My father would say that I deliberately let him down as he forced the subject on me. My friends would tease me as a dullard who wastes such valuable hours over nothing and my conscience shall admonish my obstinacy. Pass I must, I thought. My attention was diverted from the object of my foolhardiness. After a relaxed mood I saw that the thirty marks of calculus were handy, as they were equations. Success in the very first sum released in me the latches of calculation, the second and the third sum. I never looked back. Went over to Dynamics and solved sum after sum like a miracle boy. My diffidence vanished round the corner and even while engaged over a sum, the mind gleaned the missing formula that stood as an obstacle in the first sum. I solved it too! Strange is the behaviour of the human mind, I thought. It yields only when one to easy. So the great creations of the earth are made by those that do it playfully and not willfully.
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