Dear friends and listeners, here's part 2 of MATH WIZARD PART 2. A problem gets solved in the notebook of a mathematician by itself. How's that possible? Well, let's find out. You can also read the transcript of the episode on this page ... enjoy
Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello and welcome to OBSCURUS. In the last episode of this podcast, we saw how a mathematician struggles to solve a difficult mathematical problem. Out of fatigue, she falls asleep, leaving the problem unsolved. Upon waking up, she finds the solution to the problem neatly written in her notebook. Who solved it? Well, we will find out shortly.
Before starting the second and concluding part of the story, I would like to request my wonderful readers and listeners the world over to visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com. All OBSCURUS episodes and their transcripts are available on the website. Also, you will find information about my books, movies, voice-over assignments, and other creatives.
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Now, let’s begin the second and concluding part of the story. After several unsuccessful attempts to solve the gruesome mathematical problem, a mathematician dozes off at her table over her notebook out of mental exhaustion. When she wakes up, she finds the solution to the problem staring her in the face from the notebook. Who solved the problem? She? Someone else? Or was it the problem that solved itself? Come, let’s find out.
MATH WIZARD PART 2 00:02:40
Written and performed by Biswajit Banerjee
The college authorities arranged a video conference the next day. Professor Greene and some other renowned mathematicians joined the meeting from London, and Professor Awasthi and Pratibha participated in the discussions from the Indian professor's small university chamber.
"No doubt, we would be forced to defer the conducting of the experiment indefinitely if Pratibha had not come up with the brilliant solution to this problem," Professor Greene said.
"The sharpest mathematical minds of the world worked for close to two years and yet failed to solve the problem. And here you go — this young girl from India solves it in just a few hours." Professor Michael Smith, the team leader of the proposed experiment, said with a big smile.
"What a solution! For sure, today Pratibha ranks as one of the top mathematical geniuses of the world." A vibrant smile crossed Professor Greene's lips.
"Indeed, I completely agree with you," Professor Awasthi nodded.
00:04:08 The high praises of Professor Greene would have made the best music for Pratibha's ears if the truth had not been pinching her spirit. No, she didn't solve the problem. So, she didn't deserve these compliments.
"We have arrived, Pratibha," Professor Awasthi said after halting the vehicle inside the residential complex, "it's midnight. Your mother will be upset again."
"What? What did you say, Sir?"
"Absent-mindedness is so uncharacteristic of you, Pratibha."
"Well, Sir ..."
"No need for explanations; I know what's going through your mind."
"Sir, you got to believe it."
"Believe what? That you didn't solve the problem? Someone else did it. Perhaps the café owner, or the attendant ... what's his name, yes, Bittoo, or maybe one of the customers who visited the café that night? Is that what you expect me to believe?"
"But, Sir, I had fallen asleep ..."
"Oh, yes, you told me that story many times."
"That's exactly what happened, Sir."
"Can't you see the handwriting in the notebook is yours?"
"Well, yes, the handwriting is mine, but I didn't write the solution, Sir!"
"Sometimes, one's genius can drive one crazy. I can see it happening in your case."
"I am not lying to you, Sir."
"Of course, you are not lying to me. But what you are telling me is still the untruth."
"Sorry, Sir, I am not sure I understand you."
"Do you want me to explain it now?"
"Are you suggesting you can explain what happened that night?"
"Yes, I can tell you what happened."
"Then tell me."
"Yes, right now."
"But your mother will be unhappy."
"How much time do you need to explain?"
"Perhaps half an hour."
"We are already late, Sir. Another half-an-hour won't make a huge difference."
"Okay, listen. It is an established scientific fact that one's subconscious mind is much more powerful than one's conscious mind. Impossible feats can be achieved if one can tap the powers of the subconscious mind. The problems that the conscious mind may find insurmountable, the subconscious mind may find absurdly easy to solve. And you know — the subconscious has strange ways of functioning. Sometimes, it passes on hints to the conscious mind for solving difficult puzzles in the form of symbols. And sometimes, the subconscious mind solves a problem without the conscious mind getting to know about it. Are you with me?"
"Yes, go on."
"Okay, I will narrate two true incidents that would help you appreciate the powers of the subconscious. How August Kekule discovered the molecular structure of Benzene makes an interesting story. Of course, some people doubt if this story is true, but no matter what the truth is, the tale does give us possible insights into the powers of the subconscious. Do you know the story?"
"Look, although the empirical formula of Benzene was long known to chemists, even in the early 1860s, the scientific community wasn't quite sure about the molecular structure of Benzene. Many ideas floated in the air, but none fully explained the properties of the compound. In the course of an impromptu talk at a benzene seminar in 1890, Kekule said that during the winter of 1861-62, he fell asleep in front of a fire in Ghent, Belgium. In the dream that followed, he saw a snake put its tail into its mouth, giving the impression of a ring. And he woke up with a start! Now, he knew the ring structure of Benzene."
"Is this story true?"
"Well, I cannot be hundred percent sure. But, as I said, it does give you a broad idea about the powers of one's subconscious mind. When Kekule was daydreaming, his subconscious mind was in charge. And this subliminal state conveyed the solution to Kekule through symbols."
"Sir, I am not sure how the tale of the self-devouring snake that appeared in Kekule's dream explains how the mathematical problem got solved on its own in my notebook."
"The Kekule story was just to tell you how strong and intelligent the subconscious mind can be."
"But my subconscious mind did not convey the solution to the problem through symbols while I had dozed off in the café, at Bengali Tola."
"Did you have a dream?"
"I don't remember having a dream. Sir, please do not relate the Kekule incident to the solution of the problem in my notebook."
"Don't get agitated — I have already explained the purpose of narrating the Kekule tale was to give you an idea about the powers of one's subconscious mind. And now I will tell you the second incident of how subconscious mind came to the aid of a lyricist — and I can vouch for the authenticity of this story."
"How are you so sure this story is true?"
"Because it happened to my mother. She was a renowned lyricist in the Hindi film industry way back in the nineteen fifties — her name was Surabhi Awasthi.
"What! Surabhi Awasthi was your mother?"
"You never told me before."
"Well, I am telling you now. Would you like to listen to my mother's story?
"Yes, of course."
"Those were the initial days of her career as a lyricist in the film industry. In a male-dominated area of a male-dominated industry, my mother struggled right from the word go. But her innate poetic skills and perseverance helped her survive the rigors of industry politics that always promoted brawn instead of brain. After she had spent about five years as a lyricist, a famed music director asked her if she could write the lyrics for a tune based on a difficult Hindustani raga. My mother was given to understand that four senior lyricists had failed to supply the words for the tough tune. One of them did write a song, but it failed to capture the mood of the raga — the song had to sound like some devotional poem emerging from the spiritually enriched brain of an old yogi. The music director also said that the song had to be written within two days lest the shooting schedule of the film for which the lyrics were required should get disturbed. Well, my mother did take up the challenge."
"And she wrote the lyrics."
"Things were not easy. Despite trying her best, the song didn't come out of her brain. When about six hours or so were left before she was supposed to present the song to the music director, she dozed off on her writing pad just the way you fell asleep over your notebook. And then, when she woke up to the chirping of the birds early in the morning, she found the song written on the notepad. Of course, the handwriting was hers the way the solution to the mathematical problem is in your handwriting."
"What a strange correspondence in the two events!"
"Indeed, and my mother, like you, was sure she hadn't done the work! She asked my father if he had written the lyrics. My father, a mechanical engineer who spent half of his days in factories, was far removed from the sublimities of poetry. After a laugh, he said, 'This is your song. The handwriting is yours.' When my mother told him she didn't write the song and that she fell asleep, my father asked her to recall if she got up after dozing off to resume her work. At first, my mother was insistent she didn't get up to resume writing the lyrics after falling asleep, but then it struck her that she did get up and write the song in a state somewhere in the middle of sleep and wakefulness. In such a state, the subconscious mind is quite active. Without a trace of doubt, my mother tapped the powers of the subconscious while she was in this state and wrote that incredible song."
"What happened then?"
"Oh, the music director and other biggies in the world of Hindi film music were stunned at the beauty of my mother's lyrics, and of course, since then, there was no looking back for her. My mother became the most sought-after lyricist."
"So, you mean I solved the problem while I was in a state somewhere between wakefulness and sleep."
"Yes. After you fell asleep, you must have gotten up to work on the problem. This was a state of semi-sleep or semi-wakefulness — choose what you wish to call it. And this state allowed you to tap the powers of the subconscious. Need I say again — the subconscious mind is much brighter than the conscious mind. Now you know how you ended up solving the problem, don't you?"
"But Sir, I can't remember a thing."
"Obviously, you won't. However, later you may realize you did get up to work on the problem after falling asleep in your notebook. Even if you don’t recall anything eventually, you can still be sure you were the one who solved the problem."
"Sir, why did you not tell me earlier that your mother and I had such similar experiences?"
"I have told you now. And trust me — I am not telling lies. My mother did have such an experience."
"Of course, you are not telling lies, Sir. You are not the kind of person who would tell lies."
Professor Awasthi smiled, so did Pratibha.
00:14:36 Pratibha went to the bed around three in the morning. Sleep was far from her eyes as Pratibha wondered if the solution to the problem was really her work. Within minutes vague images began to hover in her mind. With time, the images gained clarity, and soon she witnessed what happened that night on her mind's screen. Oh, yes, she solved the problem in a state separating wakefulness from sleep! What a delight it was to realize the solution was indeed hers! The subliminal states of her mind had done the trick! And she deserved the praises and recognition that came her way.
00:15:27 Several Universities conferred doctorate degrees on Pratibha. Over the next four months, she traveled to different parts of the world with Professor Greene and Professor Awasthi. She delivered more than one hundred talks on the latest trends in advanced mathematical research. Given her newly acquired celebrity status, hundreds and thousands of people thronged the lecture halls to listen to her! The audience asked her questions of all kinds, including how she solved the complicated mathematical problem working just for a few hours. Pratibha answered them all with clarity and truthfulness. How her subconscious mind came to Pratibha's aid in solving the problem emerged as large bold headlines in newspapers and breaking news on television news channels for days together. Oh, she loved the attention! And the demigoddess-like status she found herself elevated to by the media!
00:16:41 About six months later, she was back in the little café in Bengali Tola, working on her creative non-fiction book on mathematical puzzles. How excited Bittoo was to find her back in the cafe!
"It was so exciting to watch you on the television talking to the newspersons. Oh, those were proud moments for me — I told everyone I know you closely."
A smile crossed Pratibha's lips. It was clear she had become a celebrity for life! After her return to Banaras, Pratibha had signed at least two hundred autograph books.
"Thank you so much, Bittoo. A lot of the credit for what I did goes to this little café and the lovely cups of coffee you have been serving me."
"Oh, do you really think so, Ma'am?"
"Yes. Do you know where I solved the mathematical problem that led to my becoming an international celebrity? This café, I solved that problem sitting right here at this table."
"Are you talking about the evening you dozed off on your notebook?"
"So, you saw me sleeping?"
"Yes, and I also saw the gentleman who worked in your notebook while you were sleeping."
"What did you just say?"
"I saw that gentleman."
"Who are you talking about?"
"The one who wrote letters and numbers in your notebook while you were sleeping."
"This doesn't make sense, Bittoo — who wrote in my notebook while I was sleeping."
"You don't know him?"
"Of course not."
"Ma'am, I spotted a man standing behind your chair after you had dozed off. I could sense the gentleman wanted to write in your notebook, but he couldn't do so for a long time since your hands covered most parts of the notebook while you were sleeping. But then, for a short time, you removed your hands from over it. Then the gentleman, who had been waiting patiently for the chance to write, bent down and scribbled a few things in the notebook. After he finished writing, the gentleman went out of the café's door."
"Are you sure of what you are saying, Bittoo?"
"Didn't others in the café spot him?"
"There were no customers at that time. Even the café owner had gone out for dinner. You, the gentleman, and I were the only ones present here."
"When did that man come?"
"Ma'am, I didn't see him coming. For a while, only you and I were over here. I still remember cleaning that table on the other extreme as you slept over the notebook at this table. Then I heard a bustle coming from this side. When I looked up, I found the gentleman positioning himself behind your chair. 'Sir, should I get you some coffee,' I asked him. In response, the man simply smiled. Then he turned his face away and waited till you moved your hands from over the notebook. When you did so, he took your pen and quickly wrote down something in the notebook. And then, he walked out of the café,"
"For how much time was that man here?"
"Maybe around ten minutes."
"Why didn't you tell me about it the same evening?"
"Ma'am, I had finished all the tasks for the day. And I had already worked a couple of hours extra that evening. So, I left after the café owner returned."
"And I left for England just days after that incident leaving you with no chance to tell me about it."
"Yes, Ma'am. This is your first visit to the café since that evening."
"Indeed, but ..."
"Is there a problem, Ma'am?"
"Can you describe that man?"
"Oh, he was tall and fair with black hair brushed backward. What a handsome man!"
"Did you see what he wrote in my notebook?"
"No, Ma'am, I was too far off."
"So, the solution ..."
"Is something wrong, Ma'am?"
"Wait a minute, let me think."
The clouds of confusion in Pratibha's mind suddenly made way for some clear thoughts. Could that man have been ...
Pratibha swiped through some pictures on her mobile phone. Then she stopped at one and showed it to Bittoo.
"Did you see him that evening?"
"Yes, Ma'am. Without a trace of doubt, it was him."
After a while, Pratibha whispered, "Oh, I fooled myself and the world into believing that my subconscious mind solved the problem. But Dad, it was you!"
Tears rolled down her cheeks. At the same time, a blissful smile lit up her face!
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!