Numbers Ru(i)n our Lives

“Mama loves me more than anyone”- the shrill and agitation of my younger one’s voice indicated an overture to another sibling combat. “Sibling rivalry” must have some evolutionary significance and the law is that it patronises the house more on a long weekend. But this weekend, the conciliator mother wants her own peace of mind and is reluctant to wear the peacemaker cap every hour. She is overwhelmed by the brimming over bullets on her to-do list for the weekend.

So I opted to control my itch to jump into the role of a referee. I continued with my cleaning of drawers while the verbal spat between my two angels continued..

“She loves me more than infinity”- yapped my younger one, beaming with pride as she could use the biggest quantity to her knowledge. “Infinity! Infinity! Infinity!”- she kept yapping with her cherubic laughter. My elder one started with “Infinity raise to the power of infinity! Infinity raise to the power of infinity..!”-validating that her knowledge is superior to her baby sister.  Their pitch elevated with each second till it was a full blown cacophony and I, the conciliator had to intervene with an overpowering “SHHHH………”

I fondly remember how they quantified their love for me or my love for them as toddlers. The pupils were dilated, mouth opened wide and the arms would stretch to their full capacity----“Thiiiiiiiiiis muuuuuch”. Later, those arms were taken back where they met each other, making a full circle around them. They would lose their balance and wobble while doing that. Oh! how gladdened I would be with those gesticulations!!!. Today the love was quantified and the joy of imprecision was lost!!

In a Montessori school, subjects are presented to children as “items of human culture”, skills and knowledge that a child would need to live as a human. Arithmetic is also presented as an item of human culture. We present it around the age of three and half years, when children get inquisitive about the quantity. How much???- The child is curious about numbers.

Numbers are really marvels of human civilization. I fail to pinpoint when it actually invaded the human life. To my astonishment, you find numbers in the most ancient of literature and scriptures that we know. Five Pandavas and hundred Kauravas in Mahabharata, 14 years of vanvas to Ram…..numbers were always there!!!  I was surprised to read the viral WhatsApp message which advocated the accurate distance between earth and sun mentioned in Hanuman Chalisa.

I only know of the contribution of India –  magical zero which has no value of it’s own but increases the value of other numbers by ten times if written at the end. It is basically a place holder for other digits.

Calculations and measurements are so integral part of our life and numbers come so handy in day to day life. Humans always lusted for precision and so came fractions and decimals. When we talk of precision, we cannot leave behind “language”, another item of human culture. Language is an unique trait of human civilization and to be accurate one that sets human on highest pedestal of evolution. Arithmetic and numbers have contributed tremendously to our language, providing precision to our expressions. A ‘decade’ for ten years, ‘ century’ for hundred years, ‘dozen’ for twelve, ‘gross’ for dozen dozen…..penta, hexa, hepta, octa, nona, nano, deca, dodeca… so much to enrich vocabulary. Precision provided clarity and at times of conflict, “approximately” comes to rescue.

Then we started to assess and evaluate our role – giving a score. How much your relationship with your spouse scores on a scale of 10?? How much you will rate yourself as a parent – maybe 8 out 10??  How hurt are you after your argument with your friend?? We started measuring the intangible. You assessed your various roles and geared up to get a better score.

Numbers made life tangible. Then with the fast paced life, numbers invaded our personal space. It started to define us and drive us. Your age, height, weight, number of houses you own, number of cars you have, number of zeroes in your salary, number of foreign trips you make for vacations, number of friends and followers on social media, number of promotions and hikes you have got and not to forget the numbers on the mark sheet of your child ………numbers overrule!!

Numbers dwell in your head, in your intellect while joys and pain brood in heart.  As a small girl, I would get engrossed in watching the starlit sky, counting those glittery twinkling ones hanging from the sky staring back at me. It seemed that once you climb a tall building, you can pluck them. But the joy and wonder faded away once the Physics lessons taught me that they are so enormous and so many light years away..

Numbers at times wilt life – tosses off the soul. If head gets an extra edge over the heart, life limps on the crutches of numbers.

I am not a number. I am beyond my age, my height, my weight, the zeros in my salary…….I am the sum of my inner richness, of the countless emotions, of the joys and pains, of the memories.

The countless memories of surprise kisses and hugs, of heartbreaks and heartaches, of the hidden meanings in the small talks, winks and gestures, of making full use of stolen time, of promises and pledges kept, of the joys of smelling the print of new books, of savouring the last bite of my favourite ice-cream, of giving away my share to my loved ones, of breaking the rules, of cuddles and snuggles, of slowing down to witness, observe deep, live and re-live………………………

And not to forget the inception of this blog – the countless times I have been a referee to “sibling combat”. If I kept an account of all such quarrels and rivalries over last one decade, it would have reached to approximately infinity!!


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