Shakuntala Devi is popularly remembered as a mathematical genius, honored internationally as India’s “Human Computer”.
Shakuntala Devi was born on Nov 4, 1929 in Bangalore, India to an orthodox priestly family. When she was just 3 years old, she was helping her father with card tricks. Her father who was working in a circus company then, left the circus and took her on road shows that displayed her amazing ability at number crunching. She was able to do this with no formal education. By the age six she demonstrated her calculation and memorization abilities at the University of Mysore. In the year 1977 in USA at the Southern Methodist University she was asked to give the 23 root of a 201 –digit number. She answered in 50 seconds!!!Her answer -546,372,891-was confirmed by calculations done at the U.S Bureau of Standards by Univac 1101 computer, for which a special program had to be written to perform such a large number.
But what most of us did not know much more to this multifaceted genius in addition to her astrological prowess is her latent histrionic talent. After a whirlwind tour of Europe in the year 1955, she returned her home town Bangalore and lived in Gandhi Bazaar. Her reputation of being a young mathematical prodigy had already wide spread far and wide. It was then she joined the Kala Mandir, school of arts, founded and run in Gandhi Bazaar, where she became a prominent member of chitra Artistes, a popular amateur drama troupe. Shakuntala Devi playing main roles in many full- length plays surprised the audience with her role, till then, unknown histrionic talent. What surprised even more was that she would read her dialogue just once and reproduce them scene by scene leaving no word missed! It was after all, hardly a task for her.
During one of the cultural evenings organized by the KalaMandir at the Town Hall, A musician was supposed to sing as an interlude during the intermission. The musician had to cancel her program at the last minute as she had a very bad sore throat.
While the organizers busy to fill the gap, to their great relief and surprise, as the curtain rolled back in view to the audience – Shankuntala Devi was reciting indian classical music on her flute and some Devaranamas!!! She unearthed one of her many unknown talents, playing flute!!! She had no formal training to learn but she learnt by observing her brother playing!!
Kannada Keota, NY had that unique opportunity to welcome and Honor Srimathi Shakuntala Devi some 30 + years ago.
Shakuntala Devi – A versatile legend – left this mortal world on April 21, 2013. Perhaps mesmerizing the other world with her extra-ordinary talents.
She married in mid1960 to Mr.Paritosh Banerji, a senior IASofficer and the couple had a daughter, Ms.Anupama Banerji.
“Fair well and Long Live Shakuntala Devi.”
Written by C.G. Seshadri