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India has had a long legacy of remarkable educators and scholars who had great knowledge about mathematics and astronomy. And one noblewoman has spelt bound and challenged the world with her unique talent.

Shakuntala Devi, a genius who could impress people right from the age of three is moreover a multi-talented personality, true at motivational speeches and authoring books of different genres. Born to Kannadiga parents, in Bangalore, Karnataka on November 4, 1929. Her father worked in a circus and he discovered his daughter's ability to memorize numbers while teaching her a card trick when she was about three years old, then her father left the circus and took her on road shows that exhibited her mastery at calculation, despite not having received any formal schooling.

At the age of six, she demonstrated her arithmetic abilities at the University of Mysore. Soon her shows picked up craze as people could not believe her immense grip on the huge numbers. This earned her enough money to help contribute to the family, following years she moved to London with her father in 1944. Her mathematical talents were recognized there as well, and she was popular enough to set out for a Europe tour in 1950. In one famous interview on the BBC in 1950, her answer to a mathematical question was deemed incorrect, before the host later acknowledged that in fact, the computer’s answer was wrong, and Devi was right. After she returned to her motherland, Shakuntala Devi and Paritosh Banerji, an Indian Administrative Service officer, got married in 1964 and had a daughter, Anupama.

The miracle woman was recognized in the world over for her ability to solve complex mathematical problems in a matter of seconds without the use of pen, paper, or calculator. She moreover holds a Guinness Book World Record for correctly multiplying two randomly selected 13-digit numbers within seconds. In 1980, she correctly multiplied two 13-digit numbers in just 28 seconds at Imperial College London. This achievement earned her a place in the 1982 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. It was even more remarkable because it included the time it took Devi to recite the 26-digit solution. (Source - Guinness World Records) That is one of the deeds that earned Shakuntala Devi the title, “Human Computer” and a Google Doodle was created in her honour. Perhaps because of her fascination with numbers, Devi tried her hand at astrology, which is highly glorified in Indian culture. Her clients would give her a date of birth, time of birth and birthplace, and she would answer three questions about their lives. She likewise wrote a book called “Astrology for You”. When Devi wasn't touring the world and doing shows featuring her arithmetic intelligence, she wrote several books on math and her techniques, including “Puzzles to Puzzle You”, “Super Memory: It Can Be Yours” and “Math ability: Awaken the Math Genius in Your Child.” But decades prior, in 1976, Devi also wrote a crime thriller called “Perfect Murder”.

Devi's life was not just around numbers but a few controversial struggles as well. Imagine someone speaking about queerness in India in 1977.!! Devi married Paritosh Banerji in 1960 and they divorced years later in 1979. And a 2001 documentary “For Straights Only” claimed the marriage fell apart because Banerji was homosexual. In 1977, she wrote “The World of Homosexuals”, which featured her research findings, including interviews with same-sex couples in India and abroad. This book ends with a call of ‘full and complete acceptance and not tolerance and sympathy’. But the book, however, went mostly unnoticed at that time. She also tried to create a path into politics. In 1980, Devi ran for Parliament, the Lok Sabha, as an independent candidate from two different localities. In one of them, her main opponent was the former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, whom Devi had openly criticized. However, Indira Gandhi went on to win and became prime minister once again. (Source - Wikipedia)

Shakuntala Devi was found to be an expert in highly complex mental arithmetic. Her passion to expand the human capacity made her develop the concept known as ‘Mind Dynamics’. In acknowledgement of her talents, she was praised as ‘Human Computer’ after she projected her talents in the BBC channel hosted by Leslie Mitchell on October 5, 1950, but Devi never liked the title “Human Computer,” she said, “Human mind has incomparably many capabilities than the computer and it is not appropriate to compare the human mind with computers”.

From international headlines for out-performing and out-computing the most sophisticated computers in the world to breaking stereotypes in India, she was at the forefront of challenging the norms as well as a thirst for knowledge, this extraordinary woman mathematician of India, Shakuntala Devi died in Bangalore on 21 April 2013 at the age of 83 due to cardiac and respiratory problems. But as a great mathematician and a revolutionary writer bundled in one, Shakuntala Devi’s life and accomplishments have inspired millions around the world.

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A biographical movie released on Amazon prime India on, July 31, 2020, made by Anu Menon, starring Vidya Balan, entitled “Shakuntala Devi” has triggered the interests of people in this brilliant personality.
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