By Sushant Thapa
Ray copied all the questions from the question paper and looked out of the window. Twenty minutes had passed, and he wasn’t able to answer any question. Mathematics had always been very difficult for him. He always failed in mathematics but passed other subjects. He managed to get promoted to higher classes. He had reached the highest class of school with the lowest grade in mathematics.
“What do you expect out of me?” he would question his mother in an arrogant manner.
“Why don’t you study mathematics during your exams?” his mother would ask.
“Even if I study it, I wouldn’t make it,” he would reply, and scribble poetry.
He had a diary in which he wrote poems. On top of every poem, he would write proverbs, and those proverbs related to his poetry. Writing poems was the only virtue he was gifted with. He wasn’t good at sports either. During the whole duration of a game of football, he would not get a chance to touch the ball — leave alone to kick it.
Ray would question his existence in his poems. He would lament about his life, the life which he had not seen nor lived. He created mountains of words and he lived his life vicariously through his poetry. The thought of writing poems made him feel alive.
Many times in the examination hall he would scribble poetry in rough sheets. His class teacher who was also the examiner was aware that Ray could only copy questions in mathematics but solving them correctly was another matter. He was not the only one who was weak in mathematics; there were many of them in his group. But he was the only one who wrote poetry, and that made all the difference.
Ray would try to solve the questions in mathematics, but his answers never matched with the answers at the back of his book.
Poetry was his only hope.
How fragile his life was without it? Reflections in poetry were like life itself. Poetry could reflect happiness, pain and illusion in life. Mathematics was very abstract for him. The answers never matched and sometimes he doubted the questions too.
On the other hand, poetry also questioned his existence, but always provided him with answers. It made him think and ponder upon the questions of life. And the best thing about poetry was that answers were different for each person and they need not match and be the same. This openness made all the difference.
Ray was finding answers to life in poetry and the answers were his own. The answers did not need to match with the answers in the books. It was unlike the mathematics they taught in school in every sense.
Poetry could be contemplative in nature but mathematics in school was derivative in nature — derived from facts and laws in form of numbers. However, while trying to solve math problems, he glimpsed poetry could be like mathematics and only the ways of finding or reaching conclusions were different. He felt mathematics and poetry were two different paths to examine life and to prove that life exists. The process and methods might be different, but the conclusion was always similar. Both the subjects had a similar derivative – to explain life around us.
He even felt that zero, the smallest number in mathematics could also be meaningful. Zero was capable of having meaning on its own – it could mean nothingness. Yet, when combined with other numbers it could still be meaningful. Similarly, in poetry words were capable of providing infinitesimal meaning when they were on their own but when combined with other words, they could provide infinite meanings.
Mathematics explained the laws of universe in numbers and poetry explained it in words. Mathematics could elaborate a new dimension of time and space. Poetry could also elaborate a new dimension of time, thoughts and space. Senses could be unbound with words and with numbers too.
Mathematics surpassed time in its calculation and poetry was immortal in words. Mathematics could calculate in numbers the wholeness of the universe: poetry could describe the idea of the universe in words. Mathematics helped to create inventions with precision: poetry also invents with words – with brevity and precision.
Ray was only trying to solve the equation of life and draw conclusions in his own way. He felt and saw the subtle differences in both the subjects and yet both had some strains of similarity.
Poetry had brought him to limelight in his class and in school. Since he was good at poetry his teacher felt the urge to help him with his mathematics. He was the same examiner who always noticed Ray while he copied questions in the examination hall.
Ray had begun by copying questions of mathematics, but eventually he was all set to find his answers too. It took him time to find his answers through numbers, but eventually he succeeded to pass his mathematics exam of tenth grade. The difference worked out pretty well for him.
Ultimately, Ray realised the difference between poetry and mathematics. The difference which he realised brought different modes from life together and produced a meaningful ending for him. His teacher read few lines of poetry from Ray’s diary to the class:
For, what is it that Poetry can do?
It can make tremble a single leaf of a tree among many, and make you its master
It can let you climb on clouds while you are on the ground and are finding your stand
When your heart aches and you find pain in others
When you stumble and see others falling too ….
Sushant Thapa is an M.A. in English Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. His poems, essays, short stories and flash fictions are published in Republica Daily, The Writer’s Club, Kitaab.org, firewordsdaily.com, Sahitya Post, Udghosh Daily of Biratnagar and Borderless Journal. Sushant revels in rock music, books, movies and poetry from his home in Biratnagar, Nepal.
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