My rendezvous with Ramanujan

Me, Ramanujan, Spiritualism & Infinity

                              Ramanujan-A man with two seas, Mathematics & Spiritualism…

Every day is a great day for a normal person like me except when sometimes this notion of normalcy deflects to an unravelled realm. Yes, I am talking about today, i.e. 10th May, 2016. I will unearth this day after many years (in future) to cremate it again as a day of my virtual interaction with a great mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan. I am confused about the state of my mind today. I am digging deep to eject out of the hallucination of mathematics world.

All this is happening because of the movie I just watched. I am talking of “The man who knew infinity” which is based on a book with the same title and authored by Robert Kanigel. It was an unexpected plan and it is proved now that unexpectedness brings joyful uncertainty in the form of absurd awakening. Reaching a state of inner satisfaction and happiness to me is awakening. The movie starts with Ramanujan scribbling some mathematical equations on the altar of a temple with the backdrop covered by Indian classical music. His early married life was crawling until suddenly he gets an opportunity to work in an office as a clerk. As a widely known notion, talent cannot stay hidden for too long, his penchant for playing with numbers was observed by his boss. After seeing his works on some mysterious theorems, his boss motivated him to write a letter to G.H. Hardy, who was a great mathematician in Trinity at that time.

Hardy astonished by his work took a quick response of inviting him to work with him.

Being an Indian along with a Brahmin, Ramanujan was in a great dilemma as crossing the sea was forbidden for them. It seems as nature was rolling his hard dice to beat him hard by creating a huge sea barrier between England and India.

But this time, the dice were more favourably inclined towards Ramanujan. He revolted against the sacrosanct idea of the sea and thus joined Hardy. No one then was sure of the success of this Hardy-Ramanujan collaboration.

This was the beginning of a new chapter more in the life of Mr. Hardy than for Ramanujan. It was a transfusion of spiritualism with the radicalism.

Ramanujan was a firm spiritual by character, whereas Mr. Hardy was an atheist. I must admit that God was really in a fun mood when God brought these two people together.

Every time when a new theorem was propounded by Ramanujan, he raised his eyebrows and ask for proof and he simply replies that he actually doesn’t know. He explains it by saying that Namagiri (A Hindu goddess) used to whisper the equations to him but not the proof procedures.

Though Hardy was unsupportive of this spiritual backed reasoning (as he knew the criticality of reasoning & proofs), he was the one who actually brings the mathematical fame to Ramanujan’s feat. Ramanujan’s papers got published because of his support.There is a scene in the movie when Hardy took him to the grand library of Trinity where the book “Principia Mathematica” by Newton was placed on a table marking his legacy and said to him that if he wants to achieve the same, he must work out the proofs. This endeavor of Mr. Hardy was well received by him and so he started working on proofs too.

The best line in the movie is by Ramanujan, which goes like – “An equation for me has no meaning unless it represents a thought of God.” These lines beautifully stand at the cross-section of spiritualism and mathematics. It even forced a person like me (more of an atheist) to start thinking whether the equations are just the medium of communication of God or rather say Universe or more than that…???

It left me puzzled.

The movie ends with the letter Ramanujan received by Mr. Hardy and then Mr. Hardy explains the Royal Society that we, the mathematician, are merely explorers of infinity in the pursuit of absolute perfection. The dialogue of ‘The fault in our stars’ which states that- “some infinities are bigger than other infinities”-truly suits to Ramanujan. I am sure his infinity was bigger than expected and different from all others.

I would totally recommend it to everyone as it is worth every penny (evn I have spent Rs. 330 for it).

Thank You.

Vimanyu Sahu






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