E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The telephone rang in the middle of the night. Pythagoras (570-495 BC) woke up with a start but did not know what to do or how to stop the noise.
Euclid was equally puzzled.
Luckily Srinivasa Ramanujan was around. He asked Pythagoras to lift the hand set, say ‘Hello’ and listen to the voice first and then speak, if need be.
“Hello! Is it janaab Pythagoras?”
“Yes, it is. What do you want?”
“Listen. We need more proof for your theorem of the right-angled triangle. Without that, we cannot teach your theorem in our schools any more.”
“May I know who is speaking, please?”
“Pytho-saab, I am Shah Mehmood Quereshi, foreign minister of Pakistan. Our secondary school board chief and President, Asif Ali Zardari, feel your theorem lacks irrefutable clinching proof. Do you understand? Irrefutable clinching proof. Without that I am afraid we will have to drop your theorem from our schools and madrassas.”
“Pakistan? Zardari? Madrassa? Are these new theorems? My theorem simply states: ‘The sum of the areas of the two squares of a right angled triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse’. I have proved it myself and I believe there are around 80 proofs for my theorem now. I don’t understand what your problem is.”
“Pytho-ji. Please understand. We in Pakistan need more proof that would hold good even in court… By the way, has the United Nations approved your theorem?”
“Mr Quereshi, you cannot make a triangle with just two sides. This is elementary geometry. You must have a third side to make it a triangle and call it UNO or something like that.”
“I was using a short form of UNO. Anyway, I will call you again tomorrow. If you want your theorem should be taught in our schools, you will have to provide more conclusive, clinching proof. Otherwise, we will drop your theorem from our curriculum. Do you understand?”
Pythagoras did have Euclid, Garfield and Ramanajan with him for company. But none of them could think of irrefutable clinching evidence which could be used in Quereshi’s courts, schools, madrassas etc. Finally they found someone who felt he could satisfy Quereshi.
Pythagoras was relieved.
Next day when the call came, Pythagoras was ready.
“Do you have conclusive proof now?” asked Mr Q.
“Yes. Note down please. As you know, my theorem is: A squared + B squared = C squared. I have modified the theorem for you. You can now read the theorem as: Taliban squared + LeT squared = ISI squared. where ISI is equal to members of Inter-Service Intelligence, and Taliban and LeT is equal to the terrorists. This in a way describes your country too. I hope your President and students will be able to understand the theorem better and follow the proof I have given earlier.”
“Thank you Mr Pythagoras, now it is pretty clear you have been decorated with the nishaan-e-Greece. I get the complete picture. I can also use it for the 26/11 Bombay seige. We are unable to prosecute some of our people for lack of irrefutable, clinching evidence. By the way, who helped you with the modified theorem? Some South Indian, I suppose?”
“No, no. These Indians are still happy finding water on the moon! It was your countryman General Zia-ul-Haq who helped. He explained the various forces that operate in your country. This helped me to modify my theorem. If you know how many Talibans and LeT are there with you, you can easily calculate the number of ISI in your government It is just the square root of Taliban squared plus LeT squared. General Zia was confident this will help you a lot. Is this so?”
“Yes, it will.”
“If you know any two, you can calculate the third.”
“Now your theorem makes sense. QED. We will use the modified theorem. Thanks again, Pythagoras saab“.
“Hang on, there is a corollary to my theorem. I understand the position in Pakistan is always rather acute. If that is so, Taliban squared + LeT squared will always be greater than ISI squared. Got it?”
“Yes. Thank you Mr Pythagoras. Khuda hafiz.”
“Take care, my friend.”