The first I ever heard of Shakuntala Devi was a long time ago, when I stumbled across her book Figuring: The Joy of Numbers in the WH Smith’s bookstore in Birmingham, W Mids. Dad had business in Brum, and we all came along for the day.
When I came along with the book, Mum was scared that it was some sort of black magic text. It wasn’t – quite the opposite, in fact – and the book never left my bookshelves and relocated with me wherever I went.
Figuring: The Joy of Numbers became one of the most useful and helpful books I have ever had. It turned what could have become a fear of mathematics into a love of mathematics, and Figuring: The Joy of Numbers helped me to ace university and, later, work. Catalysed by the book and inspired by further experience, I learned to be familiar and comfortable with numbers, calculation, mental arithmetic and mathematics thanks to Shakuntala Devi’s early influence in my life.
I just heard of her death today, and I share the great sadness all of India must feel. A great and beautiful mind is no more, and the world is diminshed for the passing of a woman whom I have long held with the highest esteem.