Vantage point

Saturday, June 28, 2003


When I was about 10 years old, Maths was my favourite subject. I would love practising it by solving as many sums as possible. However, no rainforests were hurt for my maths practice. My parents told me to employ the good ole paati pencil method to solve these sums. This means that I used a small rectangular slate and a chalk.

My "maths kit" consisted of this black slate, a few thin white chalk-pencils, and a dustrag to wipe the slate clean. The usual routine adopted was that I would solve the sums on the slate, then wipe the writing off with a dry dustrag, and start over again. Since I used a dry dustrag, and since a slate is no blackboard, remnants of the chalk would remain. The slate would not be clean black as before, but greyish.

As I did this over and over again, the slate would become dark-grey and it would become difficult for me to read what I had written. many times a 5 would seem like a 3, or vice versa, and I would make a silly mistake in solving the sums. My efficiency, accuracy and technique were compromised by this haziness of the slate.

Then what I would do was dip the dustrag in water, and wipe the slate with it. The water would wash off all the chalk particles and the slate would be sparkling black again. I would then let it dry for a couple of minutes and admire the smooth and clean black surface, as compared to the shabby grey slate, because of dry wiping.

When I started doing the sums again on the shiny black slate, there would not be any mistakes, but it felt as if I was making a new powerful beginning without any mistakes.