“It’s past the ten minutes allocated you. Have you solved it yet ?”, said Kapil, adjusting his thick reading glasses on his nose.
“I am almost there….Ummm…And yes Papa, I am done.” said Iti passing on her notepad to Kapil for further validation.
Kapil studied the solution for the tough mathematical problem for a while and then nodded disagreeably.
“This is wrong Iti. Your approach to solve the problem was correct. You implemented the correct progression but you made a silly mistake in the end while doing simple arithmetic calculation. Most of the folks would not know how to solve the problem, but you did ! And yet you derived the incorrect answer. Don’t get carried too much and never make haste. I know you know all the equations and theorems by heart, but that does not mean you give up your common sense or else you would end up like the Grindstone Astrologer.”
Iti listened intently to her father. Her father Kapil was a Mathematics Professor and had been working really hard on Iti in order to realise his dream of her making into one of the IITs. She had often heard him use the term “Grindstone Astrologer” whenever she made a careless mistake.
“Who’s the Grindstone Astrologer Papa?” she asked sincerely.
Kapil was a little taken aback by the question and then laughed bemusedly.
“Oh, Did I never tell you the story! How did I ever miss it.” said Kapil, more to himself, than to Iti.
He had always filled in Iti with various stories and lore from the past in order to encourage her and motivate her to study hard.
And so he began the story:
Once upon a time in a faraway land an old but learned astrologer served a king. Once of those days the astrologer visited the King with some intent and said to him:
“Astrology is no fluke, Your Majesty. It’s a science. A science of how planetary positions rule our lives. The more accurate the calculations are,the more accurate is the outcome. I present to you my most prized possession, my son, who is a marvel in himself.”
The King looked at the old astrologer and then at the young man. Time and again the royal astrologer had recommended his son to him. The young man seemed lost, as if he had no clue why he was here in the first place. He had been carrying a pile of parchments in his arms and looked neat.
“I will test him out first and if he indeed is as good as you say, we shall see what can be done.” remarked the King.
He then turned to the young man, brought his tightly fisted right hand to him and said:
“So my lad, Tell me what’s inside my fist.”
The young man sat on floor and spread across the parchments he had been carrying. He took out his quill and drew some charts. In a few minutes he declared:
“The object is solid and hard.”
“Not Bad. So it is. Remember, if you give the correct answer I will make you rich!”
The young man looked at the King with interest. Till now he had made many predictions by carrying out tedious calculations in order to help others but received nothing more than their gratitude. He was being offered an incentive today. His eyes shone bright. He continued with renewed enthusiasm.
He drew a few more charts.
“The object is round.” He said
The King was amused. “So it is. If you answer correctly, I will appoint you as my court official.”
This time, the young man smiled. He carried out a few more calculations in haste and declared:
“The object has a hole in the centre.”
Now the King acted genuinely impressed and said “Very well my boy. Guess the object and I will make you my Prime Minister.”
The Prime Minister.Thought the young man.
It was an offer too good to be true. All throughout his life he had slogged hard and now was his time to reap the benefits. Images of riches, big mansions and beautiful wives flashed before him.
He simply had to guess the object which was round and solid and had a hole in it.
He put down his charts and screamed in excitement.
“It is the grain grindstone my Lord!”
There was silence.
“And how would a grindstone fit in my palm.” said the King sincerely.
“You may be a great astrologer but you lack the basic common sense as well as the art of perseverance. Had you resorted to your calculations, you would have reached the correct conclusion in some time. It was simply a gold ring.
I am afraid I can offer you nothing but advice. Greed blinded you my boy. Don’t be too carried away by your impulses. They lead to downfall.” concluded the King.
The Young man stood downcast, ashamed of himself.
“Therefore dear Iti,” said Kapil , “Be proud of your capability , believe in yourself but never forego your common sense in face of adversity, attack or anxiety. Do you now understand the import of the Grindstone Astrologer .”
“Yes” said Iti and took back the notebook from Kapil to solve another problem.