Vashishtha Narayana was a great Mathematician born on 2nd April 1946 in a small village of Bihar.
With his sudden demise on 14th November 2019, the worldwide academia expressed deep regret over the loss of such a gem.
The Prime Minister and Chief Ministers of various states were also seen mourning the death of the great Indian mind.
Bihar’s Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar announced that the cremation of this great scientist would be done with full state honors giving great value to the Indian citizen.
However, it was ironical to see how Dr. Vashishtha Narayana was given so much recognition and importance after his death whereas was left to rot with his talent when alive.
You Heard It Right
Vashishtha Narayana was one of India’s brightest minds of this time. He was often called the ‘child prodigy’ due to his extraordinary mathematics skills since a very young age.
After completing his schooling from Netarhat Vidhyalaya in Jharkhand, he went to Patna Science College for higher studies.
Narayana made miraculous achievements during his college days. He was so exceptionally good that the college had to appeal to the Governor and Chancellor of the university to bend some UGC rules for Narayana.
The young lad was allowed to take B.Sc Honors final year examination right in his first year. This he followed by taking his MSc examinations in the next year. To great astonishment, Narayana not only passed these examinations with ease but emerged to be the ‘topper’ amongst his peers for that year.
He became quite a sensation and was eyed on by a visiting professor from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor John Kelly was already impressed by this Indian genius but still wanted to test his skills.
He gave him some ‘intractable’ mathematical problems to solve and was bemused to see Narayana coming up with solutions in the flick of a second.
The Journey Begins
From there on, Narayana’s talent was sure to cross the international borders.
Professor Kelly not only invited the young man to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley but also made sure to arrange for his finances.
He graduated with ‘highest honors’ at Berkeley and after completing his Ph.D., he took the role of the assistant professor at the University.
Making sure that the best of the talent isn’t wasted, Narayana was also hired by NASA during his Berkeley time. Reportedly, he is known to contribute to NASA’s first moon manned mission- Apollo.
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Everybody at NASA was in an awe of this mathematical genius. It is recorded that once the computers went off in the middle of an important calculation and everyone started panicking except for Narayana who was seen manually solving the same problem.
A few minutes later, his colleagues realized that his solution matched with the solution derived by the computers when the power came back. This made him earn more respect from his peers and he was anticipated to be the ‘big name’ in mathematics.
Just like every other genius, Narayana was also called off as a ‘superhero’ back in India. His exceptional accolades made him earn fame worldwide.
People also say that the brilliant scientist is known to wrongly prove the much renowned ‘Theory of Relativity’ by Einstein.
In the late 1960s, when Narayana was at the peak of his professional career, he started getting trapped in his mental illness.
During this time, he got married to an Army officer’s daughter in Bihar due to family pressure. While people were celebrating Narayana’s achievement, all these numbers, equations and theorems were creating a haphazard in Narayana’s head.
The chaos in his head got more intense and he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia in his early 40s. Fate took a turn for the worse when his wife left him after discovering his illness.
The great mind which was prophesied to go places ended up as a homeless roaming around on the streets of the country.
Narayana was deprived of family love and the negligence shown by his relatives and acquaintances killed the genius man alive.
His late-life is an absolute representation of how apathy and neglect can rot such prodigies in a flick of time. Soon, the great scientist was lost in anonymity.
The saddest part is that the Berkeley topper was spotted as a rag picker on the streets of Bihar in 1989. From there on, he was sent to various mental asylums but none of it ever worked for him.
Narayana succumbed to his mental illnesses and lost his charm due to lack of love and care in his life. This reminds me of John Nash who had a similar story of a ‘genius with schizophrenia’.
Nash received utmost love and care from his people which helped him fight his illness and later come out as a Nobel Laureate. However, Narayana was a pariah left to suffer alone.
Sadly, Narayana, who was deemed to be the next Ramanujan of India ended up as a mad scientist raging with mental disorders. His death shows us the mirror about how inconsiderate we Indians are about mental illnesses.
It’s high time to change our mindset or we never know how many more genius minds we are likely to lose due to our ignorance and apathy towards the mentally unsound.
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