One Diwali I spent hours during the three days of the festival going into every little lane and side street in Baroda to see whether there were any houses that did not display the festal lamps. I did not find a single house in the whole city where no lamps were burning. The Muslim houses too all had their lighted lamps.
I also used to visit the various temples. There was one temple, close to Kamathibag, whose deity I named 'Lord of Exams'. Our college was nearby, and during examination days crowds of students would visit the shrine for darshan, and to pray that the Lord would grant them a 'pass'.
In school and college my only concern was how soon the class would end and I be set free. But there was one occasion when the teacher began to dictate notes. I wrote nothing, I just listened, and the teacher noticed it. When he had finished the dictation he told me to stand up and read what I had written. I stood up at once with my notebook in my hand and repeated all I had heard. The teacher was taken aback. 'Just let me see your notebook,' he said. I showed him the blank pages. 'You won't be able to read what I have written, sir,' I said.
Mathematics was my strong subject. The teacher was fond of his pupils and took great pains over his work. One day I consulted him about an exceptionally difficult problem. He thought for a while and then said: 'Come back to me tomorrow. In all my years of teaching no one has posed such a problem before. I am so familiar with ordinary mathematics that I could teach it in my sleep, but this problem of yours is a different matter. I shall be able to give you an answer only tomorrow.' These words made a very deep impression on me.
But some teachers, when the children can't work out their maths problems, have a habit
of slapping their cheeks. I wonder what a slap has to do with mathematics? Is it perhaps that a slap on the cheek stimulates the flow of blood to the brain, so that it begins to work better and so solve the problem? Could that be the reason? When I was a little lad, about twelve years old, one of the teachers in our school used to cane the children a lot. He seemed to think that caning was the only basis for knowledge. He had a long cane which he kept locked up. We children didn't like canings, but what could we do? Finally one day I managed to pick the lock and throw the cane away. When the teacher found it gone he guessed, of course, that one of us had been playing pranks, but he said nothing. Next day he brought another cane, and I got rid of that one too. He got yet a third cane, and that also I disposed of. Then he got really annoyed and began asking questions to get at the source of the mischief, but none
of the boys said a word - they were all on my side.