Super-30, An IIT Topper and a Forgotten Mathematics Genius
The world loves to read, watch and listen to the success stories beaming out of the lap of adversity, poverty, and oblivion. Being oblivious for years a person may turn a believer, a believer is a dreamer and a dreamer is an achiever. Those who transcend the border of scarce resources and turn things around by their grit and determination are hailed as achievers and considered successful in life. With great success comes the criticism and I believe it is a natural phenomenon, humans are made that way, they have to deal with it. At the same time, there are a few who despite having immense talent and accomplishment are lost in the dark with the passage of time. They are forgotten. Time forgets them.
11 years ago, a 35-years-old Mathematician, Anand Kumar became a household name in the state of Bihar, the Beemaru Rajya. One afternoon in the month of April 2008, around 1200 kms away from Patna, the factory of nurturing IITians (Kota) was about to celebrate Bansal Classes’ topper Shitikanth Kashyap (a Patna resident) who had secured AIR 1 in the IIT-JEE entrance examination, a coaching center named ‘Ramanujan School of Mathematics (RSM), the Super-30’ in the vicinity of Mithapur Bus Stand at Patna hit the national headlines. Though it was not the maiden time when Super-30 and Anand Kumar were in news, but 2008 became special as 30 out 30 ‘Super-30’ students cracked IIT-JEE and made their way to various IIT institutes across India.
It was phenomenal. Extraordinary! Two Magadh born sons shot to fame at the same time. Soon, from a Pan shop in the streets to the general train compartments in Bihar, Anand’s and Shitikanth’s success stories started pouring in. They were quoted as the benchmark of success and ultimately it inspired many students to opt for the IITs and Super-30, oblivious of the fact that there is cut-throat competition waiting outside.
Nevertheless, hundreds of underprivileged students hailing from various districts of Bihar took free coaching with complimentary meal and house-stay under the guidance of Anand Kumar and former Director General of Police (DGP) of Bihar, Abhyanand. While Anand taught mathematics, Abhyanand chose Physics as his subject.
Anand’s 74-years-old mother used to cook for all the 30 students so that they can study without any hassle. Rest is history. The world media soon got to know that there is a man in Bihar who despite all the obstacles and adversities is guiding hundreds of economically weaker students, who are aspiring to make it to some of the best engineering universities and colleges, for free. Apparently, the contribution by the DGP Abhyanand in nurturing students for IIT entrance was not lesser than Anand Kumar’s.
Two years ago, controversies and smear campaign against Super-30 and Anand Kumar started hovering over when local newspapers in Bihar alleged Anand Kumar over fudging the data of the total number of passed students and gaining publicity out of his ‘false and fake’ narrative of Super-30. This all happened after DGP Abhyanand parted ways with Anand Kumar and Ramanujan School of Mathematics to start his own coaching center in Patna. In 2018, one of Anand’s aides was arrested under IT act after he allegedly posted on Facebook that DGP Abhyanand siphoned off 600 crores in the name of IIT coaching preparation in Patna. Anand ran pillar to post to get him bail. Anand in an interview to ‘The Hindu’ in 2018, said, “Do you think I need any kind of publicity now?...when the results were out I had presented all 26 students before media… that day no one had raised any question…it happens every year after the result and now I’ve become used to it and I also know who is behind all this smear campaign and why?” Everyone knows in Patna who is behind all these…why should I take his name?” Is the former DGP Abhyanand who was earlier associated with Super-30 for five years, the journalist had asked but Anand ducked.
Overall, Vikas Bahl has got everything that a biopic needs. Super-30 is a perfect blend of sacrifice, aspirations, achievement, and greed. It is a story of rags to riches.
Like Vikas Bahl, Bihar-based film director Prakash Jha once also wished to direct a biopic on another Bihar born genius mathematician, Vashisht Narayan Singh. VN Singh was born at Basantpur village in Bhojpur district of Bihar in 1942. From an underdeveloped village of Bihar to the University of California, Berkley, IIT, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the journey of this ace mathematician is quite a story to tell.
It is said that VN Singh reportedly challenged Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in the USA and also broke an algorithm to solving 32 malfunctioned computers used for Apollo mission of NASA. As a student of Patna Science College in 1963, he often used to challenge the professors for wrongful interpretations of many mathematical problems. Annoyed professors would often use to complain about his behavior to the college management. To the disbelief of Principal, VN Singh not only solved advance level math problems but also incepted new ways to do it. He broke all the academic records of Patna Science College when he managed to secure M.Sc. Mathematics degree while pursuing B.Sc. An American professor, John Kelly, at Patna Science College, spotted this extraordinary super talented genius man and insisted him to go to the USA. VN Singh went to the US in 1965.
VN Singh got his Ph.D. from University of California, Berkley, the USA in 1969. The same year, he joined NASA as an Associate Scientist Professor in Washington DC. In 1972, he returned to India and joined IIT Kanpur as a professor. After leaving IIT Kanpur over conflict of interest, he went to Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay and thereafter he stayed at Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta till 1977 until he was diagnosed with acute and incurable mental illness, Schizophrenia, and finally admitted to Kanke Mental Hospital in Ranchi (then in Bihar, now Jharkhand). For a decade he went under treatment at Kanke Mental Hospital. In 1988, he disappeared in mysterious circumstances and remained traceless for next four years. In Feb-March 1992, he was found in a very poor and apathetic condition in Siwan, Bihar.
The then Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav extended his support to Vashisth Narayan Singh as he sent him for treatment to NIMHANS, Bengaluru. Noted actor and former Member of Parliament, Shatrughan Sinha also helped the ace mathematician for treatment at the Institute of Human Behavior and Allied Science (IHBAS), New Delhi.
In this month of summer of 2019 June, when Mathematician Anand Kumar is winning accolades over his journey of Super-30 while the IIT Topper Shitikanth Kashyap is studying Quantum Computing at Waterloo, Ontario (Canada), Vashisht Narayan Singh (Vaigyaanik Ji), the 74-years-old genius, hangs around in his small apartment at Patna, playing with pencils, sometimes with papers and speaking to himself. As his sister-in-law says to BBC, "If a dog of a minister in India gets sick, then doctors take the line, but now we are worried about not him being treated but for books, these books will become trash one day. Even if a person is not mad, society makes him."
(Vashisht Narayan Singh is a national treasure. His Ph.D. paper reads ‘Reproducing Kernels and Operators with a cyclic vector.’)
(Sources: BBC Hindi, The Better Indian, The Hindu, Wikipedia, Facebook for Shitikanth profile and my own brain and wisdom.)
Source - The Republic Hind Blog