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Fun With Maths

The Ghost of Gosain Bagan by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay and Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee

Did you ever fail in your math exam? Or are you afraid of math?

Well, Burun did!

Read about what happens to Burun when he attends maths class after securing 13 marks in his previous exam.
The class is given a peculiar problem to solve. Burun could not solve the problem in the first instant, but ultimately did so with the help of Nidhram, the ghost from Gosain Bagan, whose sole purpose was to try and scare the fearless Burun.
Let’s see if you are smart enough to solve this or you need the help of Nidhiram, the ghost!

Mathematics period of Karali Sir.

The students did not call it mathematics any more. It was so frightening that they had coined the term ‘frightenomatics’ for Karali babu’s period.

The problem was that Karali babu not only taught them regular sums that were included in their course, but he would also import all kinds of scary mathematical problems from outside, apparently to make their brain stronger.

For example, today Karali babu entered the class beaming and said, ‘My little friends, I dreamt of a sum last night. It’s very interesting.’

The students were jolted to attention. That Karali babu saw mathematical problems in his dreams was nothing new. It had happened on several occasions earlier also. But the trouble was – what was a happy dream for Karali Sir would often turn into a nightmare for his students!

Karali babu said, ‘You know what, in the dream I saw myself working in a shoe shop as a salesman.’

Burun was seated on the last bench. Those days he sat only there. After failing in mathematics, he felt ashamed to sit on the first bench along with the ‘good students.’

The last bench was rather sparingly used. The only other student sitting near Burun was Fatik. On hearing Karali babu’s words, he muttered, ‘It would have been great. At least, we would be saved from this torture.’

Burun did not respond. Nowadays he remained very aloof.

A smiling Karali babu said, ‘Got it? A salesman in a shoe mart! But I was enjoying myself. The owner of
the shop was a genial person. He didn’t care much for accounts. Whenever there was any doubt about cash transactions, he would call me and ask, “Here, Karali babu, will you please explain the calculation to me?” I was rather enjoying the work. When a customer came, I would take out the desired pair of shoes, check if it fitted him, or would help them make a choice. At times, I would assist the owner by doing a calculation orally.

‘Things were pretty cool. Then, one day a customer came. He selected a pair of shoes. After a bit of bargaining, he settled for it at a price of ₹20. He offered a ₹100 note to the owner. The cashbox was short of change. So the owner gave me the note and said, “Karali babu, will you get some change from the neighbouring shop?”

‘Little friends, mark the transactions very carefully from now . . .

‘Yes, so I brought back smaller currency notes against the ₹100 note from the adjacent shop. The owner kept ₹20 from that and returned the balance ₹80 to the customer. The customer left the shop tucking the box of shoes under his arms. But a little later, the owner of the next shop came and returned the note to my owner saying that it was a forged currency note. The owner examined the note from every angle and said, “Yeah, it’s true, the man has duped us.” Then, he replaced the forged currency note with a new ₹100 note. The latter left. Then the owner tried to find out his actual loss.

‘But as I told you earlier, the man was a simpleton. Try as much, he couldn’t get the calculation right.

‘At times he would cry out, “My God, I have lost ₹200!” When I asked how, he would say, “I had given ₹80 to the customer, ₹100 to the neighbouring shop-owner, plus the price of the pair of shoes – it all adds up to ₹200.” Then again, he would say, “No, no, the real loss is only ₹80.”

‘And again, “Oh, a problem in calculation. Actually, it is ₹100 plus the cost of the shoe. So the loss is ₹120” . . . “no, no, I’ve lost nothing except a pair of shoes” . . . “but how? Didn’t I give ₹100 to the next-door shopkeeper” . . . Finally, he looked at me crestfallen and said, “Karali babu, would you kindly calculate and tell me the actual amount of my loss?”

‘My friends, this is the first sum for you today – very simple arithmetic. Almost as easy as a class-two sum. Solve it. You get three minutes.’

Everyone started solving the sum. There was only the sound of pen moving on paper.

Burun also did the calculation. It did not take him long. Hardly one and a half minutes. As he was about
to get up with his exercise book, someone whispered in his ears, ‘Aha, you’ve committed a silly mistake! Are you going to invite a knock from Karali babu’s duster?’

Burun first thought it was Fatik whispering in his ear. But he looked around and found Fatik absorbed
in reading a detective storybook on the sly at the other end of the bench. Who spoke to him then?

The voice squeaked happily in his ear this time, ‘Got a little frightened?’

Burun lowered his head at once and said gravely, ‘I don’t fear anyone.’

The unseen fellow’s voice turned sorrowful, ‘You are a very strange boy. Anyway, I can’t help it. Still, let me do you a favour. Give me the exercise book. I’ll do the sum correctly for you.’

Burun hesitated for a moment. Then he said, ‘But Karali Sir might see if I give you the exercise book.’

‘Better then. You open the exercise book and hold the pencil on it. I’ll do the calculations through your fingers.’

That was how it happened. Within ten seconds, Nidhiram did the calculations correctly and nudged him softly, ‘Go. Be the first one to show it to Karali babu.’

(We are not giving the answer of the sum here. The readers may work it out themselves.)

Post your solution in the comments!
You can read about Burun’s encounter with Karali babu’s sums and with Nidhiram, the ghost, in our book, The Ghost of Gosain Bagan.

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