Narendra Karmarkar

He was my classmate at IIT Bombay. When I took classes at University of California at Berkeley, his name was there on the inside wall, perhaps he got the gold medal at that prestigious school. He did his masters there. He later studied at CalTech, another very selective school among the very best in the world. He dot his PhD from there.

One day I will reading Wall Street journal. On the front page his photo was there and some text stating Indian mathematician solves linear programming problem. It was really a big news in the USA.

One of my colleagues from University of Tennessee at Martin attended one seminar. The seminar was geared to discuss Karmarkar’s paper. It was so rare. World’s top mathematicians gathered to discuss a single person’s paper.

A hyper genius had arrived. Perhaps my mind is playing tricks with me because a short while later I heard from the same professor that Karmarkar’s algorithm was found to be a copy of some old mathematicians work.

I never heard him discussing Karmarkar’s work again.

There was another professor at UT, Martin in the department of botany or something like this. He had a joint professorship at Harvard. I met him a few times at parties and was impressed. So humble and such an achiever.

Later when I was in Japan, I read a news clip about a Harvard professor who was found lying about the results of his experiments. There are many statistical tools to do so in America. In India, who knows?

I have seen students at IIT, directly copying verbatim old thesis lying in the library, and they never got caught.

Anyway back to important issues. Karmarkar was the only one from our batch who could question professors and they were stumped sometimes but looked proud and happy nevertheless.

For me, once I dared to ask a simple question to a professor. The entire class became silent expecting something to happen. I realized asking questions was disrespectful of IIT, and Indian culture. The professor stopped for a few seconds, then asked me have you finished the book? Respectfully I said, no. He said then finish reading it, and then raise any question. And then he continued.

Everybody felt very relieved. And that was the end of my brief asking career at IIT.

Now it was back to solving crossword puzzles. Sometimes I went to eat dosas near the main gate. One day somebody found the rail of a lizard in his dosa. What else did he expect? Tail of a tiger? So unreasonable! The waiter took it back and returned with another dosa. That guy turned the dosa and started screaming,”How, trying to fool me? It is the same dosa.” The waiter had removed the tail. Some people were always disgruntled and picking up fights without reason even at IIT Bombay, whose computer science department has the most coveted seats in India, I guess. Just enter there and the bid starts from rs 1.5 crores per year.

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