Indian ‘human computer’ Shakuntala Devi no more

Bangalore: Indian mathematical genius and astrologer Shakuntala Devi, who was dubbed “human computer” for her swift numerical calculation abilities, passed away here Sunday after brief illness. She was 83.

She is survived by her daughter, son-in-law and two grand daughters.Shakuntala Devi

“Madam breathed her last at 8:15 a.m. today (Sunday) due to heart failure and renal problem,” Shakuntala Devi’s long-time associate Kavita Malhotra told here.

The number-crunching Devi was admitted to Bangalore Hospital April 3 as her kidneys became 80 percent weaker and she also had respiratory problems.

“Even in the intensive care unit (ICU), her mind was full of ideas though her body was frail and weak. She wanted to leave the hospital and return home soon. Trust me, she was full of energy till last,” Shakuntala Devi’s daughter Anupama told.

Hundreds of people, including relatives, friends and admirers were present at her last rites, which was performed in a southern suburb of the city before sunset.

Born here Nov 4, 1929 in a Brahmin family, Shakuntala Devi moved to London in 1944 when she was 15 years old with her father, who worked in a circus company as a trapeze artiste and tightrope performer.

She returned to India in the mid-1960s and married Paritosh Bannerji, an IAS officer from Kolkata.

The couple, however, divorced in 1979 and Shakuntala Devi returned to Bangalore in early 1980s and started offering astrological advice to hundreds of people, including celebrities, politicians and anyone who approached her.

Bannerji passed away in 2010 in Kolkata.

“She was a legend. Really, we didn’t expect madam to go like this. She was very lively and was looking forward to get well soon. But her health was not good and it’s a great loss to all of us,” said Malhotra, who accompanied Shakuntala Devi on mathematical and astrological tours abroad.

As a toddler, Shakuntala Devi was discovered to be a born genius by her father when he was showing her some card tricks.

“When mother was three years old, she was found to be fond of numbers and having a phenomenal memory. She could calculate any equation and reel off amazing numbers in a flash,” Anupama, a director in her husband’s firm, recalled.

According to the Guinness World Records, Shakuntala Devi displayed her mathematical skills when she was six years old at a public function in Mysore, about 150 km from here and two years later, proved to be a prodigal wizard in number games at Annamalai University in Tamil Nadu’s Chidambaram, about 200 km from Chennai.

In 1977, Shakuntala Devi discovered the 23rd root of a 201-digit number mentally. Three years later, in June 1980, she answered in 28 seconds when she was asked to multiply two 13-digit numbers picked at random at the Imperial College in London.

She wrote a number of books on mathematics and astrology including “Fun with Numbers”, “Astrology for You”, “Puzzles to Puzzle You” and “Mathablit”.

She had also set up an educational foundation public trust to promote studies in maths, astrology, philosophy and astronomy.

Shakuntala Devi was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Mumbai last month.


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1 Comment

  1. says: Shobha Shankar

    It is extremely saddening to hear that the Great Legendary personality passed away.
    May her Soul rest in peace.
    My dream of working with the legendary figure, renowned human computer Ms Shankuntala Devi came true on April 2011 when I started working with her as her secretary /assistant in Bangalore for 10 days and in WEST INDIES for 23 days.
    Hats off to her for her Mathematical skills, to which I was a witness while conducting mathematical shows which she always did spontaneously, because she knows her stuff like no one else. How could any one explain the child prodigy that she was ? Even at the tender age of 3 years? And until now at age of !!!!!!! undiminished smartness and enthusiasm.
    She is highly disciplined in life or in doing things or in her personal habits.Very fast in doing things …being junior to her, I was always wondering how can she be so fast …while cooking, while taking decision,Writing letters whatever for that matter I am considered as very fast in doing things by my near and dear but I was always ashamed of seeing her way of working … some magic.. even in her hands ,that is what I was always felt.
    Though there was 35+ year difference between us She was always telling me that we are of the same age Shobha…… this is to explain how she maintained her mindset of being young .She always thinks and believes that she is forever young. This I think is also one of her secrets.
    Many a times I have argued with her regarding astrology..I disagreed with her many times regarding this…
    She even shared her experiences from her childhood as if she knew me from long time
    Such a simple personality, loves to wear Sari as it represents Indian culture as she used to say. Very simple in her food habits …. She used to enjoy each and every bit of her food always .Overall she created an impression on me in such a way
    I nick named her as Memory Queen and loved to call her like that as her memory is superb even at this age what a superb gifted brain. One has to excersize it to keep it sharp. The trick I understood was Don’t depend on gadgets. She remembers all phone numbers ,names even account numbers.
    Highly organized, quick, fast , highly disciplined . She was absolutely fearless
    These are other qualities of this towering personality has
    But the sadest part is todays youth and children do not know about her ,they haven’t seen her math shows….
    I cannot forget the days, which I have spent with her I will always remember her for what she is Even today, I am full of good and cherished memories of the days I spent with her……

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