Google’s tribute to Shakuntala Devi on her 84th birthday of Shakuntala Devi introduced many to “the Human Calculator.” She was remarkable, calculating cube roots and producing answers in less than a minute and beating the computers of her day. Her father was a circus performer, rebelling against a chosen family profession to become a Temple Priest. He realized his daughter’s gift of memorization and calculation, then took her on the road. Imagine what she might have accomplished if she were sent to university instead of shown off as an oddity and ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records for correctly answering the multiplication of two 13-digit number in 28 seconds.
What you haven’t heard about the remarkable Shakuntala Devi is about her marriage to Paritosh Banerji, an officer of the Indian Administrative Service in the 1960s that ended in divorce in 1979. He was homosexual and she produced a book after it ended called, “The World of Homosexuals,” which was published in 1977, two years before the divorce.
According to Orinam.net, “The marriage was a failure, but instead of reacting in a homophobic manner, she felt the need to look at the subject of homosexuality more closely and try to understand it. In her words ‘My only qualification for writing this book is that I am a human being.'”
Orinam.net generously provides excerpts from the book:
“Immorality does not consist in being different. It consists in not allowing others to be so. It is not the individual whose sexual relations depart from the social custom who is immoral – but those are immoral who would penalize him for being different. A law-abiding citizen who respects the rights and dignities of others, if he is made to suffer merely for deviating from the conventional norm, is not the offender – he is the victim”.
“What we know is that many decent, intelligent, moral and apparently normal people find their own sex more exciting than the opposite sex. They are found in all walks of life and in all professions. If homosexuals want to live within the discipline of society, what does the society expect them to do? Live a life of total celibacy?
“An important question that arises in the thinking members of society is – must then these millions who already exist and tens of millions yet to be born be condemned to misery, loneliness and degradation?
“The time is overdue now, when rather than pretending that homosexuals don’t exist, or hoping to eradicate them by the sheer weight of disapproval or prison sentences, we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for them so that they can live unfettered and unmolested, and make their contribution to the common good of community”
“On this level nothing less than full and complete acceptance will serve – not tolerance and not sympathy.”
Apparently, even a logical mind can arrive at a loving conclusion. R.I.P. dear Shakuntala Devi. May your words live on.