Friday, April 27, 2012

Three Friends and Five Rotis

Those were the wonderful days when human beings had time for other human beings.  No Televisions and no computers.  Everyone had a lot of time to talk to others and listen to them.  Small towns and villages did not have  hotels and lodging houses. Though they were available in big cities, in much smaller numbers than today, an average man could not afford it.  There was the concept of "Last Bus" and no night buses plied on short routes after sunset.  Anyone traveling had to get home early.  If the last bus is missed for some reason or the other, to get back to own town or village  was not possible.  It was then a walk to the friendly relative or friend's house for a night's stay.  A carpet for a bed and a bundle of clothes for a pillow was always available to the guest after sharing the night's meal with the family.  Housewives knew that there could be a knock on the door on any evening and a guest would be welcome with a smile.  With a smile always though no one taught them in a B-School to serve with a smile.  Inclination to serve as well as the smile were both inborn qualities.  Something was always kept in the reserve for the unexpected guest though refrigerator was unheard of.  Whatever may be the financial position, families always had something to offer to the guest and make him as comfortable as possible. The guests too did not expect much and were happy with whatever was offered to them.  Children did not have their own rooms or play stations and they could not lock themselves in their own world.  They had be moving around and the guest was free to interact with them without taking an appointment.  Elders were more knowledgeable than children and there was no danger of the kids asking them questions about things they did not know.  Life was far more simple and enjoyable without the pressures of modern life.

The time between supper and going to sleep was generally used by the guests to test the children about their studies and general knowledge.  Jawaharlal Nehru's favorite flower or Mahatma's liking goat milk was a more common subject to start with than Aaishwarya Rai Bachan's daughter's name or Sachin Tendulakr's 99th hundred.  The most common question to start with was  "Which is heavier? One Kilogram of Cotton or one Kilogram of Iron?".  In the initial days boys or girls would answer "Iron".  After being interviewed by one or two guests they knew both were equal.  In case of girls, it was presenting their talent either by singing a song or a little dance without any music accompaniments. The questions used to be tricky for that age and everyone had fun and when the child answered correctly parents felt proud.  Good answers were often rewarded by a small coin though the elders would forbid accepting them.  Children fondly hoped that the guests would insist on giving the coin despite their protests.  A coin in hand would be very handy when the cut fruit or groundnut vendor appeared in the vicinity of school the next day.

One of the favorite questions of the guests used to be "How many horns does a horse have?".  The answer would naturally be "None".  The guest would insist that the correct answer was "Two".  In our mother tongue, Kannada, Horse is "Kudure".  The guest would explain the logic. "When you write the word Kudure, Ka kombu ku, da kombu du, raketva re, there are two kombus you see!"  (ಕ ಕೊಂಬು ಕು, ದ ಕೊಂಬು ದು, ರಕೆತ್ವ ರೆ - ಕುದುರೆ - ನೋಡು, ಎರಡು ಕೊಂಬು ಇದೆ!)  Oh, this is quite tricky, the boy would feel.  When the next guest arrives, we were ready with both answers. Just like saying, "I have both answers. Take whichever you want".

An elder friend reminded me of how mathematical problems and questions of fractions were taught by these guests to children.  One such problem was of "Three Friends and Five Rotis".  Three friends, Ramu, Bheemu and Somu decided to go on a picnic to Nandi Hills.  There cannot be any picnic without something to eat.  Ramu and Bheemu lived with parents whereas Somu was living alone.  Ramu and Bheemu agreed to bring rotis and pickles to eat while resting on the hill.  Somu said he cannot bring anything but would pay some money as his share and the money could be divided between the other two.  They reached the top of the hill and opened the packets brought by Ramu and Bheemu.  They found that Ramu had brought three rotis while Bheemu had brought two rotis.  Being good friends they divided the three rotis equally and enjoyed eating them.  Somu later gave five rupees as his share which was to be divided between Ramu and Bheemu.  How many rupees should each get?

The first answer would be three rupees to Ramu and two rupees to Bheemu.  But that is not the right answer.  It requires some more thinking.  There were five rotis which were divided between three friends.  Each got 5/3 rotis or 1 and 2/3 rotis.  Somu gave five rupees.  Therefore, cost of 1 and 2/3 roti is five rupees or each roti cost three rupees.  Bheemu contributed only 1/3 roti to Somu whereas Ramu contributed 1 and 1/3 roti.  Ramu's contribution was four times that of Bheemu.  The proper way to divide the money between Ramu and Bheemu is to give 4 rupees to Ramu and 1 ruppee to Bheemu.

Was it not a fine way of teaching fractions to school going kids?


  1. The solution is not that simple but for the practical thinking of a person who has simplified the complexities involved.We get simple solutions for many complex problems in life,from those who have not even attended the school.

  2. Those days were golden days. Lot of friends. Lot of talks. Now a days every thing is mechanical. Everybody is glued to tv, emails, mobiles. What a pity.

  3. Those days were golden days. Lot of friends. Lot of talks. Now a days every thing is mechanical. Everybody is glued to tv, emails, mobiles. What a pity.

  4. Keshayour command on communication is so good that you express even trivia in very lucid way. Keep it up.

  5. I like tricky maths like this, agree, good one

  6. Tricky maths Right?
    HS Madhava rao

  7. Seems to be a great piece of nostalgia and deriving a great pleasure out of the lost glories of golden past...

    Umashankar K

  8. Beautiful times and beautiful happenings. The past is otherwise too very sweet. Thanx for sharing.

  9. If not for email/phone/texts, I would find it hard to keep in touch with most people I know. People are no longer concentrated within 'visiting' miles of each other. I celebrate these modes of communication. As for human interactions, they continue to be interesting and intriguing.