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An Ode To The Beautiful Primes

When I was in school, I never quite liked math, like every other kid. But being the son of a mathematics professor, my love for math was eventually developed. It can also be seen as an interesting case of Stockholm Syndrome maybe. And now, I like to think math is just like life. Whether you love it or hate it, you can't escape or run away from it.

The beautiful primes (Pic Source:

Revisiting my childhood days, I guess I was in third grade when I first learnt about prime numbers. For all those who have never ever heard of prime numbers before and the ones who think math is Satan's language, allow me to elaborate what prime numbers are.

Prime numbers are numbers that are ONLY divisible by one and itself. In much simple terms, they cannot be evenly divided. As kids, we were told to memorize these numbers and we were supposed to know prime numbers up to at least 100. And we were told that they're important numbers. But I never understood why they are important. Back when I was a 9 year old kid, the concept of primes to me, was as abstract as it could get. And back then I couldn't care less.

It was much later in life that I finally understood the beauty of prime numbers. Prime numbers can be thought of as the crazy diamonds among all the numbers. The misfits among the crowd. Primes are irreplaceable and indivisible by other numbers, which is what makes them special. This makes them like the atoms of numbers and they cannot be decomposed. Sort of like the building bricks of numbers.

So, you might ask how many prime numbers are there in the number universe? Well, the answer here is infinite. And their occurrence is unpredictable, as we move higher and higher up the number line. But for me, the most fascinating thing about prime numbers is that they have no patterns and there is no way to detect when they'll occur. All you can do is check if a number is prime or not. You can't predict their occurrence.

Curiosity has often been one of the primary driving force behind mankind's progress and we humans have always been asking questions. Be it about our existence or our purpose here, we love questions. And we always try to find answers and patterns in things. Right since 300 BC, from the time Euclid wrote his theorem of infinitude of prime numbers, prime numbers have continued to enchant mathematicians and have even made them lose their sanity at times. Primes have always been mysterious and fascinating.

Sometimes in life, you'll meet people who're exactly like prime numbers. The original, the special ones of the world. There's no way to predict when they'll enter your life. But when they do, they'll turn it all upside down and sweep you right off your feet.
Just like mathematics and life, one can't escape running into a prime number. And as on the number line, the frequency of their occurrence is quite rare, as we keep moving ahead in life. So what happens when you meet a prime number in your life? Well, you can't help but fall in love with them. Personally speaking, at least I surely can't. I'm sure you must have met a few of prime numbers in your life. If not, well, perhaps you are the prime number!

But sadly, there's one catch, people most often end up misunderstanding these unique beings. But it's the primes that make up this world a beautiful place. The wonderful freaks who just scream out their individuality in your face! Our habit of finding patterns in things to simplify our lives eventually end up stagnating our lives. Our curiously restless souls seek out for adventure in our lives. And these prime numbers are nothing but living-breathing adventures! Their sheer eccentricity, an unconventional outlook towards life and the courage to differ is what makes them so interesting.

And this one is dedicated to all the prime numbers of my life. Thank you for making my life interesting and keep shining on, you unpredictable & beautiful little snowflakes!

I'll leave you here with some lines by Matt Haig from his book, The Humans - a classic and humorously wholesome read.

“Because prime numbers are fucking serious, man. Some serious shit. They can make you lose it. They’re like sirens. They call you in with their isolated beauty and before you know it you are in some major mind-shit.”

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Behold The Grapes of Wrath

Last year, when I was in Prague, I saw across this huge statue standing in the middle of Wencelas Square.

Statue of King Wencelas, Prague

I was on a walking tour and the guide started narrating me a very interesting story.

In 1960s, when the Soviet Union's Warsaw Pact army had occupied Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), there was a growing anti-communist sentiment throughout the nation. However, the resentment against the oppressors was sort of blunt. There was a cold apathy among the people. It seemed as if no one cared about anything anymore and were gradually getting accustomed to the tyrannical communist regime. Right then, a horrifying yet fascinating event took place at Prague's Wencelas Square. A 20 year old young man, and a student of philosophy at Charles University did something which later turned out to be the turning point in the history of freedom of Czechoslovakia.

On 16 January, 1969, Jan Palach stood atop Wencelas Square, doused in petrol and set himself on fire, to protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. An act that was bound to send shivers down the spine of every living human being of that nation. He succumbed to his burn injuries a couple of days later and his unfortunate death shook the entire nation. His funeral turned into a major anti-communist protest.

A young Jan Palach (source:

This was a very brutal act for a mere 20 year old student. But this very act lit up the embers of the fire of freedom and revolution, in the cold hearts of the people. A couple of months later, two more students Evzen Plocek and Jan Zajic also immolated themselves in protest against the communist invasion. This then led to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which was primarily led by students and eventually succeeded in ending the communist regime that had lasted for 41 years.

Just when the tour guide finished his story, I was left awestruck about what I had just heard.

And now, when I read about the current protests against NRC and CAA happening in India, I can't help but think about how it's always the students who have been the ones to raise their voice, whenever it has mattered the most. And it absolutely shatters my heart when I hear and read up about the atrocities committed on them, during the protests.

We as a society are often cynical towards the younger generation, judging them for their views and ideals and reprimanding them from time to time. And it scares me when we, time and again, make the mistake of underestimating the impact of their collective voice and fail to understand what they're trying to say. It's the students and the youth who form the backbone and the future of any nation. They have the power to build our future or perhaps destroy it too. Violence, tear gas, lathis and bullets can never suppress ideas. It was John F. Kennedy had said that those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. And I believe his words to be true.

It's said that history repeats itself. Maybe because we never learn from our mistakes and overlook them. And now, when everyday it seems like history is repeating itself, it's you who'll get to decide what side you want to be on. Whichever side you choose, as human beings, one should never forget that nothing stands above love and humanity. Nothing ever will.

I'll now leave you here with the words of the man who wrote our national anthem;

"I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity, as long as I live."  
~ Rabindranath Tagore

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