Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder

August 1, 2010 Off By Manjil P. Saikia

She looked at the blinking computer screen in the otherwise dark room and was at once startled. The sequence shown there made no sense at all. It read 3,1,4,1,5,9,2,6,5,3,5… She was one of the world’s leading experts in cryptology and this beat her. But she knew just the right person who would know what that meant. She picked up her Motorola cell phone and furiously began to type a number which she would never forget in her life. The voice in the other end appeared sleepy and said in a very croaky voice “Hello?”. She lost no time in pleasantries as she knew he always wakes up late and only mathematics can be like a lightning bolt for him. “What is the significance of the sequence 3,1,4,1,5,9,2,6,…?” As expected he gave an audible laugh, that meant everything was allright and he knew the answer.
“Well, Ranjita you must be joking!”
“Why, M was that very easy?”
“Tell me, what’s my favourite number?”
“How should I know, when there are zillions of numbers? And don’t I have anything else to do than knowing your favourites?”
“Well, its quite easy really. And for your kind information, there are an infinity of numbers, not zillions, thats an imaginary number to denote a very large number. Speak like a scientist, girl!”
“Oh, then you must be talking about Pi?”
“So, what about it?”
“Just type Pi in Google and see what it says.”
“Hmm….just wait a second….oh, I am looking like a fool, it says Pi=3.1415926535…”
“So, there’s your sequence, the digits of the most beautiful number in the universe!”
“My God!!”
“Why disturb God over Pi?”
“No, I have to go now, bye, take care.”
M sensed a certain panic in Ranjita’s voice as the telephone clicked. She was very abrupt certain times but never when she was talking mathematics with him. It seemed strange. But all the same he tried to go back to sleep again. It was too late now for that, nothing but a hot discussion on mathematics can have any effect on him, and if at the very beginning of the day than he must set off to work immediately. As he jumped out of bed, he made a mental note to drop by Ranjita’s office and find out why she had asked about Pi that early in the morning.
Ranjita was a senior cryptologist in the Lab for Astrophysics and Cosmology. Now what might a cryptologist do at such a lab, it was a mystery to everyone except a select few. She was in charge of decoding messages sent from outer space which after the SETI program became successful is now almost a regular affair. M knew all about this and so this perked his curiosity higher, not that it needed any further prodding; he was a legend at the University for his insatiable curiosity. What would you call a person other than “curious” who decides to attend Molecular Biology lectures if he finds the title interesting although he has no scope of understanding what the people would be discussing about? Ranjita had degrees from the Indian Institute of Science, the University of Maryland and finally the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After post doctorate positions at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences where she met M, and the University of San Francisco she came back home to the University. Compared to Ranjita, M had a very meek career with degrees from the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, the National University of Singapore with post doctorate positions at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, he was happy to teach Number Theory to the eager young minds of tomorrow. Till date not a single student of his could figure out what his real name was.
On his way to the office he stopped at the Lab to find out what was wrong with Ranjita. He was greeted there by the same old fat lady behind the desk who liked him for no apparent reason.
“How are you Dr. M?”
“Just fine my dear, just fine. What about you?”
“Oh, me doing so so. You know how hard it gets at times.”
“Hey, have you by any chance seen Ranjita?”
“No, she has not come to the office for two days. We tried her home but got a busy signal constantly and she is not answering her cell phone too.”
“Oh. Tell her to call me, if you get to her.”
That seemed strange to him, because she had called him the day before too to ask if he was free that day, but she said nothing else. Something smelled fishy and he thought to investigate it once his classes were over for the day.
He seemed distracted the whole day and gave the class leave earlier than usual. He went straight to his rooms and dressed into something less formal and made a detour for Ranjita’s house. He reached at just the time when the nearby mosque was sitting for its prayers. He parked his motorbike near the garage and went straight to the door. He was slightly alarmed when he found that the front door was open. He tiptoed inside. The rooms were in a mess, everything was lying scattered. He was now afraid; he took hold of the wooden telephone stand nearby and went further into the dark. He found the switch in Ranjita’s work place and switched it on. What greeted him sent a chill through his whole body. Lying in a pool of blood was a little creepy creature with two tails, and the blood was blue. However there was no sign of Ranjita.
The computer was on and the little LED was blinking. He logged in with his hacking skills. He found an eerie looking window with all sorts of weird images and the sequence that they had talked about earlier in the morning. But he still could not make out head or tail of anything.
M called the police and they took away the body and dumped whatever it was into the trash. M returned back to his office and realized that he had never checked the email that day. He logged into his email account and to his surprise found an email from Ranjita timed just about half an hour before he had reached her house. It read:
“Dear M,
Sorry for being quite rude on the phone. I am doing some experimentation on my own from some data I got from space. The sequence I told you was the clue to what exactly the experiment would lead to. And thanks to you I know now that it would make any person the most beautiful in the entire universe just like you said Pi is the most beautiful number in the universe.
Ranjita D”
M read and reread the email again and again. He picked up the phone and called the police station, but it was too late. The body was already burnt. Tears flowed down M’s cheeks; he felt a pang in his heart and wondered what could have gone wrong? After all Pi was really a very beautiful number.

Hovering above in a space ship a very lovely lady just smiled and zoomed on. As they say beauty truly lies in the eyes of the beholder.

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