I was sad today. A woman named Shakuntala Devi had died. She was an astrologer and a mother. She was a writer, some of her books fiction, some non-fiction. She lived a reasonably long life, passing away at the age of 83 (or 73, depending on which web site I look at).
Shakuntala Devi was also known as the “Human Computer” and could calculate complex math problems in seconds. She was in the Guinness Book of World Records, she was awarded numerous achievement around the world, and, by all accounts, was a kind, giving woman who tried to use her gift to help others (especially children) reach their mathematical potential.
In 1977 she wrote a book called ‘The World of Homosexuals’ which is essentially a treatise on why homophobia is immoral and wrong. For the time it was written, it was an incredibly brave book to publish; certainly it was before its time in the very traditional Hindu society in which Devi was raised. It wasn’t until recent years that ‘The World of Homosexuals’ garnered popular attention. In 2005, it was listed as one of the top 100 books by Indian writers.
Why was the news of her death so sad to me?
Shakuntala Devi was a woman I didn’t know. Her life had not touched mine. Her abilities had not inspired me. Her compassion had not influenced me. Her living essence had not been part of mine. I must know her in death, instead of in life.
I think I’m mourning that I never knew she existed–how sad that I couldn’t appreciate this amazing woman while she lived. It feels like a missed opportunity, an experience not taken.
And I believe it reminds me of the missed relationships in my life. Those that have passed without recognition of the importance, the beauty, and the influence that each has added to my essence. What else must go unrecognized? Who else will go unknown?
Thank you, Shakuntala Devi, for living your life and for awakening mine.