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Ananth was in class 8 and of all the subjects, he loved maths. The complex mathematical equations and puzzles scared other children of his age, but not him. He loved solving puzzles, brain teasers and riddles. His classmates called him a ‘Wizard—a mathematical wizard’.

One day during the lunch break, Ananth helped Ajay solve a tough mathematics equation.

Back in class, Ajay said to the other classmates, “Do you remember the comic scene in the Hindi movie, Namak Halaal, wherein actor Amitabh Bachchan says, ‘I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English’?”

“Yes, our parents have shown us that scene on TV,” replied some. Others shook their heads as they hadn’t seen the movie.

Ajay continued, “Like Amitabh in that movie, Ananth too talks Maths, walks Maths and laughs Maths.”

Everyone laughed and Ananth blushed.

Ananth was a shy, polite and helpful classmate and friend. His classmates would bring their problems to him, mostly related to Math. But lately, they had also started bringing their personal problems to him. That was because Ananth had a solution, sometimes a unique one, with a mathematical twist for their personal problems too.

One day, Manu who sat next Ananth in class was looking sad. “What’s the matter, buddy?” asked Ananth.

“I wish you could help! I want to make a nice ‘Happy New Year’ card this year for my parents. But don’t know what sort of card to make for them,” said Manu.

“Is that all?” asked Ananth.

“It has to be something nice. Simple yet modern, with a twist.”

Ananth thought for a while and said, “How about wishing them mathematically?”

Manu stared at him.

“Look, we will use numbers to convey a simple beautiful message,” said Ananth excitedly.

“Okay, go on. I am listening.”

“On a card, draw a square, inside it, draw a smiley face and write 81777 below it. Then inside the card, on the left, write 555 and on the right side, write 7519.

Ask your parents what it means,” explained Ananth.

“What do these number games mean?” asked Manu, looking blankly at Ananth.

“Why don’t you think about it? I will give you a hint. The alphabets A to Z are numbered 1 to 26,” Ananth prompted him to try.

“Oh, let me see. Then in 81777, the number 8 stands for H. The number 1 stands for A… Oh, how interesting! Then the number 7 stands for G. That makes 81777 mean HAGGG. What does that even mean?”

Ananth laughed out loud.

“That’s the twist. If any alphabet has two digits or is a compound number, like K is number 11, we add up the numbers. To get K we add the digits on number 11, that is 1+1 = 2. So the number 2 can mean B or K. One has to find out exactly which alphabet 7 represents, to make a proper word,” Ananth explained further.

Manu gave it a try again, “Okay. Here, I do know that the word would be HAPPY… because we are writing a ‘Happy New Year’ card. P is the 16th alphabet. So 1 + 6 = 7 and Y is the 25th alphabet and that too is 2 + 5 =7. Quite interesting!”

Anita, who was listening from behind them, piped in, “I will find the next secret code. It’s 555 right. So the 1st number 5 stands for N…because N is the 14th alphabet… so 1 + 4 = 5. Then 2nd number 5 stands for E, the third number 5 stands for W… since W is the 23rd number of the alphabet series… so 2 + 3 = 5.”

John, the laziest student in class said, “The other number 7519 on the right means YEAR… there is no need to calculate. ‘Happy New Year’.”

Manjula, who was quietly listening to everything, said, “In Whatsapp, we use only three alphabets—HNY. So I will make a card with just three numbers 857 for those alphabets. H would be 8, N would be 5 and Y would be 7.

Manjula wondered, “Imagine the confusion on our parent’s faces when they see the numbers 857, instead of the usual HNY.”

“Yes, and instead of ‘Happy New Year 2021’, they see 81777 555 7519 2021,” giggled Manu.

“Thank you for your suggestion, Ananth. I will make this card today,” said Manu.

“You are good with colours and calligraphy, too. So I am sure that the smiley on the square and the dancing numbers will look fantastic on your card,” Ananth said.

Manu laughed on imagining the numbers in various styles.

At home, Manu got to work. He cut the card paper and made a popping yellow smiley in the front.

Above the smiley, he wrote, “Guess what this means!” as a teaser for his parents. Below it, he wrote the numbers, “81777” in beautiful calligraphic style. Inside the card, on the left, he wrote the numbers, “555”. On the right side, he wrote “7519” and coloured the card.

On December 31, he presented the card and two roses to his parents. His sister, Pinky, also gave them a floral card and chocolates. Their parents were surprised and thanked them.

His father looked at the numbers on Manu’s card and asked, “What do these mean? Does it mean a smiley?”

“No. Keep guessing.”

His mother said, “Then it must be sleeping since that’s what you love to do.”

They laughed.

“Wait. Let me see. I think it stands for Happy…,” said his father, he then turned the page, “New … Year. You used the numbers for the alphabets! Very nice, Manu. Good colours and beautiful calligraphy.”

“You wished us in a secret code. Do you plan to be a detective?” asked his mother.

Manu answered immediately, “No. A Mathematician!”

They all laughed.

A very HNY or 857 to all!!