There was a letter that day. It was a post card addressed to me! The short message on the 5-paise post card which I collected from the post office read:
Your article has been selected for publication in our college annual 71–72. It will be sent to the press on 8th March.”
Our home was quite inside the village about two kilometres from the post office, and postmen usually did not come thus far. We used to pass the village cross on our way to school or college. For visiting shops, library, etc. also we had to go through the cross. At that time we used to collect letters addressed to anybody at our home or to our neighbours. Sometimes the neighbours used to collect letters for us, too. That is the advantage of being in a village. Everybody knows everybody and all are ever ready to help each other. The village cross was where we had our ration shop and other shops, the sole tailoring shop owned by Mr K.K. Krishna Kurup, a barber shop, the post office, the bus stand, the lower primary school, etc. Well, I should not forget the toddy shop, situated about 300 metres away from the cross on the main road, which becomes alive during evenings. (Once brother sent a letter addressed to K [raised to the power] 4, Tailor, Veliyannoor, and the postman had no difficulty finding out who this person named K4 was, because there was only one tailor in the whole village and his name was K.K. Krishna Kurup, or KKKK or K4!)
Now, let us return to our story. So, I collected the post card from the post office and read the contents. I could not believe my eyes or senses. I read the post card again ... and again ... and again. I turned over once again to make sure whether the post card was actually addressed to me or was delivered to me by mistake. I checked the address again. It was addressed to me, all right. I did not know how to react. My contribution to the college magazine has been accepted for publication! Wow! I felt I was suddenly rising to the seventh heaven. I was going to be an author! An author! I might have read the card a hundred times! Each and every word, every letter, full stop, coma, everything was etched in my mind like a photograph. And I saw that photograph in my mind a hundred times during the next several weeks and months. Even now, 42 years later, if I close my eyes I can still see that photograph! “Dear student, ...”
The ‘article’ in question was, however, not an article in any conventional sense! It was a small quiz that I had been told by my brother. He had said that this had been asked in some examination and he had read, or heard, it somewhere. He was serving in the Indian Air Force. When he used to come on leave, we used to talk about everything under the sun for long hours. He was (and still is) more of a close friend to me rather than a big brother. He used to tell about his experiences both in the forces and outside it. We used to take our cattle (usually one or two cows and calves) for gracing and that is when he used to tell all sorts of stories.
I had written this particular quiz down along with the solution and sent to the student editor. I had requested that the solution may be given in another page with a cross reference in the original page.
The quiz went something like this.
Three persons (A, B, and C) are standing one behind the other. A fourth one (D) brings five caps—three red and two green—which are shown to all of them. D places the bunch of caps behind C. Then D places one cap each on their heads. C can see the caps on the heads of B and A, and B can see the cap on A’s head. D asks C to tell the colour of the cap on his head. C says he does not know. D asks the same question to B who also gives a similar response. D then asks A to tell the colour of the cap on his head and he gives the correct answer. What was his response and how did he arrive at the correct solution?
‘A’ said he was wearing a red cap.
It is simple arithmetic. There were only two green caps. If, therefore, A and B had green caps, C could say his cap was red. Since he said he did not know the answer, B understood that either he or A should be wearing red cap. If A had green cap, B could safely say that he was wearing red cap. When B also said he did not know the answer, A understood that he himself was wearing a red cap.
It is this 200 word quiz that the magazine had agreed to publish and called it ‘my’ ‘article’! And as promised it was published in the college magazine. But the solution immediately followed the quiz and the reader did not even have a chance to think. I was disappointed. But, what the heck! An ‘article’ contributed by ‘me’ was published in the college annual! And the college magazine became my most precious treasure for many years. That was the first time ever when I saw my name in print.