Ask her to do complicated additions, subtractions or multiplications and the answer springs to nine-year-old Payal Merja's lips almost instantly. She is the girl who won an all-Gujarat arithmetic contest this month.
It is an arresting experience to see Payal, her eyes blinking, her fingers tapping, as she uncovers solutions at lightning speed. She studies in Class 5 at Bavis Gam Vidyalaya, Vallabh Vidyanagar, three kilometres from here.
"When my brother Joy secured 99 percent marks in maths in Class 12, I too felt I can do better," Payal told IANS.
Ramesh Merja, her father and deputy collector of Kheda district, said: "Payal has been a prodigy from the beginning. In Class 1 and 2, she scored 100 percent while in Class 3 and 4, she scored 99 percent."
In the All Gujarat Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Contest-2008, held in Vadodara Dec 14, more than 4,500 students took part. But it was Payal who bagged the Champions Trophy.
"For her success I feel credit should go to Vedic maths and the abacus. Payal was very fond of the abacus and she did a lot of maths on it when she was younger," Ramesh Merja said.
Payal made her tryst with Vedic maths two years ago. And with perseverance, hard work and determination she has cultivated both the right and left parts of her brain to work simultaneously, her father said.
She recently solved 200 sums in just eight minutes and still she had 50 seconds to spare when she had finished the exam papers. All the sums were solved correctly, he said.
Not for nothing is she hailed as another Shakuntala Devi in the making, after the woman who never ceased to amaze with her calculating speed.
"It is her concentration that is key to her success. She believes she can do it. It is the ease with which she accepts a challenge that helps her scale new highs," Ramesh Merja said.
But maths is not the only thing she does.
"My daughter learns bharatanatyam. She loves skating, music and drawing. In leisure, she reads the autobiographies of great world leaders."
Both the parents have ensured that the girl's mathematical talent does not go waste.
"I and my wife Rekhaben have been careful about her grooming," said Ramesh Merja.
"No doubt she is gifted by birth. But after I admitted her to a Universal Concept of Mental Arithmetic System (UCMAS) school six months ago, there was a dramatic improvement."
In the All India UCMAS competitions, Payal holds the distinction of being runners up.
I was very good (in mathematics) from the beginning and the USMAS helped me do still better," said Payal.
Her proud father added: "The UCMAS training has indeed sharpened her even as she has a natural inclination for science and maths."
Rekhaben said: "Talent is god's gift. All children are blessed equally. But what is required is its application and positive attitude which differs from person to person."
"To lead a creative life we must abandon the fear of going wrong. Failure is part of life and should not be seen as a deterrent. Of course, coupled with good moral values, any child can do better."
Acquaintances also swear by her skills. "She is very intelligent and is thorough in whatever she does," said her neighbour Aravindra Suthar.