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Number crunching!

Do you believe in numerology? I can?t claim I do but, equally, I cannot deny I?m fascinated by the influence of integers, writes Karan Thapar.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2006 02:02 IST

Do you believe in numerology? I can’t claim I do but, equally, I cannot deny I’m fascinated by the influence of integers. It’s not just mysterious, sometimes it’s even mystical. And all sorts of people — businessmen, politicians, actors, sportsmen as well as millions of ordinary men and women who otherwise you might pass on the street without thinking about twice — are captivated by the almost occult significance of numbers, even to the point of changing or distorting the spelling of their name!

Well, here’s something to set their teeth on edge. My friend Ashok Massey has sent me an email about the power of the number 11. It’s so uncanny I wonder of it can be explained away as a simple coincidence.

For instance, New York City has 11 letters and so too does Afghanistan and George W. Bush. But that’s not all. New York is the 11th state of the United States, the first plane that crashed into the Twin Towers was flight No. 11 and it was carrying 92 passengers which, numerologically, is 9+2 =11. But there’s more. Flight No. 77, which also hit the Twin Towers, was carrying 65 passengers i.e. 6+5=11. And all of this happened on September 11, which is 9+1+1=11.

Now, when I got this far with Ashok’s email I started to chuckle. I was fairly convinced this was just a coincidence. In fact, some of it seemed more like cleverness. After all, it’s New York City and not New York that has 11 letters and it’s George W. Bush and not George Walker Bush that adds up to 11. So, I asked myself, is Ashok making too much of all this? But then I read on.

The total number of passengers inside all the four planes hijacked on 9/11 was 254. Numerologically that’s 2+5+4=11. Secondly, September 11 is the 254th day of the calendar year. Again 2+5+4=11. Hmm?

But what made me distinctly uneasy was to read and discover that the date of the Madrid bombings, which happened on the 3rd of November 2004, also adds up to 11. 3rd November 2004 is 3/11/2004 which is 3+1+1+2+4=11. And the Madrid tragedy happened 911 days after the Twin Towers. You already know what that adds up to.

However, Ashok, who is obviously deep into the significance of 11, doesn’t leave the issue there. At this point let me quote from his email: “The most recognised symbol for the United States, after the Stars and Stripes, is the Eagle. The following verse is taken from the Quran:

For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle/The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah/And lo, while some of the people trembled in despair/Still more rejoiced: for the wrath of the Eagle/Cleansed the lands of Allah and there was peace.”

And guess what? Ashok points out that this verse is number 9.11 of the Quran!

Now, I’m not sure what to make of all this. I suspect my fascination is conditioned by the fact I cannot explain any of it. Perhaps incomprehension makes me think it’s mysterious or mystical. And it’s only one further step to conclude that these coincidences are significant. But is that a debunking of numerology or another way of acknowledging that the power behind it cannot be rationalised or satisfactorily explained?

The truth is we all have numbers we consider special. That’s also true of colours, melodies and inconsequential personal habits. It’s easy to dismiss all of this as superstition. But is that all it is?

I consider the number 13 to be significant. And, certainly, it occurs like a leitmotif right through my life. At Doon and then at Stowe, my school number added up to 13. So too does my membership of the Gymkhana Club, the India International Centre and the India Habitat Centre. I got my first job on a 13th, met my wife on a 13th and proposed to her on a 13th. In fact Ashok’s email was received on the 13th. And I saw it at 1.00 pm which is the 13th hour of the day.

Now, tell me, do you believe some numbers have special significance?

(A collection of Karan Thapar’s Sunday Sentiments columns was published last week by Wisdom Tree and is available in all leading bookshops)

First Published: Jan 22, 2006 02:02 IST