Human mental calculators | Sunday Observer

Human mental calculators

The Mahendrans - proud Sri Lankan Moroccans
The Mahendrans - proud Sri Lankan Moroccans

“Khalid and Adnan are human mental calculators that can multiply a stupefying 32 digits x 32 digits in a matter of minutes, without the assistance of pen, paper or calculator,” said their proud father Thillairajah Mahendran when I interviewed him in Toronto a few weeks ago.

Khalid (24) was born in 1993 and his younger brother, Adnan (22), in 1995. Children of an interracial marriage, they are proud Sri Lankan Moroccans. The family reside in Rabat, the capital city of Morocco.

These siblings are quite different from each other in respect to their personalities, hobbies and interests but they do however, share one thing in common - both happen to be rare child prodigies and possess an uncanny mastery for math and computation. Incidentally, their phenomenal mental capacity for memorising numbers was first noticed by family and friends when the boys were still in their early childhood years.

Photographic memory

“Adnan was about seven years old when his genius was discovered,” said Mahendran. “A friend from France decided to visit the family. He drove a grey Renault car. The following year, the man visited us again but this time he drove a Renault car that had a different licence plate. During his second visit, Adnan surprised us all when he randomly enquired about the first vehicle. Baffled, we asked him what made him think that the cars weren’t the same. His response was simple – the licence plate of the second Renault was different to that of the first one.”

“Yet another incident occurred not much later. We had gone book shopping. Arms laden we proceeded to the check-out line. While most little boys his age would probably have toys or games on their minds, Adnan was busy performing his own mental calculations and promptly informed me what the total cost of their purchase was. Surprised, I relayed this information to the storekeeper whose initial reaction was one of annoyance and disbelief.”

“He went back to calculating the cost of the books and grew increasingly agitated at Adnan’s insistence. In the meantime, as the line grew longer customers began to take notice of what was going on.”

“Unperturbed, Adnan adamantly maintained that his calculation of the purchase was correct. After tallying up their total, the storekeeper was astonished because Adnan was accurate right down to the penny. In appreciation, he instantly offered our family a 50% discount.”

“Adnan’s innate genius enables him to associate numbers with colours while Khalid computes mentally by numbers,” said an ecstatic Mahendran of his two boys.

32 x 32 mentally

The battle ground of mathematicians, mental math geniuses, scholars and savants is indeed a mind boggling one. Shakuntala Devi, ‘the human computer’ was India’s mental calculator who in 28 seconds calculated 13 digits x 13 digits. But Khalid and Adnan have created their very own personal record by computing an eye watering 32 digits x 32 digits.

Celebrities in their own right, they were featured by L’Opinion, a daily francophone Moroccan newspaper in 2007. Articles featuring them in Reuters and AFP were published soon after. No strangers to the media melee, both mathematical geniuses have been interviewed extensively by various outlets over the years. They have been aired on 15 national news channels, two international news broadcasts (Al Jazeera), three national radio stations and articles featuring them have been published in 19 national newspapers, magazines, and four international newspapers.

An application for the brothers to enter into the Guinness Book was applied for and a board meeting was held. Officially, according to the rules, a title to be won has to be defended. However, in this case, there was no one to contest and the parents were reluctant to pit their sons against each other.

Invaluable assets to Morocco

News of their genius had reached the King of Morocco who declared them invaluable assets to the country. Under his orders, the Minister of Education was assigned with the task of reviewing the boys and they were both offered a placement in Morocco’s best academic institutions.

They were called for an exam and a review by the American school which they aced effortlessly and Khalid was instantly offered a full scholarship. Their parents decided that Khalid would attend the Rabat American School as he was the elder of the two while Adnan would continue studying in the public school.

Khalid is currently pursuing his degree in Computer Science and Business Administration (BSCS), while Adnan has decided to explore the fascinating field of science and is studying Physics and Chemistry. An extremely devout young man, he has also won numerous competitions and prizes in reciting the Holy Quran.

Genetic propensity for genius

The genetic propensity for genius of these two millennials has been pinned down to their genetically diverse parents. Researchers have found that the more distantly related an individual’s parents were, the taller and more intelligent than their ancestors they tended to be, the higher they scored on cognitive tests and the better their levels of educational attainment.

Their father, Thillairajah Mahendran, a Sri Lankan originally from Jaffna, was born and bred in Narahenpita, Colombo 5. His father was the Commercial Superintendent of Ceylon Government Railways (CGR), now known as Sri Lanka Railways (SLR). Thillai has five sisters and three brothers, all Royal College Colombo alumnis. His brother is T. Kukendran (known locally as Kukendran), an uber successful businessman who is the Vice President of Matcor Matsu Group of Companies in Canada, USA and Mexico.

Having lost his house in the devastating 1983 riots, Thillai left Sri Lanka in 1977 and went to Saudi Arabia where he worked as a logistics manager for 14 years. In 1991, he married HaddaSlimani, a Moroccan from Taza, who worked as an accounts clerk in Riyadh. That year, they decided to relocate to Morocco.

The call of the Middle East beckoned yet again and Thillai left for Dubai, the United Arab Emirates in 2005 where he resumed his position as a logistics manager with a reputed construction company. A decade later, in 2015, he decided to move back to Morocco to start his own business.

Extremely proud

Thillai and Hadda have been happily married for 26 years and are extremely proud of their sons. A pious family, they feel incredibly blessed and believe that their children’s remarkable genius is a gift from above. The parents have been incredibly supportive with Hadda always encouraging her boys to work harder.

Khalid has an impressive repertoire of achievements under his belt. He has won numerous personal and participation awards. A sportsman par excellence, he has excelled in Track and Field, Soccer and Basketball. He has participated at the Moroccan National Competition (2015), finished two full marathons at Marathon International De Rabat (2013 and 2015), and finished one semi marathon at Marathon International De Rabat (2014).

Endowed with brains, brawn and empathy, the brothers remain grounded and unfazed by their fame. Modest beyond belief, they are also actively involved in their community and volunteer in their spare time.

Fluent in French, English and Arabic these wunderkinder are indeed a rarity and are surely destined for success. Unquestionably, they have the ‘it’ factor and are, blessed times two.

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