After cementing his place as a prodigy whose math mettle won him accolades throughout his academic career, an erudite son of a letterless family is now out to flip the field he served for nearly half a century.
Unlike a delusional nerd aspiring to break canons with his mental tryouts, there’s no eccentricity in Shabaz Khan’s mannerism. But there’s madness—found in biographical sketches of some subject experts—written all over his methods. And then there’s this tussle between his resilience and reluctance that makes this unassuming academic a new buzz in scientific bazar these days.
A silent servant of art image comes to mind as he steps out of his home for a stroll in his verdant garden. He has quite a nose for these regular wanderlusts known to create certain eureka moments in the scientific world.
At 63, an emeritus, the man is chasing his own theoretical glory.
“My theory is: zero is equal to one (0=1)—where 0 and 1 are mystic symbols containing transcendental features,” says Khan, with a grasp of a wizened wizard.
The research began in 2007 as a matter of what some scientists say a ‘mental flash’. Idea was there, he says, but the question was: how to prove and translate it into a paper. The same quest would instigate marathon research which after 14 years of tireless efforts has taken a form of an equation scribbled on two pages.
But Khan is reluctant to make it public due to the limitations in modern mathematics and mysticism.
“I’m trying to overcome those practical hitches in my field first,” he says. “Once done, I’ll prove how zero and one is basically a single entity.”
A retired mathematics lecturer, Khan comes from a small village of Hakbara in the Hajin belt of Sonawari area, in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
In his hometown, the mathematician is known as Shabaz Hakbari or ‘Zero Man’.
Since his student days, Khan says, he was drawn to mathematics and literature.
“I’m associated with the branch of literature which deals with philosophy, mystery and mysticism,” he continues.
“While working on these domains, I’ve been able to transcribe the mathematical concept into real life. And it’s mainly dependent on the level of comprehension of zero and one. I’ve introduced zero and one as the symbols of super supreme power.”
The valley’s spiritual way of life is only fuelling the Zero Man’s formula.
But if Kashmir is a macrocosm of mysticism, then Khan’s hometown is its microcosm — making the mathematician a Sufi poet and writer as well.
“The Sufis are of the thought that zero capacity makes a man equivalent to one,” explains the erstwhile lecturer.
“And in Mathematics, zero has a supreme power to dash anything into nothing. But as its own, zero (gaeb) is invisible. The ‘gaeb’ (invisible) factor of the universe is the crux of my theory. Invisible has the visible powers.”
Khan claims that he’s the only person who has come up with this concept in 2007 after reading, researching and exploring mathematics, physics, chemistry and astronomy.
But before coming of age, Khan’s math genius was first noticed in his fourth standard, when his teacher lauded him for his outstanding performance in the subject.
Being the first boy from his family to attend the school, his letterless father supported him throughout, despite the lack of basic facilities in his home and village.
Khan eventually shone in his life with his subject brilliance and became a role model for many in his circle.
In his free time, when he’s not thinking about mathematics, he loves to write. He has already authored some books and heads Cultural and Science Foundation Kashmir — the body fuelling science enthusiasm in the young generation.
His mettle has already been acknowledged at the higher level, but now he wants to go global with his theory.
“What looks impossible to the human mind becomes possible with knowledge,” he says during his saunter.
“It was knowledge which redefined the old concepts of mathematics and made the world as we know it today. We should seek knowledge because only knowledge makes it possible.”