Kolo's Palindrome

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Kolo was a childhood friend - like one of those who becomes a part of childhood and stays there. We drifted away in separate Life-boats and have not been even remotely in touch since. The reason why Kolo remains a strong memory is due to one of his ingenious approaches to a certain problem in school.
In one of our computer programming classes - we were learning BASIC language - the teacher gave us a project. We had to write a computer program to identify a given word as a palindrome or not. For the uninitiated, a palindrome is a word that reads the same forwards and backwards, like for eg., mom, dad, madam, eve, etc. But the twist in this case was, the word would be entered by a user and the program had to analyse the word to test for palindrome.
Nearly all of us set out in typical programming style: splitting up the word into its letters, matching the first and the last, and stripping away as it matched, and stopped where it did not. But Kolo, the one whose genius worked differently, took a different style. He was not aware of BASIC language well enough to split a word into its letters, yet that did not seem to push him to learn more about the language. What he did was to go around the class, and ask each of us to supply him with a list of all the palindromes we ever knew about. At the end of it, he had a list of some 200 odd palindromes. He noted them all down and wrote a simple program that would compare a given word with his list of 200+ known palindromes. If there was a match, then it was a palindrome, if there wasn't, then it was not. The fact that the teacher or examiner would come up with a new palindrome, or just entered a word that wasn't in the dictionary, never occurred to Kolo.
Though we all laughed about Kolo's project for many years, it took on a new shape for me as I went through life's experiences. In several of life's cases, we encounter problems, issues, or pains that demand corrective or curative actions from our side. And nearly most of the time, we look around to identify people, or places, or times, or just incidents, that are the cause of these problems. And we hope to solve the problem by removing or negating or avoiding or correcting those concerned people or places or objects. If there is crime in society, then identify the criminal and punish him. If there is injustice, change some laws. If there is inequality, print more money or create more jobs. If there is disease, research for better medicines. If there is shortage of resources, just explore and find more, or target some nations and ask them to use it judiciously. If our children are not studying well, reprimand them or reprobate their teachers or schools.
Kolo's palindrome, for me, is now a classic case of how we satisfy ourselves by merely curing the symptoms, and never dig down deeper to reach the underlying disease as such.


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