About the Author

Keshav (pronounced “k-shove”) Puranmalka is a member of the MIT class of 2012; he plans to major in Mathematics and Computer Science, with a minor in Economics. He says that “By the grace of science, I am one of the nerdiest students at MIT.” Born in Calcutta, India (where this incident takes place), Keshav lived there for almost ten years. He then lived in Chicagoland (go Cubs!) for the rest of his life. His interests vary from day to day, but Keshav generally enjoys sailing, chilling with friends, playing poker, doing [GASP!] math, solving puzzles, and most other non-boring activities.

Keshav reflects on “Newton’s Third Law”:
“I have always enjoyed writing, but 21W.731 (“Writing and Experience”) pushed my boundaries and forced me to get more personal in my writing. When I first started to write "Newton's Third Law," I never imagined that I would actually finish it coherently. I knew I wanted to start with the cricket match and end with the samosas, but how to proceed with the rest of the piece was frustrating. The best advice I can give is to take your time: you're not going to write the whole piece in one sitting, but just write down what happened and go back and fix it from there.”

Newton's Third Law

by Keshav Puranmalka

Sachin bent his legs in his unorthodox warm-up, awaiting the ball as the bowler traversed the long field. Sitting there in that warm March evening, huddled in front of the TV, I colored the magnificent saffron of the Indian national flag, expressing patriotism as only a six-year-old can. My family and that of my smart-alec cousin, Muskan, gathered around our twenty-seven-inch Sony color television watching the semi-finals of the 1996 Cricket World Cup. India faced Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens, one of the largest cricket stadiums in the world, just four kilometers northwest of our flat in Calcutta. The bowler delivered a crisp, fast ball aimed right at the wickets. Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian batsman, moved his left foot up, took his perfect form, and swiftly moved his bat, squaring the center of the blade onto the ball.

BAM! Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

The ball hovered in the air and went deep. It seemed to fly higher by the moment, and in a grand fashion, flew out of the stadium. I think that was the first time I had ever seen someone hit the ball outside the building in cricket. The entire stadium crowd stood on its feet, as did the people around me, and we cheerily roared, “SIXER !”1 The Indian national anthem started playing in the background, and a tingle went through my entire body. We still have hope, I thought.

Cricket, the most popular sport in India, probably has a more avid following than the football clubs (Manchester United, etc.) in England. When the Indian cricket team is playing, it might as well be a national holiday. In 1996, the Indian cricket team was one of the most popular teams in the world, and I was its biggest fan. Sachin Tendulkar was the Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Pelé, and Pete Sampras of cricket. He was, and arguably still is, the best batsman of all time. That night, the hopes of one billion people depended on him; India was behind by 150 runs, and he was the only good batsman left. The crowd settled back down, and the Sri Lankan bowler went back into his rhythm. Sachin once again did his warm up, and the bowler approached him. I implanted the now-finished flag into the soil of the money tree on our balcony, wondering the entire time when the money was finally going to grow. I turned back around and saw Sachin once more step forward and attempt to hit the ball.

THUD! Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Like many other six-year-olds, I had the misconception that I would have changed everything, that my presence on the cricket field would have made India win that night.

This time, however, Sachin failed to make contact, and the ball fiercely hit the gloves of the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper. The wicketkeeper quickly smashed the ball against the wickets, and because Sachin had stepped beyond the crease, he was called out by the umpire. The wicketkeeper jubilantly tossed the ball in the air, celebrating, in effect, the demise of the Indian cricket team. Sri Lanka was moving on to the finals.

The crowd of 100,000 went ballistic and bombarded the field, throwing junk at the Sri Lankan team. They deserve everything thrown at them. My father, furious about the loss, turned off the television and howled, “Chalo Bete, So Jayo!” My elder brother Raghav, Muskan, and I quietly filed into our room, pretending to go to bed. Of course we didn't go to sleep; we hadn't finished our homework yet. Plus, who could sleep after a disaster like that?

Muskan and Raghav discussed what seemed to me complicated, esoteric topics such as adjectives and nouns while I just lay there on a makeshift mattress (thanks to Muskan stealing my bed), thinking about what could have been. Analyzing the game from every angle, I put myself in each situation and simulated what I would have done differently. Like many other six-year-olds, I had the misconception that I would have changed everything, that my presence on the cricket field would have made India win that night.

Muskan turned towards me and pompously asked, “Hey, Keshav, you do know what adjectives are, right?”

“Yeah, of course,” I quickly replied, even though I had never heard the term before. Annoyed by Muskan and Raghav's blabber, and mad at the Indian cricket team, I forgot about my homework and quickly dozed off.

Zzzz.... Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

“Keshav, uth jao, schoolbus aane waala hai!” my mother yelled.

I felt like Sachin would have felt before a match, confident that he would demolish his opponents, confident that he would come out on top.

Shit, what time is it? A few hours whizzed by, and the next thing I remember I was at my school, St. Peter’s College (pseudonym), sitting on an ugly red chair in my Hindi class. My workbook, untouched since last week, was on my desk. I looked outside and saw the even-numbered years enjoying their recess, and longed to join them.

Mrs. Patel (pseudonym), my Hindi teacher, walked in. She was wearing a dull blue saari. Although it wasn't ugly, something about the saari made me cringe. She ordered us to open our workbooks to our homework, and walked around the room to check for completeness. My heart started racing. I looked at the floor, trying to avoid eye contact with her, hoping that she would not check mine. When she got to my desk, she looked at my workbook, and then sternly at me.

"Do you have an explanation for this?”

"No, Ma'am.”

“Well then, go get Raghav.”

In India, elder siblings are held responsible by teachers for the actions of their younger siblings, so naturally, Mrs. Patel wanted to talk with my brother. To make matters worse, my brother was one of the top students in his class. Keshav, you are done for. I can't let him know I didn't finish my work – it will be too embarrassing. While walking dishearteningly to my brother's classroom, a great idea hit me: I could just tell Mrs. Patel that Raghav was in the bathroom, and then Raghav would never find out. Man, Keshav, you are a genius. I felt like Sachin would have felt before a match, confident that he would demolish his opponents, confident that he would come out on top. I went outside Raghav's classroom, performed random hand motions, and pretended to talk with his teacher, making sure to avoid getting recognized by one of Raghav's friends. I then confidently trotted back to my classroom, imagining the crowds cheering me on.

TICK. TICK. TICK. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Once I returned and told Mrs. Patel my story, she asked me to wait ten minutes, and go back again. This time, I repeated my previous actions, pretending to talk to the teacher, again acting disappointed that Raghav was still in the bathroom. I again returned to my classroom, confidently announcing that Raghav had not moved. I never questioned my plan and never lost confidence, believing each time that I would prevail. After the third or fourth visit, Mrs. Patel told me to go to the bathroom across the courtyard and get him. Not knowing any better, I still didn't sway from my plan, jogged to the bathroom and back, and told Mrs. Patel that Raghav would take “a while.” A few more trips to the bathroom and Mrs. Patel finally caught on. I had failed, just like Sachin had the night before. The game was over, and I had lost.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

It was then that Mrs. Patel took Raghav and me to the principal, Mr. McNamara. I had only seen him at the school assemblies. He was a tall, well-built man, and rumor had it that he used to play professional rugby. From what I'd heard, I was convinced that every student at St. Peter’s was terrified of him; we used to call him “Mac Nay Maara,” translated as “Mac did hit”.

I stood trembling in his office, wondering what he would do. My heart started racing faster because I had convinced myself that he was going to beat me. Instead of hitting me, however, Mr. McNamara repeatedly bashed a ruler against my brother's knuckles until they started to bleed. ENOUGH! Please don't punish him. I took a heavy breath and just stood there cowardly, watching my brother take a beating for something he hadn't done, and for something that probably didn't deserve one in the first place. “Stop!” I finally screamed. Alas, my cries were in vain, as Mr. McNamara kept on hitting my brother, who didn't flinch once throughout the whole episode.

Soon enough, my father arrived at our school. My father was a proud man with a huge ego. I almost smiled when I saw him. I wanted my father to beat up Mr. McNamara for what he had done. I wanted my father to get our just retribution. However, instead of being mad at the principal, my father asked for his forgiveness on my behalf, begging him to let me stay in the school. I was surprised, internally screaming at him for not beating up Mr. McNamara. How can he let such injustice stand? But alas, my father humbly apologized, and dragged Raghav and me outside the school.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

My mother would later tell me why my father did what he did. If my father hadn't apologized, Raghav and I would have probably been expelled from St. Peter’s. I would later realize the importance of thinking through decisions, that while some decisions should be impromptu, most shouldn't. I would later accept what my father had done.

My father looked down. “Raghav and Keshav, do you want to get samosas?”

I was confused, not expecting that reaction. Was he supposed to be mad at me? Was I supposed to be mad at him? Should I accept his proposal? I sheepishly looked at Raghav. He nodded. Who, after all, could refuse a warm, delicious samosa? In conjunction, Raghav and I timidly replied, “Yes, Dad.” As we walked towards the vendor, a smile slowly crept across my dad's face.


A "sixer" can be considered very similar to a home run; it is the "best" thing the batsman can do.

View the assignment for this essay