Zeroing on who invented Zero and When

PMJDY accounts hit 462.5 mn in eight years, deposits reach Rs. 1.73 trillion – This is according to a mail broadcast from the India Brand Equity foundation on 29 August 2022.

According to the mail, the total accounts opened under the PM Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) have reached 462.5 million (4625 followed by five Zeros) in the eight years after the initiative’s inception. The initiative opened to a great positive reception! Similar to the Loan Mela of 1985! the total deposits in these accounts are Rs. 1.73 trillion (For those who believe in Zeros, it is 1,73 followed by ten Zeros!) as of August 10, 2022. Given these figures, we are already a trillion-dollar economy!

If you average it out, it is an impressive Rs: 3740.54 per account. You may notice that there is just one Zero in that figure compared to the ones in the previous paragraph! And it may throw you off balance. However, the average balance is not important. What is important perhaps is how you balance your life with that average!

It’s also not important that you maintain the balance. In this case, the Zero can either precede or follow an integer. It’s permitted. The Highs of the account are serviced by DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) and the lows by DEBIT! (Direct Elimination of Benefit Transfer!). A flat line may be symbolic of heart failure, like in an ECG.

This brings me back to the Zero. Like Do Re Mi! Such an important figure in all our financial, political, social, and economic endeavours. Remember the number of Zeros tagged on to the 2G Scam? And what became of it? It started with Zeros, a number of them, and ended with a Zero! That’s how important the digit is.

Without a Zero preceding us or following us, how do we become heroes? That’s a question, not from a math textbook, but from a social sciences textbook. To be a hero, you need to be hero-worshipped. And how does one hero worship another? Well-nigh impossible. So, it must be a Zero that does the worshipping right? That’s logical and mathematical because Zero adds value. Just think about it! But how many Zeros following to make a hero is relative? Not yours. Just relative. Einstein realized this only after he propounded the theory of relativity.

On the other hand, if the Zeros precede the hero, it is comparative. A hero compares himself to all the Zeros (According to Merriam-Webster an insignificant person or thing: NONENTITY!) before and propounds his theory of herovity! That is where the Zero to Hero Concept, the stuff of so many Bollywood hit movies came into being. You start with Zero and change the alphabet that’s at the beginning, at the end. Once you get to the Hero stage, all you have to do is pile on the Zeros! Complicated? Yes. Just like the process! Give it a thought with an open mind – viz. Starting out with emptiness – Zero, (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of Zero is that the arithmetical symbol 0 or 0̸  denotes the absence of all magnitude or quantity) and you will get there!

Interestingly, like Darkness, Zero does not exist. Darkness is the absence of light. Zero is the absence of something, which causes that feeling of emptiness. We need a prop to recognize it! One cup exists. Zero Cups exist only because one cup exists at some point in time.

In maths, Zeros are placeholders! In life too, they are props for all the rest of the item numbers that we enjoy sharing our lives with. Importantly when you subtract a Zero from a number, its value remains unchanged, you remove a Zero preceding a number, the number’s value remains unchanged, you remove a Zero from after a number, its value decreases, and you add a Zero before, nothing changes, you add one after, it increases, but when you multiply a number by a Zero, its value transforms to Zero. It is from this mathematical fact, comes the saying you will be known by the company you keep! And it’s best you keep company men who have a lot of Zeros following them, economically and all lies!

Zeroing on who invented Zero and When

According to “Who invented Zero” (Mathematically that is; existentially it was always known by someone missing something that they had seen or experienced before) “the concept of Zero is relatively new; it fully developed in India around the fifth century A.D., perhaps a couple of centuries earlier. Before then, mathematicians struggled to perform the simplest arithmetic calculations. Today, Zero — both as a symbol (or numeral) and a concept meaning the absence of any quantity — allows us to perform calculus, do complicated equations, and have invented computers.

According to the book “The Crest of the Peacock; Non-European Roots of Mathematics,” by Dr. George Gheverghese Joseph, the concept of Zero first appeared in India around A.D. 458. Joseph suggests that the Sanskrit word for Zero, śūnya, which meant “void” or “empty” and derived from the word for growth, combined with the early definition found in the Rig-veda of “lack” or “deficiency.” The derivative of the two definitions is Śūnyata, a Buddhist doctrine of “emptiness,” or emptying one’s mind from impressions and thoughts. “From this philosophy, we think that a numeral to use in mathematical equations developed,” said van der Hoek. “We are looking for the bridge between Indian philosophy and mathematics.”

If philosophical and cultural factors found in India were important to the development of Zero as a mathematical concept, it would explain why other civilizations did not develop Zero as a mathematical concept, said van der Hoek.”

Now we are clear – we started with nothing, and now are on the way to having everything – name, fame, and a winning game on the world stage. We invented the concept! We also invented the word commission. It has two Zeros in it if you notice. You have to start somewhere to come up in life!

How do you know there is nothing to it?

Andreas Neider, a cognitive scientist from Germany, suggests that there are four psychological steps to understanding Zero, and they progressively get complicated. The first three steps are easy for all animals including humans, but the last one is only for the human animal according to Neider. You will have to start from Zero though.

  1. A simple sensory ability to notice a light flickering on and off. Or a noise turning on and off. You must have your senses about you though!
  2. Recognizing stimulus and reacting to it – A rumbling stomach means Zero food. Then you go search for it. Simple enough!
  3. Finding an empty container in comparison to one that has something in it. Monkeys can do it, and so can you. (it does make the most sound you will notice, and maybe it’s the best way to drive away the Coronavirus!)
  4. Recognising it as a symbol that solves problems, by creating a computer with it!

You are aware I am sure that the computer is made up of the binary of Zeros and Ones? It is the Zero, that allows one to be One! “Zero is in the mind, but not in the sensory world,” Robert Kaplan, a Harvard math professor and an author of a book on Zero, says. The Adult mind is however focused on significant things and not on emptiness. We prefer a full bladder for the sonogram!

Elizabeth Branon, a neuroscientist at Duke University, believes that kids see one as the smallest number until explained otherwise with slips of paper that have none, one and two dots on them! But as you grow into adulthood, Zero becomes the biggest number in your mind, provides it follows, not precedes an integer! And there perhaps lies the heart of our emotional and physical conflict in the real world.

What if we had not invented a use for the Zero? Would things be different? Today an Indian is the third richest in the world, the richest in Asia and will soon overtake the top two. All because we invented the Zero.

I’m not sure if he started from Zero and became the hero that he is; maybe he did. If so it’s a clear demonstrator of the power of zero, but you could start from Zero and think it through until next week!


This Article is written in a lighter vein with tongue-in-cheek. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured it’s purely coincidental or just a mirage!

Image by Gerd Altmann