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Shakuntala Devi, ’Human Computer’ & LGBT Activists Honored in Google Doodle

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Monday Nov 4, 2013
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Shakuntala Devi
Shakuntala Devi  (Source:Scientist Prateek Kumar Das via Wikipedia)

If you Googled something today you probably noticed that there was a new Google Doodle which looks like a calculator. On Nov. 4 Google officials honored Shakuntala Devi, an Indian woman who was hailed a child prodigy for incredible mental calculation and memorization abilities. Devi, however, was also a prominent LGBT activist in India.

Devi was born in Bangalore, India, in 1929 but moved to London in 1944 with her father, who was a trapeze artist and tightrope performer for a circus company. While she has been revered for being a math genius, she is also one of the first LGBT activists in India. In 1977, she wrote the book "The World of Homosexuals," the first study on homosexuality in the country. According to Health India, she was inspired to write the book as a result of her first marriage - Devi apparently married a gay man.

Instead of holding any kind of resentment towards the LGBT community, she found it necessary to understand homosexuality, but as Health India reports, the "book hardly garnered any coverage." In her book, Devi speaks with a number of LGBT people, including a businessman, who talks about his realization that he is gay and an Indian priest who says same-sex couples may have been heterosexual lovers in past lives.

"What we know is that many decent, intelligent, moral and apparently normal people find their own sex more exciting than the opposite sex," Devi wrote in the book. "They are found in all walks of life and in all professions. If homosexuals want to live within the discipline of society, what does the society expect them to do? Live a life of total celibacy?"

Devi died form complications of the heart and kidneys in April at the age of 83.

Until 2009, same-sex activity was criminalized under the 1860 Indian Penal Code. Same-sex marriage is not legal, and there are no laws in place to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

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