One of the reasons, I am told, the British left India was they couldn’t understand the system of numbering that was in use in India. We have hundred, thousand, lack, and crore which are respectively number 1 followed by two zeros, three zeros, five zeros and seven zeros. It sounds quite logical also. But no Indian uses the term ‘million’ which I came across only when I was at the college. My teacher explained to me that a million was number 1 followed by six zeros. To their dismay, even the Indian press never used the term ‘million’ for obvious reasons. The English language (which defies logic in many an area) does’t have a single word for one hundred thousand. The British also complained against the Indians for their approximations. If an Indian said that about ten thousand people had gathered there, the head count revealed only about five-thousand. So was their estimation of distance. If an Indian said the next village was situated at a distance of five miles, the land surveyor measured ten miles. The British humorously remarked : 1) Divide the Indian estimated number of people by two; 2) Multiply the distance suggested by a villager by two.
There is another story attributed to a Tehsildhar (a sub-ordinate revenue officer). Once, a British collector mockingly asked a tehsildhar, “How many crows are there in your tehsil?”, to which the Tehsildhar earnestly replied, “Your honour, there are only three thousand five-hundred and thirty-two crows in my tehsil” . Astonished, the white collector cornered him, “Suppose, I order a head- count by an expert and there are less number of crows?”, “Your honour”, the tehsildhar replied as a matter of fact,” Some of the crows might have visited the nearby village as a festival is going on there”.”If found to be more?”, the collector asked in a challenging tone. “Your honour, some crows might have arrived from the nearby tehsil”, the officer replied in defiance. The British left India in disgust.