Fourteen-year-old Manideep Reddy stood at the centre of a well-lit hall in a building in Secunderabad, surrounded by a crowd of children. It was a morning in mid August, and Reddy, wearing a black suit and red bow tie, was the oldest child present. The other children and I watched as he took out a piece of rope from his pocket, held it up at both ends and showed it around.
Reddy then turned to me—the unsuspecting adult he had chosen to help him—and asked me to examine the rope closely. “Let’s cut it into two equal halves,” he said, folding it at the centre and passing me a pair of scissors. I cut the rope at the folded end.
When Reddy unfolded it, however, he showed us that one of the parts I had cut was much longer than the other. Jovially offering me another chance, he held out the longer piece and asked me to cut it in half. But sure enough, after I had snipped the rope, he unraveled it to show the crowd that I had again split it into uneven pieces. As the young audience laughed, Reddy feigned a hapless look at me, the useless adult who could not even perform this simple task.