Numbers – A translation of Ashokamithran’s ‘எண்கள்’

He comes here, here to this reading room to see and keep count of the money that someone else has put up for display, for the intoxication that he gets when this money in amounts he cannot imagine, rises up through his eyes and into his brain. Leave him to his intoxication. Sure, let him be, let him be. This intoxication is the only thing that is left for him and for crores of other people today. Perhaps it is for this intoxication that I too come here.

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Two-anna coin

In the holy month of Margazhi, on the morning of Vaikuntha Ekaadasi, near the holy chariot, a pit would be dug and a large frying pan cleaned out with cow dung set up, the sand from the banks of the Kollidam poured in, and peas fried in this sand till they joyfully popped; one whole bagful of these you could get for two annas. Later that night, under the light of petromax lamps you could buy big-lettered books that told the tales of Vikramadittan, Kokkogam etc. while your eyes drifted elsewhere. At Rangaraja’s the floor ticket for ‘Captain Marvel’ cost two annas.

Phantom and N2 go to Saidapet??

And so on a Word editor beneath the title in caps, Alpha began to type away. He simply let it flow. Electrical impulses, or close approximations anyway, flowed out from the tips of his fingertips magically conjuring letters and words on the monitor, producing writing so enormously skewed and distorted in its logical bases that it took the madness out of the man and planted it squatly on a virtual A4 sheet, a virus quarantined,..