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.

Silences

I speak through silences too. Listen.

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.