Though I learned to count in nursery, the fact that numbers continue endlessly and there is no such a thing as the last-most number was an outrageous piece of knowledge bestowed on me by my elder brother when I was in class 1, which I did not want to take. That ‘mis’information suddenly put me into a mission. I was desperate to find the last number and hurl that at the world. It dawned on me that I was sent to this world to find the last number. By doing that I would save the world from this misconception that has been passed on for generations.
I embraced the avatar (a skinny 6 year old) I was and sat down for a while to understand and ponder on the heavy responsibility placed on me. “But Amma how can you believe it? Just think for yourself. How can there not be a last number Amma? Just think. There are 26 alphabets, 12 months, 2 eyes, 2 ears…so why are numbers special? Why don’t you think it that way?” I had asked this several times to her over the day when I was told this fact. Amma tried explaining and gave it up after the second trial for she understood that I was a stickler of what I believe. That I had got it into my head that with my high ‘acumen’ I am going to resolve the ‘issue’.
A well- orchestrated plan should be made to find out the number. I went to Amma’s consultation room and gazed at the books. I should read all these books and some newspapers to find it, I made a mental note. The consultation room had Amma’s paediatric books and some encyclopaedias. I was desperate to read each of them. My goal was simple- Find this cheeky number and thus save the humanity.
After school I would run to the consultation room ( I would not allow myself any form of complacency…come on the whole world is going carefree without knowing the fact that they are being fooled!), jump on the chair from which I would get onto the shelf. I would run my hands through the spines of those books (I was imitating a man from some movie. Movies had such good influence on me from an early age), select one and sit up straight on the chair with one leg over the other (like Amma did). Sometimes I would hoist spectacles (which usually had pink frame) on my nose which was bought during palliperunal (church feast). I would flip through the long pages, underline some lines with the only Apsara I had and scribbled some notes on Amma’s notepad (That was how Amma read through her books). Sometimes I would stop to ransack my brain.
I would immerse myself in calculations and drawings. I would strike something off and re-write . The difficulty of my work pained me. But still I remained riveted. I found myself getting to it with each drawing.
No one asked me what I was doing in there late in the night( by late I mean, past 9). Family members were used to my obsession with the green steel table and numerous notepads in the consultation room.
But sadly the unfortunate happened- my battery ran out after two days of intense research. I knew I would get the number with all those precious notes I have made. I tried hard to bolster my spirits. I tried hard to bring my dream to fruition. All in vain. Within those two days I completed going through all the books( I think I should tell you of the size of the books- though they varied in size, most of them had the length of my full arm or a little less than that, with some 1000 to 1500 pages each), but I didn’t touch the newspapers. That was the problem- clear negligence of not going through newspapers.
A slow guilt started percolating in. How can you do that, Anju? You wasted two days on those books without even saying a ‘hello’ to the newspapers? Those unstapled pages had it? Why didn’t you just get it? I left my ‘saviour of the world’ attire then and there.