Sunday, June 26News That Matters

A thing for numbers

An average human brain is known to have a finite storage capacity. If one tries to crowd in more bytes, some earlier ones get pushed out.

I have a head for figures. They get permanently lodged in the cranium. And once there, they simply refuse to leave, not unlike city tenants.

Perhaps it was a sense of revenge that started it all. In kindergarten, I once received three tight slaps from the class bully when I spilt ink on his new shirt. I could never take revenge but haven’t forgotten the figure three. Similarly, I still remember the number of the car that in the 1980s splashed muddy water on me from a street puddle.

The staircase in our village house has 14 steps; of the 29 wooden beams in the ceiling, the 12th from left carries seepage marks. My school headmaster’s cycle had four spokes broken on the front wheel.

The country’s switch to the metric system in the 1950s caused me no problem. A postal envelope cost 19 paise. The price of a readymade shirt my mother bought me was Rs 2.45. The first pair of Bata shoes cost me Rs 13.95.

In Class VIII, the only girl in our class had five small pox marks on her right cheek. It has long become redundant, but I can’t get rid of 97512, which was my roll number in the matriculation examination. History came easy to me because I could remember which king ruled from when to when, made how many miles of roads and had how many wives.

I had better academic prospects in history through college. But my uncle made me choose science. More than the avuncular respect, it was his 74.5-inch height and 223 pounds of weight that gave him an intimidating position in family matters.

I found science dull but kept up with the figures in college. I remember the roll numbers of all seven girls. As many as 407 had captivating light blue eyes, 156 were the friendliest. Our zoology professor rode a black motorcycle, registration number 1664. The botany book weighed 3.6 pounds. When I graduated, the topper’s score was 33.4% ahead of mine.

My eldest brother was on field posting and his Fiat car bearing the registration number USQ 3193 was with me in Dehradun. In June 1968, I drove it to Delhi to attend a friend’s wedding. It had five punctures en route and the journey took 13 hours 20 minutes.

Alas, I seem to have reached the memory limit. Last month, on my return from the market, I handed over the groceries, the bills and the balance amount to my wife. After calculation, when she demanded the remaining Rs 36 and 29 paise, I could not explain. I could not even speak, lest she should smell the beer breath.

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