He walked alone on a frosty winter morning. Fresh snow had fallen in the night, and the sky was overcast. Beneath the soft cushion of the fresh snow lay hidden a muddy crust of ice, capable of breaking the bones of the children and the aged, should they slip over it.
He walked fast, trying to keep pace with the calculations his mind had gotten into. Inside the long pheran, the stitches of which were torn from one side, the thumbs of his both hands moved together over the lines around his fingers.
It was over these lines, many years ago, that his father had taught him counting and, the habit had stayed with him. He no longer attempted simple problems of addition or subtraction. It ran much deeper now, so much so that people around him thought he had gone mad.
Dinanath’s entire life, one could say, revolved around Calculus. A professor of history, who was also a Marxist, had met Dinanath during a marriage ceremony and is said to have remarked later, “Calculus is the opium of the masses.”
Dinanath was still solving equations when he crossed the Ganpatyar temple. The sound of bells along with multiple voices of people singing hymns in praise of the elephant God, Ganesha, could be heard on the road outside, and, in fact, till the last corner of the street.
Beside the temple, the old milkman was beginning to set up his shop. He sat on a goatskin with a Kangri kept next to him. From the circular loop of wicker, on the top of the earthen pot, hung a silver spoon, used to stir the burning coal inside.
“Oye Dina,” the man shouted when he saw him, “where are you headed towards, in this cold wave?”
Dinanath stopped. His fingers stopped as well. He turned his head and looked at the milkman. And then, without uttering a word, he moved on.
On the wooden bridge – one of the seven built over the river Jhelum, Dinanath stopped. He leaned over the railing and looked at the water. That was when his neighbour, Ratanlal spotted him.
“Dinanath,” he said sarcastically, “are you done with your mathematics? Are you contemplating jumping into the water?”
Dinanath looked at him and, then, he looked back at the grey waters.
“I don’t need to jump over to establish contact with water,” he said slowly, almost weighing his every word.
Ratanlal laughed. “What do you mean, my learned Sir?” he asked.
Dinanath touched the railing and, with the knuckles of his right hand, he began hammering against it. And then he said: “You see, Ratanlal, I am on the bridge, the bridge is on water; bridge bridge cancel, I am on water.”
And then he let out a smile. As Ratanlal looked, Dinanath’s hands went back inside the pheran. It was time for some more Calculus.
(In this story, I have tried to imagine the world of a man, who is believed to have lived in Srinagar around the Habbakadal area - a man who, it is said, was in love with mathematics and philosophy)
Photo courtesy: kplink.com