7. Her Life Justified
It was late at night, and they were in bed, asleep. Suddenly Namagiri gave out a loud piercing shriek and sat bolt upright.
Jolted awake, Ramanujan said, “What is it, what is it, what is it?”
“O Ramanujan darling, there you are! Hold me, please hold me!” And Namagiri turned and embraced her husband, hard.
“Your heart is pounding,” he said.
“I had... a dream...” she gasped.
“You mean a nightmare,” Ramanujan said.
“I dreamed... that shadows came... and they spoke to me.”
“And these shadows; what did they say?”
“They said... ‘O Radiance! Your Excellency! Enlightened Star of India!’ They said... ‘O Victor, Lawgiver and Sage! Worthy Inheritor! Noble Founder!’ They said... ‘Sri Sri Magnificence Sri Sri Lucidity Sri Sri Great-Souled Sri Sri Sri Namagiri!’ ”
“Aha,” Ramanujan said. “They know you.”
“I asked them why they called me that. They chanted, ‘You are the Harbinger. You are the Overcomer. You are the First of the Next. One Sunyata One Sunyata Sunyata One One Sunyata One Sunyata! Therefore we honor you. Our praise echoes across the land. One One Sunyata One! We come to give you a gift, or do you a favor.’ ”
“What strange numbers. Six hundred and sixty-six? Thirteen?” Ramanujan mused. “And what gift did they offer?”
“They offered me wealth and power, luck and privilege, fortune and fame; but this for a span of time limited to one part in ninety-six of a single day. How long is that, dear husband?”
Ramanjuan replied, “It is fifteen minutes.”
“The shadows offered me fifteen minutes of fame; but what use have I for fame, or fame for me? That is what I told them; and to this they replied, ‘If we cannot give you a gift then we must do you a favor.’ And so they did me... their kind of favor.”
“And what kind of favor was that?”
“They gave me a vision... of the end of the world.”
“And how did the world end? By flood? By fire? By bolts of lightning?”
“No. By time.” Namagiri hugged her husband, hard. After a bit she relaxed enough to say, “In my vision, time sped up. It raged and ravaged like a river in monsoon season. I saw cities seethe like human anthills. I saw trees sprout, grow, blossom, wither, and decay, fast as tongues of flame. I saw time as all-consuming fire, and it frightened me.
“The shadows chirped and hooted at my terror. ‘O minor servant under an incompetent prince of a forgotten city in a fallen empire,’ they screeched, ‘we are doing you a favor! For where are your masters? Behold; they’re gone, all gone!’
“It was true. Time’s fire had reduced both Prince and Sheik to sunyata.
“The shadows cried, ‘Where is the vizier? Where are the servants? Where is the palace? Where are the shrines? Where are your gods? Gone, all gone!’
“The shadows cried, ‘O Namagiri, where is your washrag? Where is your broom? Your comb and your bed? Your husband and your child? O Namagiri, where are you?’
“The shadows cried, ‘O lioness of nothingness, behold thy legacy!’
“And there was nothing. There was nothing. There was nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing!”
“And that was when I screamed, and that was when I woke up.” Namagiri clung tightly to Ramanujan. “And so you see, dear husband, that there’s nothing wrong, and there’s nothing missing, and there’s nothing to fear but nothing itself.”
They lay there quietly a moment, embracing each other.
Ramaujan patted Namagiri and said, “Oh my poor beloved, who am I to argue with shadows? Can I deny their denials? No. I cannot gainsay their words; I can only add to them; for they have told you part of the truth.”
“... it’s true?”
“Yes, but only half the truth; and half a truth is worse than a whole lie.”
“And what is the whole truth?”
Ramanujan said, “Your existence is transient; that is true. Your life is absurd; also true. Your legacy is nothingness; again true. But your legacy, though nothing, is no ordinary nothing; your life, though absurd, even so has meaning; and your existence, though transient, even so is vindicated.” He kissed her on the forehead. “You are; and you ought to be; so all is well.”
“I ought to be?”
“Yes,” Ramanujan said firmly. “Your life is justified. You are a good person; the world is a better place because you exist.”
Namagiri sighed, and relaxed just a bit. “It’s nice of you to say that...”
Ramanujan said, “No! I do not just say it. I know it, and I can prove it.”
“And how could you prove such a thing? With mathematics?”
“And vision. You see... while you were dreaming, so was I.”
“And what mathematical vision did you dream?”
“Of you, within the land of magicians. Yes, the cold rainy place, where you taught me fantastic mathematics in a dream within a dream. Tonight I dreamed once more of that land; only this time I knew when I was.”
Namagiri asked, “You knew ‘when’ you were? How long ago was it?”
“But you see, dear, it wasn’t a ‘long ago’; it was a ‘yet to be’. My dream was not about the past; it was about a future.”
“ ‘A’ future, you say? Then are there many futures?”
“Time is a tree, this life one leaf; but love is the sky, and I am for you.”
“And this alternate future is a past life of yours?” she wondered. “Have you been re-incarnating backwards in time?”
Ramanujan said, “So my dream informed me. Alas, my soul has striven counter to the current of time; and let me assure you that only the game fish swims upstream!”
“And what have you swum so far upstream for, you gamy fish?”
“I came back for you, beloved.”
“And this future, your past; what was it like?”
“It was the future you made; the world your invention created.”
At this Namagiri burst out laughing. (Ramanujan quietly sighed with relief.) She said, “How odd! You dreamed a magician’s world created by sunyata?”
“By nothing less than nothing,” he said.
“Created by a placeholder? By naming the void, I made a whole world?”
“It had your number written all over it!”
“And why should a great big world need so much emptiness?”
“In that world, all clerks and scholars could do their sums easily and correctly.”
Namagiri asked, “Your magician’s world is a computer's paradise?”
“Yes!” Ramanujan said fervently. “Children could compute! Princes and sheiks could compute! The very rocks could compute!”
“It couldn't have been much of a change,” she said.
“But it was, it was! The world I witnessed... it was glorious, Namagiri, and terrifying, and beautiful, and wonderful, and huge. And you were the one who inspired it. It was a future of big cities and bountiful harvests and mighty engines and wide highways and tall towers; the people could fly like birds, see beyond the horizon, speak across the seas. And it was you who showed them how.”
“I did that? Me?”
“Yes, you, dear; for you taught them what they needed to know. Sunyata; no more, and no less. Their wagons ran like stallions, their chariots flew like falcons, their towers scraped the sky, their bridges spanned great bays, their cities shone like clusters of suns. The lightning and the lodestone were their servants; the sky their highway. The Moon bore their footprints, and their eyes and ears had gone further yet. And it was you, it was you, who made it all possible.”
“But I did nothing!”
“Yes, beloved; and it was your Nothing that did it. Before you came, mankind didn't know the simplest thing; but now, thanks to you, they do. You taught them mathematics, the language of Heaven. Their sages could count the stars in the sky and the sands of the desert, thanks to you. For them, the equinoxes, tides, passages, eclipses, conjunctions, and comets were no mystery, thanks to you. They could see the farthest star and the tiniest mite. They could hear the bat's chirp, the whale's song, the sun's roar... and even echoes from Creation itself. And who taught their sages, their artisans, their clerks, their smiths, and even their princes and sheiks? You did.”
“Did they know I did?”
“No, they did not. Only I know that it was you, it was you, my darling, my sweetheart, my brilliant hidden treasure, my genius, my goddess, my beloved Namagiri.”