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His date with NUMBERS

PREMA MANMADHAN meets a number wizard who can tell you what day it was on a date long, long ago or of one yet to be.

ONE CRORE. Sorry, not rupees, but years. Now, how could anyone get interested in a time frame that's almost several light years away? Paulose P.V. can, and he's got the calendar for the years till then, all lined up, in his briefcase - from AD1 to AD 1,00,00,000. Ask him what day it was in whatever year, whichever month, and he'll close his eyes for a second and reel it off.

What day was the first day of the first year, Anno Domini? "Saturday," says Paulose, forty-something.

As your mouth opens and eyes dilate, he laughs it off, "Actually, it's quite easy for me. Even if you ask me in my sleep, I would know. I have been researching on this subject from the time I was a teenager." And he goes back to the history of calendars, of Julian and Gregorian and how after October 4, 1582, (it was a Thursday, he reminds you), the next day, Friday was October 15, the beginning of the Gregorian era. " The intervening 10 days never were," he smiles.

Paulose is a maths person, but his formal education stopped at the PDC level. This checker from the Kerala State Water Transport Department now works at Kochi. Square roots are his weakness too. Ask him the square root of any number and he will tell you the answer. "Faster than a computer can," in his own words. And he demonstrates it. Yes, faster than a computer all right. Living with numbers, his wife, Sallymma, is used to him looking blank when she whispers sweet nothings into his ears. A homemaker, she is doubtless, his inspiration, he says, for she does not obstruct him in his numerical endeavours. His day off is always spent in the company of calendars and numbers. "Of course I buy the provisions for her, but after that, I am busy practising new things. I do magic too, with cards," he reveals. Right now he's busy with a book for kids, on how to multiply figures in short cuts.

Paulose blushes when he narrates the time he acted in a movie. "It was in Ethirpukal, way back in the early eighties. Mammooty, the hero, comes to the boat and I say, "There are no more trips."

The other `boys' in the department always come to him for help, when the accounts don't tally. He feels privileged to give them a lending hand. The time he presented his calendar of one crore years at the Science Congress at Palakkad in 1995, is still fresh in his mind. He feels that was the first real recognition of his work, unsolicited, but what came right from the heart.

Research for love of the subject is rare, rarer still when the person does not expect a doctorate. For Paulose, it is a hobby turned passion and obsession.

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