Of Math & The Monkey God

Centum is Latin for hundred. I don’t know if Italians use the word anymore, but some people in India still do. To them, centum is what a smart kid would score on a math test. In the middle class neighborhood where I grew up, many adults seemed to believe that math scores were a perfectly good indicator – indeed, the only indicator – of a child’s I.Q. – the equivalent of a Mensa rating. Alas, my scores in arithmetic could never be rounded off to that three digit number. But my mother, the incurable optimist, hoped that someday I would bring back a report card with 100 marks in her favorite subject. To this end, she enlisted the help of the deity Hanuman, promising him a garland of savory snacks called vadais, if I ever got that perfect score.  Not 100 vadais, but 108 because this is considered an auspicious number.

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