In keeping with the nature of its activities, the books that the ASI brings out are all of a sound vintage, having been written at least four or five decades ago. To give the ASI credit, it keeps many of these volumes in print but does very little by way of updating information in them. Thus when The Man from Madras Musings recently picked up a volume, he was quite surprised to find that it stated that the nearest place of stay for a well-known monument was a Government dak bungalow. A quick look at the credits page revealed that the volume was written in the 1950s and has been reprinted several times with the same information! No mention was made of an industrial township that had sprung up in the vicinity in the intervening decades, with plenty of hotels in operation. In any case, who would want to stay in a dak bungalow in the 21st Century?

As to how MMM bought the book in question is quite a story by itself. He and his good lady were visiting a monument and by the ticket counter was a publications counter where a man of sage-like aspect was meditating. He could well afford to do so, for the last customer had evidently come there quite a few years earlier. But on display were some very interesting publications. MMM expressed his desire to purchase a couple and it was with great reluctance that the salesperson, if he could be termed that, got up, stretched himself, and fetched the books. These were the only copies left he said with some lugubrious pride. He also added most helpfully that some of the pages were damaged. MMM said he did not mind and so could he know the price. The man busied himself with paper and pencil and after some considerable addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, not to forget the application of square roots and some algebraic equation, came up with a ridiculously low figure. The prices, like the content of the books, had not been updated in decades. MMM asked if he was quite sure and to this the man, assuming that MMM was finding the price to be high, said that no bargaining was allowed and so if MMM did not want the books he, the salesperson, would be quite happy to put them away. MMM hastened to assure him that this was not the case and it was just that he found the prices to be too low.

It was at this moment that MMM’s good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, observed that given the amount of time that had been wasted at the counter there was very little left to see the monument and considering the weight of the books asked if it would not be better to buy them on the way back. This was agreed to and MMM and good lady wandered off to admire the monument. When they returned it was to find that the sage had vanished and there was a new hermit in his place. This one had clearly not quite conquered anger and brusquely informed MMM that the volumes he desired were not in stock. What about the ones that MMM had seen in the morning, asked MMM. To this the man replied that he, MMM was clearly mistaken, for there were no such books in stock as far as he, the salesperson could remember, in his thirty years of service. MMM was about to turn away when his good lady fixed the counterperson with a beady eye and drew his attention to the two books in a shelf by the side. She had, she later informed MMM, seen the earlier incumbent of the high office of book sales, placing them in that cupboard.

And so, MMM did come away with the books, but not before a long-winded billing process involving all the mathematics mentioned above, to which some integral and differential calculus was added. MMM was also asked to sign a register and furnish several personal details. But he did get the books.