Apologies for the crazy length-only excuse is that its about a man even crazier..

Though he was not a Buddhist- he was an ethnic Brahmin, like me,but there is a form of Buddhism(which originated from Brahmanism after all) so potent, adherents say, that to hear its name spoken is to receive a promise of premature enlightenment, of early freedom from the wheel of incarnations. Something similar is true of Srinivasa Ramanujan, the madman who was born into deep poverty in an obscure part of southern India, who taught himself mathematics from a standard textbook, and in total isolation became a mathematician of such power that a hundred years after his death, at the age of thirty-two, the meaning of much of his work is still a mystery.

The story of Ramanujan is a variation on the same mythopoeic tale related in Star Wars and the New Testament, of a special boy born into adversity. A mother cannot conceive. The Goddess appears in a dream, promising a son through whom the God will speak to his creation. While pregnant, the mother travels to her ancestral home. During the winter solstice, the boy is born, under signs in the heavens that portend great events: his horoscope, cast by his mother, predicts that he will be a genius beset by great suffering. “Svasti Sri,” it reads, “when the moon was near the star Uttirattadi, when Mithuna was in the ascendant, on this auspicious day” Ramanujan is born. And indeed, his will be a short life, full of disaster. Growing up, he is gentle and quiet. Weightless is the word one of his childhood acquaintances uses in Robert Kanigel’s The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan. Beginning in his teenage years, Kanigel writes, Ramanujan “would abruptly vanish(like a Lovecraftian protagonist)… Little subsequently became known” about these disappearances. Around this time, Ramanujan acquires a hoary old text (G. S. Carr’s Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure Mathematics) that initiates him into the arcana. The Goddess begins to appear to Ramanujan in his dreams, showing him scrolls covered in strange formulae. “Nakkil ezhutinal,” he later said. “She wrote on my tongue.”

With such minimal training, Ramanujan rediscovers the mathematics of the preceding millennia. As he begins to make deep discoveries of his own, he writes to the learned men of the world, but his claims seem too extraordinary to be the product of a sane mind, so they ignore him. One of these letters happens to reach G. H. Hardy, a famous number theorist at Cambridge University and one of the only mathematicians in the world with the right mix of training and temperament to see Ramanujan clearly. Confronted with Ramanujan’s mathematical locutions, such as the one which uses an infinite “continued fraction” to relate e, π, and the golden ratio to one another,Hardy realizes that Ramanujan’s formulae, so weird yet elegant, supercharged with meaning yet concise, “must be true because, if they were not true, no one would have the imagination to invent them.” So disturbed is Hardy by the genius evident in Ramanujan’s letter that he sends an emissary to the edge of the empire, to India, to bring Ramanujan back to the imperial capital.

At Cambridge, Ramanujan is friendly and funny, easy company, but weird mathematics gushes out of him. He can’t explain the reasoning that leads to his formulae, nor their significance. He seems otherworldly to Hardy, as easy and dexterous with infinite quantities as with a knife and fork. With his intellect finally being fed by a university, Ramanujan’s genius erupts into something never before seen. And then he begins to die. Tuberculosis is suspected and so, in line with the treatment of the day, his doctors force him to live in an open room fully exposed to the English winter. The food the doctors bring him, Ramanujan writes, is inedible: botched curries “as hard as uncooked rice.” His body wastes away until he is little more than a walking skeleton. Then he returns to India, expecting to die. As his last act, he produces the strangest work of his career: a series of mathematical formulae only recently understood. We now know that they grant the bearer passage to the infinite.

I celebrate his madness,though I know for a fact that his widow died in poverty.When Ramanujan died, his jealous mother rejected Janaki, throwing her out of the house poor and unskilled. Janaki was still a girl, uneducated, and after her husband’s death she lived a hard life, even by the standards of southern India. Near the end of her life, she was half-blind and living on a pittance. The government had promised her at least a statue of her husband, whom they recognized as an Indian national hero, but they never delivered...

Think of the final mystery in Ramanujan’s writings: the objects described in his deathbed letter, which Ramanujan called “mock-theta functions.” Their purpose had been a mystery for a hundred years.

Some mathematical functions spit out numbers of such enormousness and in such a torrent that the apparatus of mathematics breaks down; the pile of numbers becomes a hill too steep to climb. Such functions are said to “blow up” to infinity. The purpose of the mock-theta functions, was to clear the path. Using the mock-theta functions, Ramanujan had found a way to carry himself over the infinitely steep hill, all the way to the gates of infinity itself, and then, miraculously, to disappear through a keyhole and come out on the other side. The path though is head-splittingly implausible, but it lays where Ramanujan had said it did.

In 1920, on a bed in Madras, as Ramanujan was contemplating his coming encounter with the infinite, he found a way through.With Ramanujan, there is no book of studio photographs, no paper trail to insert you into his headspace. Paper had been too expensive to buy, so Ramanujan did almost all of his work on a small slate, writing down his highly compressed formulae onto a scrap of paper only after many hours of work, erasing the slate every few seconds. A typical page in one of his three “notebooks”—really just piles of scrap, bound after the fact—contains no words of explanation, just equations, symbols, and strings of digits. Only four photographs of Ramanujan exist, and two of them are nearly identical. He had no children. His family, including his widow, are all dead.

As a boy, Ramanujan discovered that if he skipped along the number line, gathering and adding numbers according to simple patterns, when he arrived at infinity the sum could be a single, sensible number, like one or one hundred, or even π, a number with infinitely many digits that, like the avatars of the Infinite God, Vishnu, can never be fully written down. He discovered the series that yielded the basic trigonometric functions sine and cosine, and realized that the infinite series was the deeper definition not only of these but of all numbers. (In fact, Leonhard Euler had made the same discovery about sine and cosine in the eighteenth century. When Ramanujan found out that he’d been scooped by the great Euler, he was not elated, but ashamed—mortified, even, and hid his work in the roof of his house.)

Askey,a mathematician, bought his collected papers.At first, Askey had found Ramanujan’s math odd and opaque, too eccentric to be of much use. Anyway, it was unrelated to Askey’s main interest, a class of special functions called orthogonal polynomials. They were proving difficult to crack. His research was leading him further and further afield, into an abstruse new area of mathematics, called coding theory, that seemed related to orthogonal polynomials, though he couldn’t discern the point of connection. There was no one in Askey’s math department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with the right expertise, and so, in perplexity, Askey reached out to George Andrews, the hero-mathematician who had just discovered Ramanujan’s final “lost” notebook in a library, in the belongings of another professor, long dead.

The discovery of the lost notebook was the final miracle in the Ramanujan story. “I have a hundred-page, unknown manuscript of Ramanujan in my briefcase,” Andrews told Askey when he arrived in Madison. “You can have a look at it for a nickel.”

Soon, all became clear: Ramanujan had foreseen the problems Askey was facing. Reading from Ramanujan’s spell book, and with Andrews as the medium, Askey compelled the orthogonal polynomials to yield their secrets. But there was weirdness afoot, of a prototypically Ramanujanian variety.

“Ramanujan knew nothing about orthogonal polynomials,” Askey says. And he certainly knew nothing about coding theory, a subject that had come into being years after his death. Yet he seemed to have anticipated that these subjects would one day exist, that they would be interesting to someone, and that there would be problems associated with them that would need to be solved.

The simplest explanation is that Ramanujan was a time traveler from the future.

“It’s completely perplexing,” says Askey. “Since the orthogonal polynomials, I’ve spent much of my time working in Ramanujan’s garden.”

The the 60s another mathematician,Ono, was drawn to Ramanujan’s whiz-bang formulae, but after giving them a once-over, it seemed to him, as it had to Askey, that they weren’t all that deep. They were just “crazy tricks that did something weird.”

Ono’s personal opinion was irrelevant. Ramanujan’s mathematics wasn’t widely taught anymore; no one outside of a few specialists studied him seriously. Though he’d had a brief vogue shortly after his death, in the 1960s, Ramanujan was unfashionable. His body of work consisted of notebooks filled with short formulae, so there was no overarching theory to study, and formula writing had been out of style in serious mathematics for more than a century.The formulists had had their time. They were the sorcerers of math’s prehistory who had discovered the deep connections among the key concepts and encoded them in mathematical haiku. Modern mathematicians-in-training studied modern theorists, technicians who labored over proofs of narrowly defined conjectures, mastered this or that technique, and polished the gleaming apparatus free of fingerprints.

When Ono began to dig a little more deeply into Ramanujan’s formulae, he was surprised at the tangle of roots he encountered below the surface. Ramanujan’s crazy tricks linked up with some of the deepest concepts in math. They could not exist unless they concealed massive theoretical edifices.

Take the tau function, an oddity that Ramanujan discovered and studied during his five years at Cambridge. A function is a mathematical expression that, when fed with a number, produces another number. It’s a machine that takes some raw material and then stretches, compresses, reshapes, or transforms it into something else. Functions embody the relationships between numbers; they are central objects of study in number theory. Ramanujan found the tau function important enough to spend upward of thirty pages in his notebook exploring it, but it was hard for other mathematicians to see why he’d been so interested. On its face, there was nothing special about the tau function. Hardy, Ramanujan’s chief collaborator at Cambridge, worried that the tau function’s homeliness might lead future mathematicians to see it as a mathematical “backwater.” For decades after Ramanujan’s death, it was treated as one.

Then, in the 1960s, a French mathematician named Jean-Pierre Serre realized that the tau function was an unassuming front for a powerful force. Its existence could be explained only if there was a brand-new theory of functions encoded in it. Serre called this theory, suspected but not proven, the Galois representations. Not long after, the Belgian researcher Pierre Deligne proved that the Galois representations actually existed, and in the process clarified that the tau function was deeply connected to algebraic geometry and algebraic number theory. For proving the Galois representations, Deligne won a Fields Medal..

In 1995, the Galois representations appeared as the key component of Andrew Wiles’s epochal proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, the largest, most notorious open problem in mathematics, which had gone unproved for over three hundred years and was suspected of being unprovable.

“All that, from Serre to the Fields medal to Wiles, is from only about ten or fifteen pages from Ramanujan’s notebooks, out of the hundreds that he wrote,” Ono says. “Which is typical! And in fact, studying the tau function, the British mathematician Louis Mordell proved some properties that were later developed into Hecke algebras and the Langlands program, among the two or three most important developments in twentieth-century math. And that’s from a different five pages of Ramanujan’s work on tau that have no intersection with the previous fifteen. In fact, it might be as short as a page. One page from Ramanujan’s work may have given birth to all that.”