‘what’s that?’

They’d entered a room off the courtyard where someone had charcoalled two Sinhala words in giant script on the walls. MAKAMKRUKA. And on the other, MADANARAGA. ‘What’s that? Are those names?’ ‘No.’ He reached up so his hand could touch the brown lettering.

‘Not names. A makamruka is–it’s difficult to describe–a man who is a makamkruka is a churner, an agitator. Someone who perhaps sees things more truly by turning everything upside down. He’s a devil almost, a yaksa. Though a makamkruka, strangely, guards the sacred spot in a temple ground. No one knows why this kind of person is honoured with such a responsibility.’

‘And?’

‘The other is stranger. Madanagara means “with the speed of love,” sexual arousal. It’s the kind of word you find in ancient romances. Not in the vernacular.’

(classic ondaatje, non? anil’s ghost.)

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