lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, May 05, 2006

K theory

"So if you take minus three..." Started Himself.

"Stop right there, honey." I said. I can't conceive of minus three, unless it is grams of weight I might shed if and when I exert myself, in relation to the energy expended.

I don't do numbers. I don't do negative numbers at all. Oh, I am like everybody else, I keep track of days, years and appointments. I note down expenses, too. But that's just tracking to make life comprehensible. Calendars and accounts are just a way of managing and keeping count; it does get depressing as you rack up the years , though. But numbers are different.

I was playing at setting crossword clues and asked my husband about constants. Apparently there are five absolute constants for mathematicians.

0, 1, e, i and pi. Zero and one I could understand without stretching my imagination much. Pi is something Carl Sagan based his one and only novel on, so I how could I not know it? When he started to expound on the square root of minus one, I gave up on i, though; and when it came to e, hm, let's draw a discreet veil. Exponential is not a word I want to hear again anytime soon.

Euler and my current German connection notwithstanding, I am not interested in negative numbers unless it is weight I am shedding. The mind boggles. Mathematicians seem to make cryptic crosswords clues seem plain and simple.

My husband informed me there are other constants, too. C: velocity of light, h: Planck's constant and G. He'd have gone on a bit more about them and tried to educate me further, if I hadn't put my foot down and cried:

"Means I got it"
"Hey, I do know what it means."
"I think I have a lovely anagram, is all I meant"
"Do tell."
"I hog epic ."
"Excuse me?"
"It's an anagram of all the constants, and I can link it to Jordan's never-ending saga of Wheel of Time and create a great clue..."
"But Lali, 0 and 1 are not alphabet..."
"Hey, we are talking cryptic crosswords, so zero is O and one is I; it is a lovely anagram, honey, admit it."

Neither of us gives up the hope of educating the other, though.

I'd made a career of asking and not understanding what K theory is. I mean, when you are twenty-something and you find this slim volume on the coffee table of your love, and you ask an idle question about it while waiting for him to get the hint, are you going to admit you understand it? Or that you don't? And/or that you don't give a hoot about it(will you get amorous now please, thank you; so on and so forth)?

But over the years, explaining K theory to Lali became a game. We never ever got around to the explanation or understanding part of exploring K theory, though. "This is going to be a K theory kinda thing", he says, when I ask him something. We both know it means something I won't really understand the nitty-gritty of, but can grasp the 'For Dummies' version. It is our private shorthand for 'you won't understand, dear'.

He is resigned about my mathematical inadequacies, and only relies on me about spellings, usage and as a fount of trivia. He always has an answer for my questions and I only tell him how many esses there are in possession or what 'illegitimati nil carborundum' means.

O, swear not by the moon, th'inconstant moon
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.

Twenty three years ago today, we began to live together. And like 0, 1, e, i and pi, he has been constant. Happy anniversary, Kalyan.



Blogger Siva Sivaaa said...

Belated wishes :D

3:14 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Thanks. :D

4:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is illegitimati nil carborundum? Nice post. And belated best wishes.

4:38 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Anon, thanks. It is pidgin Latin for 'don't let the bastards grind you down'

5:39 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Awww, Balika B, this is com-pletely "Awwww". Love you for making my night. I'm SO going to dream soft mellowy dreams tonight. This was so incredibly beautiful, I really couldn't tell you without getting into the cheesiest cliched rhetoric. and it'd all be true too (you know, the 'almost brought a tear to my eyes', 'it's sooo sweet!' sort of thing?)

11:13 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Why, that is so sweet of you to say so, Rimi. Thanks. What to do, we are like that only. :D

4:11 pm  

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