lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Going by numbers

W. Fancy lines, past and high-level, get the bird (8)

I don't like numbers. But I do like lists. They are interesting, useful things. Think about it, what are dictionaries, but lists of words? There are special reference books too, with different kinds of lists. My Roget's Thesaurus and Crossword Companion are such. I like them, and use them when I need to look up lists of words. Even when one can figure out the solution by cruciverbal logic, one has to confirm it, after all.

The clue was for an alphabetical jigsaw crossword, so the solution had to start with w. Bird is the definition and the quickest way to confirm the solution was to scan the list of birds in my Crossword Companion, then.

So I looked up birds' names, eight letters long, starting with w, to confirm my solution, whimbrel.

Now, I could have trawled through the Webster's or the encyclopaedia, but Roget's and the Crossword Companion simplify the search. The Companion, especially, is very useful for enthusiasts, as it is geared towards cryptic crosswords specifically. It has lists of odd things like horse-drawn carriages, musical terms, gods and goddesses in various religions, characters of Dickens and Shakespeare, lists of painters, poets and famous ballets or operas; all grist for a compiler's mill, after all.

The earliest known compilation of words is the Amarakosham, a Sanskrit work, dating back to the tenth century. There are more dictionaries and books of lists in specialised subjects than one can imagine.

One such is the Bala Siksha. Commissioned by the East India Company, it was written by Chadalavaada Sitarama Sastry, in 1856. Its aim was to teach Telugu children the basics of the language, from alphabet to prosody. It had wonderful lists of aphorisms, interesting words, word pairs, palindromes, idiomatic phrases and more. It gave basic lessons in elementary mathematics, geography, too.

I used to leaf through the book as a child, and I do so now too, still fascinated by the lists.

Of all the lists the book has, I used to like the groups by numbers. Of things that were twofold, the concrete and the abstract, jeevatma and paramatma were cited. Threefold things were plenty. The three times, tenses and the trinity were a few I learned about. I learnt about the four Vedas, the four stages of life and the four kinds of heroes in literature. The lists of fives taught me about the five elements, the five gardens of Shiva, and the five parts of Hindu almanac, five classics of Sanskrit and more.

The sixes were the character flaws, the six emperors, the six chakras in Yoga, the six tastes of food, the six strategies of kings and more. The sevens and eights were there too, as were nines and tens.

There were the eleven rudras, the twelve synonyms of the sun,the thirteen types of character, fourteen branches of study, sixteen adornments, eighteen puranas and descriptions, the twenty seven stars in astrology, the sixty-four arts and the seventy-two questions Yudhishtira answered to revive his brothers in Mahabharata too.

Come to think of it, there are things listed by numbers in the western culture, too. The three Norns, the four directions, the seven deadly sins, the seven wonders of the ancient world, the nine muses and the twelve labours of Hercules come to mind. In science fiction, Asimov's three laws of robotics are famous. Then there is the periodic table.

In the list of eights, the eight types of heroines are interesting. They are the Svaadheenapatika, Vaasavasajjika, Virahothkantita, Vipralabda, Khandita, Kalahaantarita, Proshitabhartraka, and Abhisaarika. Tongue twisters, they may be, but they are interesting classifications of a woman in love.

Take Abhisaarika. Any woman who dresses up and goes to meet her boyfriend is one. If he stands her up and she seethes, she is Virahothkantita. When she sees him another girl and is furious, she is Khandita. When she sends text messages or gets friends to mediate, she is Vipralabda.

When she spruces up her place in anticipation of his visit, she is Vaasavasajjika. As she pines when he is away, she is Proshitabhartraka. When she has a huge row with him and repents it later she is Kalahaantarita.

As for Missus Em, she is none of the above. She has a husband who indulges her slightest whim, and pampers her silly. She is a Svaadheenapatika!



Blogger Alien said...

:-)... can I say kuhl or maybe cool or kewl??

11:50 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

This is brilliant. I heard the beginnings of this one list by numbers a few times, Bengali. Damned if I can remember though.

The list of eight women reminded me of school. We had to learn whole lists of suchlike things :-)

12:53 am  
Anonymous Non Sequitur Man said...

How about forty winks?

11:07 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

How about the eight wives of Krishna next? Or the eight Dikpalakas? You could have given examples of each Naayika in classics, too.

12:37 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Alien- Whatever pleases you, ET.

Rimi- I like lists, and the stranger the better.

NSM- You again?

Ash- Hm, Dikpaalakas sounds fun. Let me see. Not wives of Krishna though, everybody knows them, surely?

And no, you can't give examples. Any character you choose to name can be any of the eight, depending on the situation. Take Sakuntala, for instance: she can exemplify four of the types, at various stages of the tale.

5:18 pm  
Blogger Praveen said...

What piece of work would help me understand this? :D

Like thees one list my thalaivar tell in Padayappa :D

10:31 pm  
Anonymous Prophet of Doom said...

Enlightening, Mrs. M .... I like this :-)

6:36 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Praveen- Really? I must see that film then. :-)But this kind of lore is lost to the younger generation, I'm afraid.

Ram- Thank you. Now post.

4:58 pm  

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