lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Monday, July 30, 2007

Problem loading page

If anything can go wrong, it will, states Murphy's Law. It's worse in the weekend is a corollary I am adding.

Server not found, my browser informed me for the umpteenth time. It has been some ten days since the fire at the Telephone Bhavan, and my broadband connection is still playing up. I was rather impressed by the fact that I could log on and get somewhere the day after the fire, actually. But then it degenerated, kept on doing so. Since Friday I am reduced to being pathetically grateful if I can check my mail before the connection goes kaput for the umptyumpth time.

There is no point calling BSNL and complaining. The interactive voice thingie just gives a complaint number and that is that. Nothing happens after that; they don't call and verify if your problem is solved, they don't come and solve your problem, they don't even acknowledge that you have a problem.

Being a Sunday, by Murphy's Law, today the connection was so bad that I just managed to solve the Times concise crossword. I'd opened the cryptic but they goofed, with the grid and clues not matching. I solved the clues, but that is pointless if I can't fill in the grid. And then the broadband died, again.

Fine. I can find other ways to amuse myself. I discovered that 'curiosity killed the cat' yields the anagram 'totally thicker suicide' and that the 'Resident Mathematician' is a 'deterministic anathema'. Not that they do, but if anagrams pall, I can always play games, of course.

In the old days when home computers were new, I used to play a very simple game, 'Breakthrough', involving a ball and a paddle and a screen full of straight lines that you had to clear. If you could angle the dents your ball made, you could sit back and relax as it wreaked havoc on the lines on the upper half of the screen. There was no applause or bells and whistles if you managed to clear the screen, you could keep the ball in play endlessly until you got bored and closed the program. It was a primitive game, I know, but it used to be fun. That was on my cousin's El Cheapo computer. Then there was Frogger, and the text-based games my cousin used to install, typing seemingly endless rows of gobbledygook of numbers from computer magazines like inCider and such. I rather liked those games.

When we acquired a computer, I used to play Minesweeper rather than Solitaire. Also, there were games we'd acquire from friends, trading copies of pirated versions. I played Prince of Persia from a copy acquired from friends. Since it was pirated, there was no way to save a game; you had to play it from start to finish, with seconds ticking away. My son used to finish it under half an hour, but I never managed to crack it in less than fifty-five minutes.

The one game in the later era that I liked and played through was Starship Titanic. It was semi text-based, and hilarious. I loved the parrot squawking 'Unhand me, you, you, person!' and the Doorbot's monologues. You only had to type an impertinent question to be deluged with repartee Douglas Adams dreamed up for the contingency. It was visually pleasing, too.

Another brilliant game I enjoyed was Discworld Noir, not just because it was based on Terry Pratchett's books; the sheer ingenuity of how the plot unfolded was wonderful and the dialogue was hugely entertaining.

But these are games that involve some active thinking and problem solving. Ballgames engage only the tiniest portion of conscious effort and leave most of mind free to contemplate other things. Hand-eye coordination is important in moving a mouse or pressing buttons on a joypad, yes, but it requires minimal attention while one can think things through.

To be honest, I prefer ballgames. Pinball, the old games of Powerball or Bananas and suchlike are more to my taste than scampering through level after violent level mindlessly killing left and right. There were a few pinball games my sister sent on a diskette, that I really loved playing. Duke Nukem, Quake, Doom and such are my son's preferred stuff, but other than Prince, I never really enjoyed such action or role-playing games. I wasn't much impressed by the later versions of Prince either, other than to chuckle at the belly dance sequence in the 3D version's intro.

But for sheer addictive power Minesweeper is the Broken Drum, it can't be beaten. I am not a fan of Solitaire and versions thereof, but Minesweeper is a perennial favourite when I need to think a post through. Don't laugh. It works wonders, it really does. It's equivalent of contemplating one's navel and telling rosary beads.

The current favourite ballgame is Magic Ball. I got rather hooked on the trial version, and bought it when the trial period expired. It has hundreds of levels and can be played endlessly. There are interesting prizes, and if you can catch all the letters of the word, there is a lovely sequence of a rainbow arcing up and vanishing.

On a dreary Sunday, when it is overcast with no rain, when the broadband is dead and I am bored, the prospect of a rainbow on my monitor seems inviting. I am off to play Magic Ball then.


Friday, July 27, 2007

A beaten path

Memory: a beaten path in the brain.

It is strange how memory works. The triggers and associations are odd and sometimes inexplicable; we just don't know what reminds us of what other things and why.

The smell of asfoetida in hot oil sometimes reminds me of the small furry caterpillars that used to infest the tamarind trees in our Madras home. One fell on me once, and I had an allergic reaction that had my arm swollen in angry red blotches that took days to fade. I don't know why the smell of hing reminds me of caterpillars, though.

Frogs after rain remind me of a walk back home after a late night concert from Vani Mahal, wading in ankle-deep puddles, my escort and I both humming the Kaanada kriti Sukhi Evvaro. He remarked that the frogs were perfect accompanists for our unmusical efforts. I agreed.

I'd just started on the day's crosswords when the phone rang. It was for K, his quasi-student from Bombay, wanting to clear doubts or sort out technique and suchlike. I handed the phone to him and turned my attention back to the clues. It was Paul's crossword, I was chuckling and frowning my way through it, so it registered only peripherally that K was singing into the phone.

Double jeopardy securing work, then left in fix (12)

I mused. Double jeopardy. That is Jhinjhoti he is singing. Hmm, work would be op, then left in fix? Rig, tie, pin? Or is it an anagram indicator? What is double jeopardy? Legal term, I think. Let's look it up. Why am I thinking of Kedaragoula?

Bail out sovereign with money - bread (12)

I thought further. Sovereign is ER, anagram of bail before? Let's see. But Jhinjhoti is Yadukula Kambhoji, right, so where did Kedaragoula come from? Hmm, bail out as sailing term, perhaps? Money. Dollar, cents okay, nickel. Got it.

Pulmonary vein's blood is taken round next day, for example in circulation (10)

I laughed as I figured this out. Granted, they are both derived from Harikambhoji but the ascent is different. He is still singing, talking of da ra di ri di ri and chikaras.

Some thing to do, note, unfortunately prohibited (8)

This gave me some trouble as I goofed the across clue, filling in fervour instead of forever. It took me a while to sort that out and the Kedaragoula question took a back seat. I completed the crossword, and listened to the lesson he was giving on the phone.

Music lessons have evolved somewhat since I learned veena from Chittibabu. Learning from a teacher is the best way, of course, but you can teach yourself too. These days you can get online lessons on anything. And K teaches this occasional student over the phone. The young man sits in front of a speaker phone with his sarod and plays, K correcting him, giving feedback and suggestions, the distance between Bombay and Calcutta becoming meaningless.

"Honey, there is an apt clue today," I said as he concluded his conversation. "Phone call impossible, given cutoff point, eight." He laughed. Teaching over phone would be impossible with a dead line, after all.

"That was Jhinjhoti, right?"
"Yeah, your Yadukula Kambhoji."
"So why do I keep thinking of Kedaragoula?"
"How should I know?"

I shrugged. It's a mystery. Maybe I will figure it out, maybe I won't. Later in the evening, I checked my site tracker. I saw that there came a visitor who was looking for "chittibabu cuckoo song notation". Eureka! The memory came flooding back, and I realised why the Jhinjhoti lesson imparted over phone reminded me of Kedaragoula.

There were no speaker phones when I learnt from Chittibabu, of course, but I heard him teach over the phone, once. It was in the early days of my lessons with him. I had gone for a lesson, and just crossed the threshold when I heard his voice. He was in an inner room, on the phone; ri sa ri maa ga ri- ma ga ree ga- sa ri ma pa ni, I heard him sing.

(Chittibabu had a wonderful voice, a lovely baritone that could descend to bass or rise to high tenor as he did wickedly accurate imitations of musicians and their mannerisms. I treasure the memory of his mimicking MD Ramanathan singing Sahana. It used to slay me when he did the pointed squinty glare as he retied an imaginary topknot. With some discipline and quitting of smoking, he could have sung concerts if he chose, he was that good.)

He was singing Kedaragoula, going over the chittasvaram of the kriti Saraguna Palimpa, by Ramanadhapuram Srinivasa Iyengar. That was the first time I heard the raga, and the phrase seemed wonderful. He must be clarifying things for an out-station student, I supposed as I stood listening.

maa-a-a- pa ni da paa da- ma pa ma ga ri, he went back to the beginning of the chittasvaram and sang it through. When he came to the repetition of ri sa ri maa ga ri in the higher octave and the conclusion, I fell in love with the chittasvaram, and Kedaragoula.

No wonder the Jhinjhoti lesson on the phone reminded me of Kedaragoula. The confusion arose because Jhinjhoti is closer to Yadukula Kambhoji, and it wasn't until I saw his name that the penny dropped.

The solutions, if you haven't got them yet, are doppelganger, pumpernickel, oxygenated and verboten.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I stood on the threshold and surveyed the room. It is the waiting room of my dentist's chambers. It is a large room, with two L shaped seating arrangements against the walls, one smaller than the other, to accommodate the receptionist's desk.

There were five people on the long arm of the larger settee, and two on the shorter arm of the L. I could have joined the five, I suppose, twice that number could sit comfortably there, but two things stopped me.

The first was the sculpture set into a niche next to the receptionist's desk. It is of a dancing girl; the kind one can buy in any art emporium that sells knick-knacks. The girl is curvaceous, the pose slightly unreal, and the whole overly ornate. If I joined the five, I'd have to stare at those impossible breasts.

The second was the receptionist. She is a nice woman, friendly and talkative. She arranges the dentist's schedule, deals with phone calls and has done so for the last twenty years. Many were the times I sat there in the room with my son, waiting his turn and listened to her answer calls.

She'd be talking to some of the patients, break off when the phones rang, pick up a receiver and warble, "Hellogoodevening," the words all running together on a rising inflection of a question. My son and I would carefully avoid looking at each other. Years after his braces came off my son can still imitate that 'hellogoodevening' perfectly.

So I sat on the other side of the room, and looked at the people already waiting. There were seven, but that didn't worry me, not all of them would be patients. Most people go to a doctor with family in tow.

There were a man and a woman, with an overnight bag between them, out-station patients obviously. The woman was pecking with a tiny stylus at her cell phone, the man sending a text message on his. I took an instant dislike to the woman. She had dangling down her front, on those unsightly cords, a crocheted pouch, no less. I dislike people who wear their cell phones round their necks on principle, and that pouch was a personal affront.

The other three opposite me seemed to be together, two women and a man. One of the women wore a ghastly candyfloss pink sari, with some embroidered details, as if they could make up for that unfortunate colour. The other woman wore a handloom sari in a pathetic combination of yellows and browns and paired it with a blouse whose print added more discord. The man seemed colourless and silent; obviously connected to them, but either in too much dental agony to acknowledge them or too embarrassed to be seen with them.

The other two men under the Jamini Roy reproduction seemed unrelated, one barking tersely in to his phone every few minutes, and the other dourly staring at the floor. That man's phone rang seven times while I waited. I counted.

The phone on the desk rang, and the receptionist picked it up. I hastily looked at the paintings on the wall to stop myself sniggering as the 'hellogoodevening' rang out. Those paintings are a good way to stifle mirth. There were three studies of a same androgynous face in glum watercolours, and an abstract I have never been able to make sense of. That face bothers me; I dislike those paintings, and have spent many minutes trying to figure out why.

The dentist arrived, and the silent man in agony and the lady in pink went in, leaving the non-vision in brown and yellow to wait. She stared at her hands. I stared at that face in those paintings as the phone rang again.

Two men entered the room. Tweedledum and Tweedledee, I thought to myself. Both were rotund and seemed related. Not brothers, but cousins, I guessed. One wore a fine-check shirt tucked into ill-fitting trousers that ended a good inch above the ankles. The shirt strained at the buttons, and a belt bisected the barrel-like paunch and struggled to hold the trousers up. It is sad, I thought, that men live to his age and still have no idea how to dress.

Then he sat down opposite me, the laughing Buddha impersonator. I noticed that his zipper found the strain of holding together too much and gave up. I resolutely looked at the abstract, since it was the furthest on the wall, and quoted Terry Pratchett to myself.

"Oh, random fluctuations-in-the-space-time-continuum!…Aaargh, primitive-and-outmoded-concept-on-a-crutch!"

Why me? What did I do to deserve this roomful of people? Where can I look at now? Why didn't I think of bringing a book?

"You can go in now, Lalita," said the receptionist. I got up gratefully and escaped the room.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thinking of you

Compose Mail, urges Gmail. As if it is so easy.

I need a reason to write, don't I? The to: field is easy, you know? I only have to type the first letter of your name, and Gmail helpfully offers to complete it. It even suggests others whose names begin with the same letter, whom I might want to write to. No thanks I say, I want to write to you; and you alone.

The subject field presents problems, though. I don't like to leave it blank. But just how many ways can I say 'simply', 'because', 'just like that', 'yunhi', 'summa', 'uTTinE'? That I am writing because I am thinking of you?

I think of it as writing letters, when I should be thinking of it as mailing. Other people write short notes; one-sentence mails with no salutations or taking leave. I tend to say 'dear so and so' and ramble in several paragraphs and take leave carefully. Mailing is short if not always sweet, and to the point. My writing to you has no point other than I want to write to you, to connect again and make sure you are still there. It is just seeking confirmation.

But, why should I be thinking of you? Why do you stick around in my head? You are my latest obsession, that is why. I write these letters mails whatever, some three or four a day, simply because I am thinking of you.

I once had an interesting discussion if we repeat our idiocies in love. If you squirt the letters with perfume, or kiss the envelop before you post it, do you repeat such things when you fall in love again, when the mere recollection of it makes you cringe in chagrin and pity at the idiot you were then? Not that anybody does such things in these days of emails and text messages, but do you repeat jokes or puns you perpetrate? Do you say the same things to the next love? Do you quote the same poets and the same lines?

I was shocked to even think of such a thing. How can you say the same thing to two persons? Yes, you are enamoured but they aren't the same people, so how can you use the same words? It is an insult to both of them to recycle things said.

My obsession with you is new, so why would I say what I said to another? You are not that person. The equation is different, our common ground is different, and I am not the same person I was when I obsessed about the other. That was then, this is now. I have fresh words for you, surely?

Anyway, I am writing now because I have this brilliant idea.

In the subject field I will type 'thinking of you' and I will change my signature to state -- Yours in obsession. And hit the send button. Every time I feel this urge to write to you. That says it all, doesn't it? I won't even have to type the subject again, the first couple of letters and Gmail helpfully fills in the rest.

What do you think?

Friday, July 20, 2007

One hug is enough

I've said this before, that most of my online friends are young. Many of them are male and I dub them all my toyboys. Some appoint themselves my toyboys, some aspire to toyboy status, some deny indignantly that they fall into the category, but the Non Resident Mathematician is the one I consider true toyboy material: young, bright, talented and good-looking to boot.

It's a year since I last saw him. He'd visited before going off to join the hordes of young IT professionals in the fair city of Bangalore. I'd expected the year to have changed him somewhat. I'd expected that he'd look mature, perhaps acquire suavity. But he looked the same as he did when he was a student-- young and vulnerable. He still dressed in his trademark black tee shirt too.

I remarked on that as I stepped back from hugging him.

"But you look different every time I see you," he said. That's because my hair keeps changing colour, I smiled. That is true. Every time we met, my hair was whatever colour my stylist chose for that month, and now I had highlights, too.

Meeting online buddies and friends for lunch or coffee is one thing, but this toyboy is different. He comes home and talks to my husband, rummages in my shelves, checks his mail on my computer, and generally brightens the rooms he wanders into.

He'd called a couple of weeks earlier, to make sure I'll keep a day free for him to take me to lunch. Now as he said hello to my husband and told us of his experiences as an IT professional, I looked at him.

And he is worth looking at. Tall and well built, he has a strong jaw line, lovely eyelashes and a smile that flashes once in a while and transforms his brooding face into that of a wicked little boy. Friends can tease, and outsiders snigger at the incongruity, but this is a toyboy good to be seen with, a testimony of my good taste in young men.

As we stopped at an ATM, I realised that though he still looked like an impecunious student, he is now an independent young man in a well paying job, taking his friend out for lunch. This lunch was going to be his treat.

The nice thing about him is that he doesn't talk to fill up silences. Most young people find silence unnerving but my toyboy knows that silence is the best indicator of how comfortable we are with others.

As the taxi crawled in intermittent showers and slow traffic, we talked desultorily. I told him about my son's debating, he told me of his girls; I told him about my arthritis and he told me about his pumping iron. We admired Calcutta's crop of pretty young things as we passed them and reminisced about our other dates.

He tasted my margarita and grimaced, and I laughed. All the multiplexes and malls and eating out in Bangalore haven't given him a taste for spirits, clearly. We mixed cuisine and had tikkas for starters and pasta for the main course, and shared the dessert. Through the meal we talked. I told him of my latest obsessions and he told me of his lack of any. He asked me about blogging; if I still enjoyed it. I related a few stories and retailed some gossip.

As I was betting with myself, our waiter gave the bill to me. This never fails. Whether I am lunching with toyboys or blogging friends, the bill is always given me. A deeply offended toyboy once remarked that he earned more in a month than I earned in all my life, so why did the waiter give the bill to me? Because I am the older person, I'd said then.

Back home, we sat in companionable silence as he sketched my husband. In a few swift strokes he caught the angle of the head, the details of the side table next my husband's chair, and more. I read a book in between watching him raise his head to glance at my husband and bend back to his sketch. Then he showed me the sketch. He'd sketched me too, and gave me wrinkles I didn't have. I said I'd get him for that.

As I hugged him in farewell, he pointed out that one hug is an anagram of enough. I laughed. He added with a wicked smile that once is not enough, though. Vive les toyboys!


Friday, July 13, 2007

When women make advances

"I invite and you act high and mighty?" I said. He spluttered in indignation. "That's unfair. I don't know what it is about, the meaning, the words…" "Honey, that is what the first line means." I explained patiently.

We were listening to pilachina biguvaTaraa from Malleeswari.

Released in 1951, Malleeswari is a masterpiece by BN Reddi, a lovely film, with great music by S Rajeswara Rao. The songs were written by Devulapalli Krishna Sastry, his first venture into film lyrics, and the combination of Rajeswara Rao and Krishna Sastry produced some gems of songs.

For sheer evocative poetry in film songs, there is no better example than manasuna mallela maalaloogenE. Based on Yaman-Kalyan, the tune is haunting, and the lyric poignant. The song starts with the anupallavi, sung once only, and meanders from image to image; joy of reunion, relived pangs of separation to joy of reunion again; it speaks of sad loneliness in waiting, ending with a fervent plea to be never separated again.

My favourite line in the song is

gaDiya yEni ika viDichi pOkumaa, egasina hRdayamu pagulaneekumaa.
Lest the heart that leapt (in joy) break, don't leave me now, not for a moment.

Though I admired her many-faceted talent, I am not a fan of P Bhanumathi's voice. But in manasuna mallela she achieved a dreamy perfection, and the song always makes me cry.

There are other lovely songs in Malleeswari, of course, but I rather like pilachina biguvaTaraa. It is a perfect javali and a lovely conventional composition. A javali is a lightweight composition, brisker in tempo than the slow paced padam. The theme is romance, ragas and talams chosen are uncomplicated, and the lyric is never high poetry or in classical language.

The reason I like the song is somewhat complicated, though. Javali entered South Indian music through the influence of the Bahmani Sultanate, opine some scholars. Its origins were in ghazals says Aripirala Satyanarayana Murthy, in his Sangita Sabdartha Chandrika.

Now Malleeswari is set in the early sixteenth century, in the Vijayanagar Empire, during Krishnadevaraya's reign. In the film, the king watches Malli dance while travelling incognito. It is delicious to think then, that this javali might well have been the first ever performed, even if it is just a story, not based on any historical fact.

More, Krishna Sastry uses cheluvalu taamE valachi vachchina with great aptness and sense of humour. It is doffing a hat at the father of Telugu poetry, Allasani Peddana, who first said it in his Manucharitram, where Varoodhini laments:

వనిత దనంత దా వలచి వచ్చిన జుల్కన కాదె యేరికిన్?
A woman making advances is held in disdain by everybody.

Peddana was one of the leading lights at Krishnadevaraya's court, one of the ashta diggajas, the eight court poets. If you imagine that the court poet travelling with the king is Peddana, you can also imagine that this javali was where he got the idea! Time travel and impossibilities all achieved, yeah. Krishna Sastry, Peddana, same difference.

If you watch the song, you can see that though the lyric maybe of a scorned woman's accusation, Malli sings it to her sweetheart, entertaining him as they wait out a thunderstorm in a cave. Bhanumathi as Malli dances in gay abandon, laughingly taunting Nagaraju, played by NT Rama Rao. The insouciance of her dance is a joy to watch.

Here is my rendition of the lyric for non-Telugu readers:

పిలచిన బిగువటరా? ఔరౌర!
చెలువలు తామే వలచి వచ్చిన
భళిరా రాజా
pilachina biguvaTaraa? Auraura!
cheluvalu taamE valachi vachchina
bhaLiraa raajaa

I invite you, and you act all haughty?
Oh, if women make advances.
Very good, my lord

ఈ నయగారము యీ వయ్యారము
ఈ నవయవ్వనమాన నిను నే
పిలచిన బిగువటరా?
ee nayagaaramu ee vayyaaramu
ee navayavvanamaana ninu nE
pilachina biguvaTaraa?

This soft beauty, this sweet grace
Of fresh youth to partake and savour
I invite you, and you profess disdain?

గాలుల తేలెను గాఢపు మమతలు
నీలపు మబ్బుల నీడలు కదిలెను
అందెల రవళుల సందడి మరిమరి
అందగాడ యిటు తొందరసేయగ
పిలచిన బిగువటరా? ఔరౌర!
gaalula tElenu gaaDhapu mamatalu
neelapu mabbula neeDalu kadilenu
andela ravaLula sandaDi marimari
andagaaDa yiTu tondara sEyaga
pilachina biguvaTaraa? auraura!

Intense affections float on breezes
Shadows of dark clouds do stir
Clamouring chimes of anklets urge haste,
Handsome one, but you scorn me?
Oh, if women make advances.

He didn't think much of the song. "Pilu," he said dismissively.
"Um, Karnataka Kapi, or variations on the theme of." I said.
"Same difference, a rose by any other name," he snorted.
"We call it Hindustani coffee, though." I giggled.


Monday, July 09, 2007

I accuse

They held me, like they beheld his chariot,
In awe.
My brother charioteers did, until now.

If in the blood and gore
And slippery mess of battleground
The wheels suddenly did touch the earth,
Who would notice?

Not the cheering army of the five brothers;
Not the thunderstruck troops of the Kauravas.
Not Drona who was grieving,
Renouncing and dying;
Not the ungallant brother-in-law of my lord
Who was only fulfilling his destiny.

Not his brothers who in battle-lust were immersed;
Not the beloved Madhyama,
Bhima, whose deed my lord attested as truth,
He was grieving for his son;
Not Arjuna, following your divine lead
And chasing the self-accursed ones,
He was grieving for his son too;
Not Nakula, the graceful one;
Not Sahadeva, the wise.

When the chariot stopped floating
Serenely superior
And landed abruptly,
Krishna, what must my lord have felt?
A lie however couched,
Asvatthama hatah; kunjarah.

Did you have to bring even my lord
Down to a mere mortal, Krishna?
Did you have to prove that men are weak,
A right lever can move worlds,
Make a truthful man a liar?

Not a born enemy my lord had
Until you turned Asvatthama
A dark angel of destruction with this lie.
Not a fault my lord had.
One lie and the next will come easier,
The third will trip off the tongue.

My lord's chariot became ordinary, Krishna.
There must be a better way to serve Dharma.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Boys will be boys

I have got boys on my brain. It's not what you think, so you can stop sniggering. I have come across a crossword to blog about after a longish while, that's all.

Look, if you are going to sigh, there she goes harping on crosswords again, you are welcome to skip this post, but don't blame me if you miss the juicy bit at the end. And the clues were brilliant, so I am doing you a favour.

Themes in crosswords can be a bother if you have to figure out the theme first. But sometimes the theme is clear, as in today's Araucaria offering. Every single across clue, and there were fourteen of them, started with the word boy.

There were some gems in the down clues too. The pleasure of arriving at an answer by using cruciverbal logic, and finding you are right when you check it, is something all crossword enthusiasts know. My day was made when I solved this:

Turn to preserve car body in African kibbutz (6)
The solution is ujamaa. U as in U-turn, jam for preserve, and AA for car body.

As I said before, themes can be daunting or entertaining. Today's theme was entertaining. The boys were all wonderful.

Boy and girl formerly out of love (8)
Clarence. Clare and once without o.

Boy in island embraced by grandma (6)
Ninian. Nan around in and i.

Boy possessed by time? (4)
Nick. Time here is a spell in jail.

Boys with 6 carat gold said: "Scarper" (6,4)
Victor Hugo. The numeral 6 is misleading, because you wonder if it is linked to clue number 6. VI, CT, or, and you go.

Boy debt collector goes to prison (6)
Duncan. One of the meanings of dun is to persistently demand payment. Can is one of the many slang terms for prison, others being jug, pen, brig, nick, quod, stir, clink, chokey, cooler, slammer and rather strangely, glasshouse.

Boy from centre turning East (7)
Terence. An anagram of centre and e.

Boy to walk with bird (7)
Stephen. This is so simple.

Boy facing his first few balls? (6)
Justin. Brilliant, right?

Boys injure philosopher with stone, missing 10 (4,6)
Mark Antony. This is a lovely break up. Mar, Kant, onyx without x. 10 is again a little misleading.

Boy with change (6)
Walter. Simple.

Boy with one final song (8)
Alastair. A last air, heh

So I have boys on my brain. Also because my favourite toy boy called to set up a lunch date. As for the title of the post, much as I dislike tautology, the only other title I could come up with was ― boy, oh boy!


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Dear John Letter

A Dear John letter is the hardest thing to write, if you are a fair-minded person.

I want to avoid accusations while accusations are all that are swirling in my mind. I justify my decision when I just want out. I try to be reasonable when I want to rage. I say I bear no animosity when I bear grievances. I say I want to remain friends even as I feel most unfriendly. It is a messy thing, is writing a Dear John letter.

A baby, a toddler has absolute trust in and totally worships parents. But that is dependence, need and not knowing better. The equation changes when it comes to adult relationships. The worship and trust, the regard and respect all change then.

This is because love isn't a simple emotion or need. Hunger and thirst are simple needs. The need to be wanted appreciated cherished or prized is complex. In all relationships between sexes, there is an element of transaction.

Lust is simple. Love is conditional. Always. Lust is true need. Love is accretion of sentiment and remembered affection and gratitude around that.

A pure instant of overwhelming undemanding affection can happen, but it is not a sustainable emotion. A person can't be continuously grateful or in orgasm. The affection or love mutates, changes its aspects through the length of a relationship.

There is always one person in a couple that cares more. There is one that always gives ground, accepts limits and compromises.

You made the overtures. You started this. And it has been on your terms. You chose how much of yourself you would reveal to me, how much of yourself you'd give to me, not knowing or caring that that very choice reveals more to me. You made demands that I acceded to when newly in lust. What crumbs I glean are mine. What you demand and take, yours.

It's your view, your needs, your decision, all the way, always. Like it or lump it. Take it or leave it. My way or the highway.

You chose to befriend me, beguile me and bemuse me. Yes, I was besotted. I gave way, went with the flow, and made no demands. Love on your terms is hard to sustain, though.

You chose terms and conditions. Now I choose too. I choose to leave.


Monday, July 02, 2007

The mystery of the missing spam

Google is a part of our lives now. We Google; therefore we are.

I find it is simpler these days to Google something than raid my shelves, whether it's a quote I am looking for or a definition; it involves no heavy lifting after all. Calamity Jane or Cassandra, Modesty Blaise or Helen of Troy, Google can lead me to astonishing places, as I found out searching for the Banana Boat Song.

But it works the other way too; people searching for things and finding me. It is amazing what people look for and what Google says Larking is the answer for. My site tracker just told me that I am Google's answer for the definition of secret admirer.

I also seem to be the answer if they want to know the meaning of Neha, Lalitha, and all about Lalitha Sahasra Naamam. Google suggests my blog for people looking for the low-down about Sugriva having sex with Tara, sex stories in Telugu online and Namitha's waistline and suchlike too.

Run and fell seams and sewing sari falls or constructing diagrams for cutting salwars all will be explained at my blog, says Google to hapless searchers. Google also says I am the repository of sensual / sensuous poetry, sarasamaina kathalu and when women mean yes when they are saying no. Slow songs and lessons for playing Anandabhairavi geetam? Larking will provide.

Sadly, I have an idea that all these searchers never venture more than a page if that and never return either. I shouldn't complain, really.

But it is nice though that Google recommends me to people looking for cryptic crossword solutions, help with particular clues or Araucaria's latest. I was touched that someone looking to solve nine letter clues for birds was directed to my blog yesterday, in less than six hours after the puzzle was out. I have solved it, of course, but I am not going to talk about it until the solution is out, it is a prize puzzle, after all.

Gmail though, is baffling.

There was a time when I used to clear my Inbox obsessively, delete junk mail and sort all mail into folders. When storage was a measly 2MB and important mails had to be saved on my hard disk, I used to have an Inbox that was clear and empty as soon as I dealt with the mail.

Then spam filters and dedicated folders for bulk mail happened, Gmail with its huge storage happened, and things became easier. Inbox could stay clear or not. I could delete spam and empty trash at leisure and less often; say once in three or four days. I found that leaving mail unsorted and sitting in my Inbox didn't nag at me all that much.

Recently a whim seized me. I know it is irrational and silly, but I wanted to see the number 111 against a folder. Now apart from my mailing lists and groups, I don't get much mail. Since there is no hope of that number against my Inbox, I decided that I'd let spam accumulate.

It took some doing. I'd trained myself to be meticulous in deleting spam and emptying trash, and to stop doing it was hard going. It used to bother me to see so much spam, but the desire to see 111 against the folder kept me from dealing with it and deleting the stuff.

Yesterday, the number stood at 109. So it was with some anticipation that I logged on today. I wouldn't say I was rubbing my hands with glee and chuckling, but I was definitely looking forward to seeing 111 against the spam folder.

The number showing was 99.

What happened to the rest? What did Gmail do with it? I didn't delete any, so where did it go? Did I acquire some kindly spam-subtracting virus? The mind boggles.


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