lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Monday, October 29, 2007

Your balcony, my balcony

I wake up early these days, just to watch you. These days I have a cup of tea by my side, too. I like drinking tea watching you drink tea. I think it is tea you drink, not coffee.

The nurses grumble and think I am a petulant and difficult patient. They don't know that seeing you potter around early mornings is my therapy. Watching you is my private medicine.

I remember the first time I saw you. I was in pain. Couldn't sleep. They wheeled me to the balcony. It didn't matter where I was, as long as I was away from that ghastly hospital bed they got me. It wasn't dawn yet. I'd never been up that early, I'd never been in the balcony at that time. My discomfort made everything look grey.

The door to your balcony opened and you stepped out, that huge mug in your hand. An old fashioned two-storied house separates our apartment buildings and I am a couple of floors higher. There was something in the way you leaned, elbows on the parapet that caught my attention.

You looked fresh and wide-awake. I resented that. How can anyone look so cheerful this early in the morning, I thought. You pottered around, fetching a spray can and washing the leaves of all the potted plants. Watching you, I forgot pain and discomfort for a while.

Now I know you always look like that, like you will break into a smile any moment. When you stroke the plants, when you stare into the distance. I wonder what you are thinking of to look so serene and happy.

There are a lot of potted plants on your balcony. Mine is bare. You talk to the plants, stroke them. I wonder what you say to them. I feel tense when you wander in, but tell myself you will be back, as you left that mug on the parapet. You do, carrying an ashtray. There are so many plants, you could flick ash into any pot, but you use an ashtray. I find that endearing.

I watched for you at other times of the day. I suppose you work, because I never see you during the day. Sometimes you wander into the balcony in the evenings. I like to look out for that. You look different in jeans. The leisurely morning mood, when you talk to the plants and sip tea is replaced by a briskness in the evenings.

You are always alone. No one joins you at these times, early morning, sun yet to rise moments or in the evenings. That must be a three bedroom flat, yet I think you live alone. How do you look so content if you are alone?

Once in a while you look down at something, and a flash of annoyance crosses your face. What is it that irks you, I wonder. I won't know. Like you don't know that I share your mornings. You don't know me, but I know the private moments of your life when you think you are alone.

You kissed that plant before plucking fresh chillies from it. Were you saying sorry or thanks? I saw you pull something up from a pot once. Weeding, I thought. You brought out a seedling pot and carefully potted that alien seedling. I see you tending it. It looks like neem. You could have thrown it away; it was a weed, a cuckoo in the nest. But you care for it. It is growing vigorously.

I am mending too. I can hobble a bit now, and wheel myself into the balcony. Soon I won't need this wheelchair. I will go back to my previous life then. I think I will still need to see you drinking tea in the mornings.

Who are you? Why do I need you? I think I will get a few plants.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Six impossible things before breakfast

It's one of those days. You can't decide what you want to read. There is consideration these days about the size of the book too. Fat and heavy books daunt me nowadays; I have to wonder if my wrists can manage the weight.

The book came highly recommended, with William Dalrymple and Amartya Sen heaping praises on it, in the back blurbs.

Dalrymple said, "In Spite of the Gods is without question the best book yet written on the New India: witty, clear and accessible yet minutely researched and confidently authoritative. Edward Luce has proved himself an affectionate and unusually perceptive observer of the Indian scene."

I generally take such recommendations with a pinch of salt, but the next one was from Professor Amartya Sen, a marvel of a poorly written recco.

"In Spite of the Gods is not only fun to read, it is also a deeply insightful account of contemporary India. Based on the author's rare combination of intimacy and detachment, the book can serve, remarkably enough, both as a fine introduction for outsiders and as a mature scrutiny that is bound to stimulate insiders."

Even after that, I waded through the 25 pages of introduction. I tell you, I am the persevering sort. But there is always a last straw. For me, after that interminable preface and introduction, the straw was the third sentence in the first chapter. How can I believe anything this man says when he writes:

"It took a long time. But finally, in the late 1990s, India started to build roads which could get you from A to B at something better than a canter. Until then, India's most significant highway was the Grand Trunk Road that bisects the country from north to south."

Dalrymple says this was minutely researched. Indeed. After gnashing my teeth, I read further.

"Laid at various stages by the late medieval Mughal dynasty, then upgraded and extended by the British in the nineteenth century and popularised by Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim, most of the 'GT Road', as it is known, got acquainted with asphalt only after independence. But it is single lane and one can rarely exceed an average speed of thirty miles an hour."

If the author is on record that the Grand Trunk Road bisected the country north to south and no sub-editor thought or chose to correct him, do I want to read further about what he thinks of 'The Strange Rise of Modern India'?

What further gross assumptions does he make, and do I want to wear my teeth out reading them? That Kipling and Kim 'popularised' the Grand Trunk Road? That National Highways did not exist till the Golden Quadrilateral project? That double-lane highways did not exist in India before this? So I did my car trips from Madras to Rishi Valley driving on dirt tracks with ruts of bullock carts, did I?

I gritted my teeth through the introduction and hibiscus juice, but this? Thank you, no. Oh, and happy birthday, Kalyan.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wow! wow! wow!

"I don't believe that," I said flatly. He was encroaching on my territory, after all. "No, really," he said. "So tell me, and I will check," I said. If the mongoose family motto is 'Run and find out', my family crest, if I ever get one, will have the words 'Verify, cross-check' on it.

Look, if we are talking about words and word games, I am the resident expert, okay? I take his help if I run out of fingers and toes to add numbers, and he asks me how many esses there are in obsession and that is all as it should be. But instead of showing a healthy dose of aibohphobia as befits a non-enthusiast, he was claiming he knew a palindrome I didn't.

Palindromes always remind me of Budugu's dilemma. A Dennis the Menace like character created by Mullapudi Venkataramana, Budugu once gets puzzled about how to carry out a task his uncle set him. To watch out for girls coming down the street and call his uncle is all very well, but how do you tell if they are coming or going if the girls wear their hair in two plaits, and have one over the shoulder? Palindromes are like that. They read the same coming or going.

Palindromes have always fascinated people. Okay, I will amend that; they fascinate people who are interested in words. There were palindrome graffiti found scratched on ancient monuments. There is something pleasing about palindromes with their symmetry, and in the case of the longer ones, the humour and aptness. Telugu poets have written palindromic poems.

Palindromes in Indian languages are different from those in English, though. While Malayalam might be a palindrome everybody knows, written in any Indic language it won't be one. Vikatakavi is a palindrome Indians know and chuckle about, but it is not a palindrome in English script.

Before we consider the longer ones, let's first see how many words in daily life and usage are palindromes that we are unaware of. Bob, civic, level, radar, rotor, rotator, tenet, and so on. Linguist Richard Lederer says 'wow' is the perfect palindrome. The letters are symmetrical, and it is a palindrome read upside down too.

There are some words that make other words when read backwards: evil-live, draw- ward, reviled-deliver, stressed-dessert, ergo-ogre, recap-pacer, straw-warts and so on. Oh and Dennis-sinned, and as two words it's a palindrome, too. Like aibohphobia, there is a term coined for these words- semordnilap, which is just palindromes written backwards.

While everybody knows some of the famous longer palindromes, there are some that are obscure, and only enthusiasts know them. 'Madam I'm Adam', is a well-known palindrome. So is 'A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!' 'Able was I ere I saw Elba', is another.

Less well-known are: 'Panic in a Titanic, I nap'. 'Name no one man'. 'Niagara, O roar again!' Or Lederer's favourite construction, 'Go hang a salami. I’m a lasagna hog'. The newer ' A Toyota's a Toyota' and again by Lederer, 'Pepsi is pep'.

There are philosophical questions like 'Do geese see God?' There are pious declarations like that lady banished from Queen Elizabeth's court adopted, 'Ablata at alba' (banished but blameless).

You see? I know a little about palindromes, and he was saying he knew a 51 letter palindrome constructed by Peter Hilton, one of his professors at Cornell. Mathematicians should stick to their lemmas and leave dilemmas of word games to other people. Instead, there they go, trespassing on others' territories. But when mathematicians play, they work at it too, I found.

This is the palindrome
That the Resident Mathematician said
That his professor constructed
That he recited from memory
That I verified and saw
That it read true
That is brilliant
That kills my notion that mathematicians should leave word games alone
All in the house that Jack built, as it were.

'Doc note, I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.'


Monday, October 15, 2007

I want to hold your hand

"Does it hurt," you asked. I looked at my hand engulfed in yours. My hand seemed so small and fragile there, nestling between your hands.

You held your hand out that first time remember? Open, palm up and leaving it up to me to give my hand. I thought with some amusement that men must take lessons. My first boyfriend had held his hand out exactly like that too.

I remember how we sat decorously apart. Sitting side by side, staring at the sea. I sat with my knees drawn up, forearm around them, trickling sand through the fingers of the other. We exchanged sidelong glances once in a while. There was his hand on the sand between us. Open, palm up. I slid mine into it. We continued staring at the sea.

Later, we played, doodling messages on the other's palm, silly endearments and questions we were too shy to voice. But I still remember that hand, lying open on the sand, waiting. It asked, without asking. Holding hands is in a way more intimate than other intimacies.

I remember when you held my hand first. Your hand was warm, big and gentle. You stroked my fingers then too. Not looking at each other yet, hand in hand, pressure returning pressure, squeeze responding with squeeze, world reduced to that connection, our hands twining together. No need for words just then. A glance and a smile and all that needed saying said, without words.

There was that day when you drew me close. Nestling against your shoulder with your arm around me, I felt small and safe. When your hand cupped my cheek and you dropped that fleeting kiss, it burned a brand in my memory with its gentleness.

You looked at me with such tenderness, an indulgent adult at a dear toddler. You leaned forward once, to cup my face and give it a fond shake. I protested that I wasn't a child. Your smile said you thought otherwise.

My hand seemed so small and fragile there, nestling between your hands. You patted it, gentling it like you would a kitten or a baby bird. "You have become too thin," you accused, as thumb and forefinger circled my wrist. You gripped both hands in one and looked upset. "See."

"Does it hurt," you asked. I looked at my hand engulfed in yours. No, dear one, I thought. It doesn't hurt. Not when you hold my hand like that.


Friday, October 12, 2007

The train you intended to board

There is immortality of a sort in being quoted. When the origin of the quote is forgotten and the lines pass into collective vocabulary, the author lives on in his words. Shakespeare comes to mind. There are so many things we say to sum up a situation that are his words. That it should come to this. What's in a name? The list is endless.

A line from my father's work, TvamEvaaham is one such. "The train you intended to board is always a lifetime late."

I grew up with the work, but first read it fully when it was published for the third time in 1971. It was written in July 1948, and was published in 'Telugu Swatantra' in 1949. It was published again in 1962, with a prologue, Avahana, and annotations, an explanation and commentary by Dasarathi and Sri Sri added. It needed them; it was criticised for being incomprehensible and infuriatingly obscure.

All that didn't matter to me. I read it for the flow, and the images that the lines conjured, and because my father wrote it. Whether it was a controversial work, a masterpiece or political commentary was immaterial; I read it for the lessons it gave on combining technique with content, integrating style with substance. I have read TvamEvaaham many times since. It might have been written about the Razakar atrocities in Telangana, but it is a timeless poem.

TvamEvaaham is a rather difficult kaavyam to read casually. When it was first published purists were offended by the free use of English words and even the obscure 'reach for the dictionary' Telugu words irritated many. The host of images that flash by too fast, figures of speech, allusions and associations bewildered lazy readers who confuse the unfamiliar with the incomprehensible. They ask how can

బ్రెయిన్‌లో బ్రెన్‌గన్
రెయిన్‌లా ఆలోచనల ట్రెయిన్
స్పయినల్ కార్డులో స్పెయిన్
గ్లూమీ తిమిరాలు చెరిషించి
సైతాన్ మనల్ని పరిషించునపుడు
నిర్వేదనా పవనాలు వర్షించు
సింతటిక్ చింతను ధరించు కవి
అంతట ఖెయాసు పెరిషించు

ఖెయాసు ఎడారి లోపల
ఒయాసిస్సు పొయిట్రీ
కవిత్వపు ఖెయాసులో
ఖెయాసుకి ఉరికొయ్య…

బ్రెయిన్‌లో పెయిన్
ప్రతీ వెయిన్‌లో మెషిన్‌గన్ రెయిన్

be considered serious poetry? But it is.

The above loses potency in translation, and needs copious footnotes, but here is a transliterated version. This is from the first section of the work. After a prologue that ponders upon the nature of time, this section treats time as a river that rises in the mountains and makes its way down to the plains. Thus it's clear why those English words are perfect there-- for the cadences, for sheer rightness; and how well the excerpt reflects the turbulent out-flowing of a river from the glacial beginning. You can sense the cataracts and rapids of the river in the section.

breyin lO bren gan
reyin laa aalochanala treyin
spayinal kaarDu lO speyin
gloomee timiraalu cherish-inchi
Saitaan manalni parishinchunapuDu
nirvEdanaa pavanaalu varshinchu
sintatik chintanu dharinchu kavi
antaTa kheyaasu perish-inchu

kheyaasu eDaari lOpala
oyaasissu poyitree
kavitvapu keyaasulO
kheyaasuki urikoyya

breyin lO peyin
pratee veyin lO meshin gan reyin

Later come the clocks and their hands to symbolise societies down the ages, the big small and seconds hands of a clock, and the pendulum to signify social classes. But first comes the warning of the alarum:

Lo ! Hallo!
Oh! Hallo!
Hallo! Hallo!

And so on. The tyranny of the poem is that you have to read it at the poet's pace as he sets it. The structure is such; this is not just wordplay but tyranny of rhythm in seemingly free verse and mastery of sound. What images and events it invokes are timeless, you can make your connections, for all that the poem TvamEvaaham is about the Razakar atrocities during the Telangana movement a year after Independence. But the reading is entirely as the poet intends it to go.

idi naagali
idi daagali
idE punaadi
idE samaadhi

It is impossible to read these lines fast.

When Time is the theme and a river the metaphor, there is symbolism of the mountain stage, to placid flowing, acquiring tributaries. We measure time because we need to make sense of things. Sundials, hourglasses or water clocks, we have measured time always, with ever-growing sophistication.

The clock in TvamEvaaham stands for social classes and divisions. The stopwatch counts down to the events unfolding. The hours, minutes and seconds themselves are commentary on contemporary events. Thus the poet focuses our attention on a single event in the river of time.

My favourite part of the kaavyam is the section nimishaalu - Minutes. Written as a monologue, with acid unpunctuated prose commentary alternating with supposed free but tightly written verse, this section mirrors middle class mentality, the woes, aspirations and traps thereof. There is a rhythm to the monologue and the mutters of commentary that is achieved partly by eschewing punctuation and partly by the rhythm of spoken language itself. The leitmotif of 'mamu brOchuvaaru' and how it evolves, using images evoked by Carnatic kritis is masterly.

The Water Clock is one of the few segments that can be translated at all and that famous line is from here:

నువ్వు ఎక్కదలచుకొన్న రైలు
ఎప్పుడూ ఒక జీవితకాలం లేటు
ఏళ్ళూ పూళ్ళూ నిరీక్షించలేక
ఎక్కేస్తావేదో ఒక బండీ
నీ ఆదర్శాల లగేజీ
ఎక్సెసంటాడు టి. ఐ. సీ.
నీ ఈప్సితాల ట్రంకు పెట్లు
కలల బ్రేకులో పారెయ్యాలి
నువ్వు తెచ్చుకొన్నవన్నీ
ఎక్కించీ లోపున
కదిలిపోతుంది బండీ
అందుకే అందులో కొన్ని
నీ అభిమాన హీరోల దగ్గిరే
నువ్వు వెళ్ళదలచుకొన్న ఊరు
నువ్వు బతికుండగా చేరదా రైలు
దేవుడా! ఇంత చేశావా అని
ఉన్న ఊళ్ళోనే ఉండు!

the train you intended to board
is always a lifetime late
unwilling to wait for ages
you board any that comes along
your luggage of ideals
is excess, will say the T.I.C.
trunk-loads of your hopes and desires
consigned to the brake van of dreams
the train will set off before
you can load all your baggage
so, leave some behind
with the heroes that you idolise
that train won't reach your destination
during your lifetime
bemoan in god's name
and stay put where you are.

Maybe one day I will have a go at translating the other sections, but TvamEvaaham should be read in Telugu and aloud, to experience it best.


Friday, October 05, 2007

The Little Flowers of Perpetual Annoyance

"Why, that was almost vicious, Lali." She said with some surprise. I was surprised that she was, she knew how I functioned, after all.

Well, I am a mild person, but that doesn't mean I don't have pet peeves and things that irk me. Dozens of things irritate me, but I generally don't vent about them, not until I started blogging anyway. In this case, it was about language. A perfectly well educated young lady who ought to have known better, and her speech went somewhat like this: well, I was like… and he went… so I was like, dude, but he was like…

People use profanities as punctuation. I am used to it and have learned, if not to grin and bear it, at least to wince inwardly and ignore it. Swearing is a personal choice, and if people can't offend, make their point or insult creatively using words instead of swearwords, it only reflects on their linguistic capacity, after all. Being reluctant or unable to say 'I said' maybe fashionable, but it smacks of poor education or some speech impediment to me.

People carrying umbrellas irritate me. No, I don't object to their trying to protect themselves from the elements, but I do object to people being mostly shorter than me, and toting their brollies at the precise height that will threaten a poke in my eye. I wish I was taller or they were, or I was shorter, whichever, so I could be out of range. The ducking and weaving I have to do to avoid potential jabs from these umbrella wielders annoys me.

Women with flowing tresses annoy me. It is not envy, okay? I wear my hair short for my reasons and if they have the time and inclination to look after long hair, they are welcome to their manes, and it is their prerogative. What I object to is having their hair fly into my face as I stand in a queue behind them, or on the streets. I am not their boyfriend to swoon as the strands brush against me. I don't want sahara of their mehki hui zulfein and it usually smells of sweat anyhow. Why can't they keep their hair drawn into a neat ponytail?

I get annoyed when thoughtless youngsters walk three or four abreast ahead of me. They are having marvellous conversations, they are trading jokes and punch lines, hooting, giggling and having the time of their lives going to college. They are also holding me up as I try to do my shopping and walk down the same road to my Madrasi shop and such. Trying to pass them muttering "excuse me" gets me variously, responses that range from "oh, you are excused," "ooh, soooo sorry " and this in the vernacular, so I only get the gist of it, "did your grandfather buy this road, then?" I can retort "did yours?" but it is pointless.

I can't decide what irritates me more, their ambling when I am in a hurry, or how badly taught they are in minimal courtesies of the road.

Girls teetering on ill-fitting high heels, toes or heels sticking out make me gnash my teeth. They don't come up to my eye-level even with in that insanely high footwear. Why can't they buy properly sized shoes? Who are they trying to convince they are tall? They walk with mincing steps, with toes clenching to stay aloft, balancing precariously. And when you add painted-on jeans that make free striding impossible it just gets worse.

Toes sticking out of trendy footwear and having trouble coping with the insane high heels that may be perfect for the catwalk but totally unsuited to negotiate Calcutta streets-- it is so ugly it is pathetic. Who wants to have a permanent backache induced by being thrown out of balance by those heels and hitching one's pelvis forwards? Don't they look at themselves in a mirror before they leave home? Haven't they ever seen themselves walking, say in a mall mirror? Why don't they curl up in embarrassment? Oh, it is because I do, on their behalf.

And I don't know which irritates me more, chipped nail polish or toenails grown to talon lengths. It is silly to grow one's toenails to long lengths and shape them to tapering points, you'd only jab yourself sooner or later, and meanwhile you are an eyesore to every aesthete out there. If you want to sport painted toenails the least you can do is to make sure it doesn't grow out with the nails and get chipped along the way. Don't get me started on cracked heels and dirty feet in trendy footwear sported by well-dressed pretty young things. How long does it take to use a pumice stone in your bath, for pity's sake?

Mangling of verbs while chatting irritates me: sented, lefted, and worse. It is only cute if you are a baby learning to talk. Shortening words to component consonants irritates me. There might be shortage of resources in the world, but surely typing the vowels doesn't take long, and doesn't speed up the global warming all that much, does it? It is worse when the reverse happens, too. You have time to type 'I heart something' but you don't have the sense to type love in place of heart? Why stint on vowels and act twee, primitive-and-outmoded-concept-on-a-crutch?

When I write a perfectly courteous mail and get a supercilious or a condescending reply, it rankles. When I make a nutritious meal and my men choose to order delivery, it rankles, too. But that's a post for another day. Let's stick to the linguistic stupidities educated young people who really ought to know better prefer to embrace. I was like. Indeed. He went. Really, where did he go? So me said. Hm, didn't they teach grammar in your school, ducky?

So, as I was talking to the young lady, what I longed to say was different from what I said. Which rock did you bury your grammar skills under, and can you retrieve them before your brain atrophies and you forget, was what I wanted to say. What I said was mild, that it was good to see her coping so well with ataxic aphasia, which can really play havoc with some people.

Luckily, she had a sense of humour too. So after she got it, and got over the surprise of my being nasty, she laughed and stopped saying 'I was like' when she meant 'I said.' For my part, I refrained from pointing out that it should have been 'I had said.'


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Naughty but nice

If it is Tuesday it is going to be Paul, I always think, like that film. He usually features on Tuesdays. I love Paul's puzzles. He has a disconcerting sense of humour and he always makes me laugh. I've mulled over the title of this post longer than I've spent solving Tuesday's Guardian puzzle (Missus Em's biology lessons, was one title I considered and rejected). It was a treat.

When 1 Down, the first clue in the grid makes you giggle, you are prepared for the rest of it. And the rest of clues are a treat too. Before I get into biology and bawdiness, let me give a few innocent clues he set.

Land on one's head? (6)
Cannon for Englishmen abroad? (3-3)
Where bird found fish (5)

These are simple enough to solve, and a good way to get into the puzzle. Land on one's head is Panama, and Englishmen abroad are Poms. While I am a vegetarian, I have learnt a lot about cuts of beef, kinds of meat and names of fish during my cryptic crossword solving career, so it was a no-brainer to ask me where bird found fish, it's perch, simple.

And then there were the other clues, the funny very Paul kind of clues. There was the first across clue, which was a laugh:

I appreciate that, darling, nothing turns one on- it happens once a month! (9)

This is a brilliant clue and typical Paul. You need to think slang here. Ta, luv, O all written backward and then i and on. Biology lessons, anyone? Ovulation happens once a month.

There was 1 Down too. Couple under a hundred above sum total (10)

This is a splendid clue. C for hundred, okay? C, on for above and then sum and then mate for couple. The definition is total, and solution consummate.

Just in case we were thinking of holy matrimony, Paul sets us right with this: Good representative, a solicitor (4) While I was still giggling about that, there was the next gem: Coarse quality needs attention (she isn't refined) (10)

Pi for being goody goody, and MP for representative. Heh. And ear for attention and an anagram of 'she isn't' and there you are- earthiness.

When I finished solving other clues there came a humdinger, and I saw it late because I was on my 'by numbers' stint. There is this urge to try and solve clues by numbers, I confessed to being prey to it.

Release of man reflected one's fate (7)*

This is so brilliant, I tell you. I am tempted to let you figure it out yourself and giggle all the while. These compilers are a wonderful lot, I tell you. Paul had some simpler ones too, like

Good to get together again with fruity thing (9)
Old writer about to end tale at first profitable (9)

Here is advice gratis. The thing with cryptic crosswords is to ignore punctuation if any; it is only there to misdirect. Instead if you deal with the words as precise instructions, it gets easier, as these clues are fair.

G+ re engage or ex pe(die)n+t are clues old hands can solve in their sleep. But release of man reflected is special. Paul must have been smiling as he compiled these irreverent clues. I certainly was smiling as I solved them. Naughty but nice, right?


Monday, October 01, 2007

C'est la vie

Mess she makes with buttery chocolate, as luck would have it (5,3,3,3,6,8)*

Life, 'tis said, goes on- my friend pontificated, adding that it is a bad habit life has, to go on. Wait, I must write this down- I said snidely, it's such a remarkable observation.

Things happen. Things have a way of shaking you up, yes, but they don't stop while you are being all shook up and considering how to deal with it. Things keep happening.

My son once generously took me to see a film; it was a famous film, he saw it before it was released and all that. It was on a second run because it was nominated for some award. A week after his treat that film was broadcast on the cable. He grumbled a lot about the money he could have saved. I pointed out that I'd paid for the popcorn, but that cut no ice.

Pasta, yeah. Spinach cheese and garlic sauce, with sautéed vegetables and maybe roast potatoes. That is what I want to make, and my soul yearns for. Except, the rains have made it impossible, as vendors don't carry spinach during or just after such downpours as we have had, not when entire market garden businesses have got submerged. They don't buy greens that might get sodden and rot, and they don't sell either. Greens spoil easily, cost the earth and nobody in their right senses will buy spinach during a rainy spell. So it is dal and two veg as usual. Bottle gourd anyone, and okra and spuds?

I dither and dither and finally go shopping for myself; and I find I have become the Discontinued Woman. To the perpetual insult which for the moment is merely injury of not having bras in odd numbered sizes, they have added the slight of discontinuing my preferred cut and style. Madam can try these, says the salesgirl, waving a hand at the display of sequined, rainbow coloured and padded monstrosities. No thank you, I suppress a shudder. My idea of a daily wear bra doesn't come in candy stripes or with cute ribbons, lace and embroidery. Ordinary plain and simple bras are next to nonexistent nowadays, and I have to settle for even numbers there too. I was too young when bra burning was a statement, but I'd definitely have torched the dainty matched with a g-string stuff that was on offer, I tell you. Which woman in her right mind would …oh, um… okay…I suppose. But still, ordinary days count too, is all I am saying.

I write a loving tribute to a song and a singer and the post sinks like a stone with concrete boots attached. They arrive at my blog searching for massage parlours in Kolkata/ Calcutta, meaning of Lalitha, Neha, Niharika, khoya hua rangeen nazara, sexy bedroom stories in Telugu and the Zarapkar System of Cutting, but visitors to my blog spend 0:00 seconds on any given page Google has directed them to, and they don't bother to comment either. Oh, they come looking for Valmiki and Gilgamesh and feijoa too, but what is the point?

We have an unexpected but welcome visitor on Wednesday. Much fun had, but there is shortage of spirits on Thursday and it cannot be remedied. Thursdays are dry days, you see. Actually, so are Independence Day and Republic Day; let's not talk about why Second October must be a dry day. Why should sale of liquor on any given day be curtailed in a democratic country? Whose sentiments are being appeased? Why aren't my sentiments that I'd like a tipple in the evening being appeased?

I finally figure out a fiendish anagram, but broadband is dead, so I can't submit my solution for the prize crossword. It is not a big deal, I know, just irksome not being able to do a thing one wants to. Calling BSNL will only mean the aggravation of interactive voice services and keying in my zillion-numbers long contact number for them which is an exercise in pointlessness as they never get back in touch with me anyhow.

There are many ways to express sympathy and commiseration: hard luck, tough cheese, too bad, better luck next time. There is no next time, really. First impressions don't have a second chance and time only moves forward. But thank goodness we learn to live with events; songs heard, jokes repeated, loves lost and grief overcome.

Ahead maybe shoals of angst, storms of rage and reefs of misery. But we keep steering, not in hope of landfall as sailing is all, but because to stop steering is admitting to the doldrums. Being becalmed won't get us anywhere. So let's not avast, but avaunt.

Another day, another post, as my friend said. C'est la vie.


* That's the way the cookie crumbles

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