lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Conan drums

Well, why should he not? I have a few that puzzle me, too.

Why does the voice that tells me that the Vodafone number I have called is either switched off or cannot be reached and advises me to try again later sound so smug and deliriously glad at my predicament? Why can't they have recordings that sound matter of fact if not sympathetic?

"Lali, you remember my friend," he mentioned a name. I did. "He is corresponding with Kapil about…" There was a long explanation of some function or theorem and its impact on the narrow universe mathematicians inhabit. I tuned out mostly.

"Well, he was wondering if the name Kapil derives from or has something to do with Kapilavastu. He thinks 'vastu' or 'astu' used to mean a fortress."

I snorted. "Tell him he is talking through his hat." I considered. "He is thinking of root 'stha' but Kapilavastu is 'sta', and totally different. 'Vastu' is thing, article, nature and quality of. 'Stha' is fixed or unmoving and so on. Anyway, the word for fortress is 'durga'," I elaborated.

"What does Kapil mean, then?"

"Oh, 'kapila' means tawny, reddish brown. Monkey coloured, actually. But Kapil is probably named after Kapila the sage - the reason why Ganga flows on earth and why one of the synonyms for sea is 'saagara' and all that."

In Ramayana Vishvamitra narrates the story to Rama, telling him about his ancestors, and how Ganga came to flow on the earth.

Kapila was a sage; sometimes said to be an incarnation of Vishnu, sometimes the Narayana of the Nara-Narayana duo of sages. He was born of Kardama Prajapati and Devahuti. He was a scholar of Sankhya Yoga, which he taught his mother. After which he went to the nether world to meditate, probably because his mother threw him out.

At that time, Sagara, a king of the Solar Dynasty performed the horse sacrifice. As the sacrificial horse roamed the earth and all kings in its path accepted Sagara as overlord, Indra became worried about his position as chief of devas and stole the horse. He left it tethered near where Kaplia was meditating in the nether world.

Sagara had two wives. One, Kesini, had a son called Asamanjas, the unreasonable. The other, Sumati, had sixty thousand sons (don't ask). These sixty thousand went in search of the horse, found it near Kapila, and loudly, rudely made a fuss about it. Disturbed from his meditations Kapila opened his eyes, and there were sixty thousand heaps of ash next. Talk about hot tempers and short fuses.

Asamanjas had a son, Amsumaan, who propitiated the sage and recovered the horse, the sacrifice proceeded. Asamanjas the Unreasonable was crowned king and entrusted the job of securing a good afterlife for his burnt half-brothers. But he was a despot. So Sagara crowned Amsumaan king and retired, asking him to perform the last rites for his sixty thousand uncles. Amsumaan couldn't manage it in his lifetime. He passed on the responsibility to his son Bhagiratha.

Bhagiratha first prayed to Brahma and learned that only the sacred river Ganga that flowed in Svarga could redeem his ancestors. So he prayed to Ganga. Even if we ignore the time scales, the Puranas and Ramayana talk about thousands of years of penance, it must have taken some persistence, and Ganga agreed to descend to earth. But she said that her descent couldn't be withstood by any other than god Siva.

Prayer time. Siva agreed to take the brunt of Ganga's descent. So she leapt down. In a battle of sexes and muslce-flexing, she leapt with all her might and he taught her a lesson by imprisoning her in his matted hair, where she wandered trying to find a way out for a thousand years again.

Prayer time again. Siva let out a trickle of Ganga and she followed Bhagiratha. On their way to the nether world to wash over the sixty thousand heaps of ashes, Ganga inundated sage Jahnu's hermitage. He swallowed her up.

Once more, with feeling. Jahnu relented and let Ganga out through his ear (don't ask). At last, Bhagiratha managed to send his sixty thousand great uncles to a good afterlife. Ganga flowed on to meet the ocean. That is why Ganga is called Bhagirathi and Jahnavi, the sea is called 'saagara' and that is why a huge and determined effort is referred to as Bhagiratha's perseverance.

In the West, there is Herculean effort, and we have Bhagiratha's penance.
Another conundrum is why diacritical marks and other formatting gets lost when I copy paste the posts I write using Word. I am fed up with having to insert italics and hyperlinks and such all over again every time I post. This post will be dedicated to whomsoever can tell me why this happens and what I should do.

"The Vodafone number you have called cannot be reached. Please try again later, thank you." I intoned to myself as I tried once again. Instead of the infuriatingly cheerful and insensitive voice recording, I heard the phone ring.

"Yeah, hi Mom," said my son.



Blogger Alien said...

thanks @ wishes.... have been busy!

2:31 am  
Blogger anantha said...

Missus Em, check your Blogger settings to see if the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor is enabled.

On your Setting's tab, in the Basic Settings section, if you scroll down, you should see a "Show Compose Mode for all your blogs?". See if that is set to "Yes". From what you say, it looks like it is set to "No".

If you set it to yes, you should be able to copy stuff from word and keep the formatting intact.

3:09 am  
Blogger dipali said...

Delectable, vintage Lali!

8:41 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Alien- I can imagine. :-)

Anantha- I checked, and it is set to Yes. Sigh. I still get to do it all over again.

Dipali- Thank you.

9:36 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

What do you mean, don't ask? You left out interesting parts of the story. Lovely post.

12:09 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ash- Sixty thousand sons from a lump she delivers is creepy and Jahnu releasing Ganga out of his ear is creepier. Can you imagine the reasoning for it? Yuck.

2:16 pm  
Anonymous Prophet of Doom said...

As Bhagiratha's patience with Ganga, so Mrs.M's patience with Vodafone. Beautiful writing, ma'am - hats off !

10:26 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ram- Look who is back in my comment space! Thank you.

2:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliantly written as usual. Why don't you write about Arundhati Roy's outburst and Taslima Nasreen? You waste your talent on fluff.


9:55 pm  
Blogger Sivaram said...

Bhagiratha still had a happy ending for his story. Sisyphus had [ or has ] it more difficult ....

But you know, the Greek story is somehow more human - one has to only look around and see how many times we redial, in spite of cheerful discouraging messages !

9:26 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Anon- Not many people know these tales, okay? I am doing a public service recounting them on my blog. Now stop the current affairs rant.

Sivaram- You know, I hadn't considered Sisyphus? I suppose I was looking for a happy parallel, and Hercules did complete his labours, after all. I might have thought of Sisyphus if I didn't get through, perhaps.

10:38 am  
Anonymous Hehh said...

Informal and erudite.

As usual.

I sometimes ring up non-existent numbers just to hear a cheery voice telling me with a snigger telling me to try again.

: )

1:50 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

How lovely, Lali. Thanks to my now dog-eared copy of Upendrakishore Roychaudhuri's (greatly censored0 translations of the Upanishads, Puranas and the two epics, I know all the dirty details of Bhagirath's tapasya and Ganga's descent into our realm, but your post is still such a delight :-)

8:38 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

hehh- Why have you dropped two aitches, hm? Erudition is all too easily acquired in these days of Google and Wiki, I suppose. And, do you try again? Heh.

Rimi- K was telling me all about Upendrakishore, too. Thanks for the endorsement, chile, you should get an earful of Telugu classics though, for the idea of censorship to even float up. They are that raunchy, ha.

10:21 pm  
Blogger The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

"Jahnu releasing Ganga out of his ear is creepier"

Hey! There are worse ways you know :)

And I object to calling these topics'fluff'!

4:05 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Shoefie- Exactly! That is why it is creepy, I must say. Our most sacred river is earwax now, but snot, spit or tears? Or worse? *shudder* And let Dear John be, he is only delusional. :)

9:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

waow!! i think i first read this post coz i thought the story would be interesting.. but!! its the way you put frth.. i mean its real nice...
and on "don't ask".. i couldn't help but giggle loudly, just to let mom know i did found another blogs of note ;)

10:16 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Veens- Thanks, and do drop in again. who knows I might tell you all about MaakanDeya, :-)

10:28 pm  

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