lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Let's crib work

Let's crib work, dear Reader, is an anagram of 'writer's block' and I am happy to report that I am not suffering from it. It is nice to be asked if I am all right, if the RA is acting up, or if I am suffering from writer's block. It is a week and you haven't posted, what's the matter, was the theme of several mails I received.

Actually, it is the RA. When it is bad, it is really bad. But today is not one of those days when things seem bleak. When opening a jam jar is a matter of triumph, one learns to tone down expectations. When you need two hands and a bit of unladylike mutters to open a door handle, an almirah, shoot a bolt, turn faucets, to … Oh, the list is endless, RA is not much fun.

But when I am having a good day we have fun, so we have a beer Saturday again, even though it is not the first Saturday of the month. When wrists and fingers are feeling reasonably limber and pain-free, I try and get as much done as possible. I have made a decent breakfast; touched base and caught up with news of my downstairs neighbour; gone to the bank, endured queues and failing monitors (don't ask); done my weekly market; cooked a big lunch. Time to down a beer and do crosswords.

"That bharta smelled glorious, I want lunch."

Sigh. In 1980, I was in Delhi visiting with my cousin. His landlord's cook and valet, Lakshman Ram, made a wonderful truly glorious eat and die happy kind of baingan bharta. I know many vegetables can be charcoal roasted, but none can be roasted like the brinjal, aubergine, eggplant, kathirikai, vankaya, baingan or begun (virtue-less, ha) as the Bongs call it. It is one of the most versatile vegetables ever. I have been trying to reproduce that particular taste of Lakshman Ram's ever since I started cooking.

Today I seem to have achieved it. "We really ought to be eating this with pulkas," he remarks. I agree and rue that RA means I cannot knead dough properly these days. I can't squeeze a lime or tamarind either, so my cooking is getting stilted, no rasams these days. But the bharta was almost there.

Beer and crosswords are the best way to spend a lazy winter weekend afternoon. And when the prize crossword in Guardian is set by Araucaria and every across clue has a coin mentioned but disregarded in the subsidiary clue, the heart soars. The Times crosswords, prize puzzle and the jumbos all done, I buckle down to the Araucaria.

Usually, there is there is a background drone of Emacspeak, and we work and play in silence other than that. Today, there is music. Live music at that. His student is here, sarod and all. The ragas flash by as they talk and jump from composition to composition. Phrases are explored, comparisons made; informal and formal, this is not a lesson teaching a composition or a raga, this is more. This is imparting a philosophy of music, technique and style. Perhaps that will come later, but right now it is talking about technique, queries about showcasing a raga with the dominant notes, more urgent worries about the use of the third finger in the upper octave or the dara or diri for any phrase.

I spare a glance from my musings about coins. "Look, it is not humanly possible to land the third finger straight, if you are using your nails that is," I say. It's true; on the sarod, which does not have frets like the veena, or even on the veena, it is not possible to land the third finger or fingernail on a note straight, it will always be at an angle. If you want to use three fingers, you have to be resigned to the fact. The student grins his thanks. The lesson goes on.

My phone rings. I am not anywhere near it, but I know the ring tone. It's an unknown number, but at least it is not Airtel telemarketing. So I answer.

"Madam I am calling from ICICI, can I offer you a credit card…"
"I have a credit card, thank you," I say and hang up. Hmm, the voice sounded familiar.

I wander into the room where a debate about the Puriya in Puriya Dhanasri and Puriya Kalyan rages. The phone rings again. "Again?" I say incredulously and go back to my phone. It is the same number. I will say things, I know. They will be variations on the theme of 'do you understand a simple word, no' and get worse from there.

"Lalita, it's me," says my toyboy. He is calling from his newly installed land line. "Since when have you begun moonlighting peddling credit cards?" I laugh once I get over the outrage. "I wanted to surprise you," he says. "But seriously, are you all right? You haven't updated the blog in ages."

These toyboys, I tell you.



Anonymous Ash said...

"...RA is not much fun."

What an understatement after the list. Poor Lali. May you have more good days than bad.

12:03 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ash- Thank you.

12:35 pm  
Blogger dipali said...

Yes, after much futile checking was so delighted to see a post from you.
I could almost smell the eggplant being roasted!
Stay well:)

11:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She walks in beauty...

Be well, milady.

Secret admirer

11:42 pm  
Blogger neha vish said...

Brinjals, ToyBoys and Afternoons. All in one go. Sigh! Dear Lali! :)

12:43 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Dipali- As I said, when it is bad, it is really bad. :)

Anon- Thanks.

Neha- When I have good days we still have fun, thank goodness.

4:29 pm  
Blogger Arun said...

Good One :-)

8:16 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Arun- Thank you, drop in again. :)

1:57 pm  
Anonymous Prophet of Doom said...

What's your favorite beer ?

10:30 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ram- It used to be Rosy Pelican once upon a time. Nowadays it is Foster, though I do enjoy Dansberg too.

9:26 pm  

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