Crossword Companions

It has been exactly hundred and three days since my friend M and I started doing the Mini New York Times Crossword together. That is literally the first thing I do everyday after waking up. I go to the NYT app, open the mini puzzle, solve it and send my time to M. M lives in Amsterdam and wakes up a little while later and sends me his time back as soon as he can and that is how we greet each other Good Morning every day. Once we compare our timings, we discuss the words that we found most difficult and also the clues that were great. M even notes some special words and clues down in his diary which I think is really adorable.

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M’s Notes

I decided to also look into the history of Crosswords and The Smithsonian Magazine has published an amazing piece where it talks about Arthur Wynne, who managed a puzzle supplement for New York World. He wanted to do something new and fun. Inspired by rudimentary word puzzle games he gave birth to the ‘Word-Cross’. An illustrator then accidentally changed ‘Word-Cross’ to ‘Crossword’ and the name stuck. Surprisingly enough, the NYT was one of the last metropolitan newspapers to offer the puzzle to readers and in an editorial piece they called it “a primitive sort of mental exercise”. And look at where they are now, with the NYT puzzle probably being the most popular crossword puzzle in the world.

The New Yorker also did a beautiful piece on ‘The Art and Politics of Crosswords’ where the author has beautifully described her addiction to the crossword puzzle and what she likes and dislikes about them:

In my ravenous puzzle consumption, I’ve inevitably developed tastes and preferences. I prefer vocabulary to trivia, I love visual jokes, and I live and die for twisty, punning clues that require their own decoding.

The video in the post above also talks about the term ‘Breakfast Puzzle’ which is essentially a sort of quality check for croosswords and in simple terms it means that a the crossword should not offend anyone solving it while eating breakfast. But the Crossword Constructor also mentions a valid point that as time passes, people have started becoming more comfortable with concepts and theories as compared to the time gone by, so what is good enough to think about during Breakfast also changes.

As an ending note, I decided to write this blogpost when today in the morning I saw a video on The New Yorker about Partner Crosswords, I realized that there might be many people who share this love of solving Crosswords together and I just wanted to thank M to initiate this tradition. It has truly been an amazing experience and I hope I have more wins on my hands than losses. Thank you for being my Crossword Companion. πŸ™‚

What happens to all the Un-Hugged hugs?

The Daily Shouts segment on The New Yorker recently did a cute little comic called ‘What happens to all the Un-Hugged Hugs’ and it got me thinking about ‘Hugs’

I have had a weird history with hugs. My family is not very keen on showing affection, be it verbally or physically. For the longest time in my life, I was uncomfortable with hugging people no matter how close I was to them.

I once watched this Japanese movie called ‘Ohayo’ which revolved around the nicety of saying ‘Good Morning’ and how not saying it could lead to a myriad of misunderstandings. I was amazed after watching it. I didn’t really realize that such a small thing could make such a big difference to our social lives. Long ago, I had a flatmate who used to say Good Morning to all of us everyday. I found it really weird and used to be super awkward when I said Good Morning back to him. It was never something that we did in my parents’ house so I wasn’t used to it. After watching the movie, the realization finally sort of dawned on me and I gradually made a conscious effort to say Good Morning to all my flatmates everyday. The day started off on a better note automatically. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it brought about a drastic change in my social life. πŸ™‚

Coming back to hugs, this whole story was to stress on the fact that hugs remove the awkwardness between people. You can say so many unsaid things through a hug. You could tell someone who you met after a long time that you really missed them.Β  You could tell someone you will not see in a long time that you will really miss them. You could tell people you love them without even saying anything. The intensity of the hugs can differ depending on the person – if its an aquaintance it might be a light half hug and if its your best friend its a bone crushing squeeze.

I am happy to say that now I am super comfortable with hugs. My mother is still apprehensive of it. I remember the first time I hugged her was when I was leaving home to start my first job. I cannot believe it took so long but that’s just how things were. Now, of course, I hug her every time I leave my hometown after meeting her. I hug all my friends when I meet them after a long time and my favourite hugs are the ones right before leaving people, not knowing when we will meet next.

With Covid, I don’t really know what the future of hugs will be. The NewYorker cartoon talked about how these hugs are lingering around the city in despair and waiting to be rejoined with our bodies again, literally and figuratively. A friend recently texted me that she coudln’t wait to hug me when she meets me. This is the longest we have gone without meeting each other, because of the lockdown. I suddenly remembered Shilpa Gupta’s installation ‘For, in your tongue I cannot fit’ that I had seen at the Kochi Biennale. As a small part of the installation she had whispered the poetry of several jailed poets from across the world and then she seals and closes the jar. Only if my friend could also seal these hugs in a jar until I met her and I could feel all the warmth and love pouring forth when I opened it. Or even better, if she could just somehow wrap it up and send it to me. And that’s where all the un-hugged hugs could go. πŸ™‚

A Cup of Tea

Sometimes the simplest things give place to some really strong emotions. One of those things for me is definitely Tea. Here is a timeline of tea in my life:

Childhood
I would see my mother and father indulging in tea about 3 to 4 times a day. Those would be the moments where they would chat to each other and not engage in watching TV or doing anything else. It seemed like a good time to catch up.
When we went to visit other families and friends, they would serve tea to everyone except the kids because tea was STRICTLY NOT for kids, only the adults could have it. We would be served coke or juice, as if that was any healthier!?

Teenage
I was allowed the liberty to have tea but I didn’t find any pleasure in it. Maybe I had not yet developed the taste buds for it? I was assigned the job of making the evening tea for both my parents. I had learnt the exact recipe and we used the same teaspoon for the tea leaves which was used for years. The day it that spoon dissappeared, I was at a loss. I wasn’t sure if my tea would taste the same.

Love
I met someone who loved tea and I fell in love with him and with tea at around the same time. We used to go to the hills and the mountains and while the views and the company changed – one thing remained the same – Tea.

Friendship
Tea became a constant. I would go meet friends and we would always start our day with it even if our day actually started in the Afternoon. I had a friend who would give her all and make tea for me. It would simmer for a long time, finely crushed ginger was added in the end. She would bring out the best cups and pour them out neatly. We would then sit at our table with coasters and all, light a scented candle along with a hand rolled cigaratte and those were some of the best evenings with Tea.

Most recently, my father made us all a cup of tea. I had my doubts about how it would taste. I don’t even know the last time he went to a kitchen. To my surprise, it was absolutely delicious. I guess there are some things that you can’t forget how to do once you have learnt it – much like riding a bicycle.

Phases
There have been gaps of months and years when I have not had tea and there have been phases where I have had tea on a daily basis. For me it is just one of those things – the excess of which gets to me and I have to eventually take a break. But whenever I go back, my love gets stronger and I go all in – simmering, sipping and smoking all worries away.

Lockdown and Leisure

Leisure
noun
Time when one is not working or occupied; free time.

The fact that I am writing this post after more than a year of writing anything else on this Blog is testament of the fact that I have too much time on my hands. I was lucky enough to have come back home before all of India went into a lockdown. I am now with my family and we divide our chores – my mother does most of the cooking and I do the dishes and cleaning. Thankfully, my office is making us work from home so that keeps me occupied on most days of the week. I never thought I would be glad about having office work but I really am. I am the kind of person who doesn’t like sitting free for even a second. I am constantly reading, watching something, surfing through the internet, or doing something or the other.

In the first few days of the Lockdown, I thought it would only last a month. I was reading and wathcing shows like a maniac. Trying to finish as much as possible. I thought this is the best time I could ever get to read and watch as much as I can. Then the Lockdown kept getting extended. It’s been more than 2 months now and I am falling into a rut again. Though I am still more productive then when I was before the Lockdown.

I had always wondered what would I do if ever I went on a sabbatical. I always thought it would be the best version of my life. I got to experience a mini version of it with this Lockdown and I guess it isn’t so bad.

Of course I realize all the privileges I have, to have a nice home, to be with family, to have access to all essentials and to have a steady job (for the time being *fingers crossed*). I count my blessings for that every day.

With all the free time I have had, I have started reading more than I have read in years. I have watched at least a 100 of hours of content – TV shows and movies both. I have started meditating – which is new for me and I manage to workout once in every two days. There was a week when I worked out for a week straight (alternating yoga with cardio). These were some of the pros of the Lockdown.

The cons have been few but have a drastic effect on my life. I have retreated into a shell and do not have the urge to talk to people or to socialize. I had read something about Introverts which talked about how when they have stayed away from peopleΒ  for too long, they want to stay away even more. It is a paradox but it is true in my case. But I have an incredible set of friends who help me come out of the shell with their constant calls and efforts to have a conversation. I truly feel blessed to have them.

Going forward, all I want to do is to keep up or better the productivity levels and to maintain them post the Lockdown as well if possible. I would also want to maintain a better equilibrium of my social life and productivity – which is going to a difficult exercise.

Terrace House: No Script At All

“Konbanwa! Terrace house is a show about six strangers living together and we observe how they interact. All that we’ve prepared is a beautiful home and automobiles.

THERE IS NO SCRIPT AT ALL.”

These are the lines with which every episode of, the path breaking Japanese reality show, Terrace House starts. There are 6 panelists who are sitting in a room, and watching along with us the lives of 6 people (3 men and 3 women) unfold on the screen. 267 episodes and a feature length movie of the show have been broadcasted so far spanning over 5 seasons – 4 of them were shot in Japan while the 3rd one was shot in Hawaii. While the first season was broadcasted solely on Fuji TV, starting from the second season, it has streamed on Netflix for audiences worldwide.

Every episode covers a week in their lives and unlike Big Brother they are free to step out of the house, go on dates with each other to the prettiest places in Japan and carry on their regular work schedules. They are free to leave the house whenever they want and new members come in and take their places. There have been instances where the same member (Seina Shimabukoro) have returned to the show in the same season and even in a different season.

I work in the TV Industry, and it is my job to devise new formats for reality shows in India and that might be the reason why this show intrigues me even more. The Introduction says that they have no script at all and yet there are certain format elements that are consistent throughout the series. In the end it is repetition that keeps the audience hooked and the fact that they have certain expectations from the show that they know will be fulfilled. It also makes for really exciting content when once in a while these format elements are broken – for example, when in season 2, the panel watched the episode in the original Terrace House instead of their usual room in the studio.

I, myself, have seen all the episodes of the show and there is so much I have to say about it, but in this article I will limit myself to talking about these format elements that make the show what it is!

  • The Studio Panel: The Studio panel has been consistent thorughout the series. In the very first season, we only started with You and after 13 episodes Reina joined in. It was only after about 25 episodes that we saw the complete panel of 6 which we have fallen in love with. My personal favourites are You and Tokui, who do not shy away from saying the darnedest things about the members, not to mention the hilarious double entendres! Tokui, unfortunately got into a tax evasion scandal and has been missing from the panel in the latest 10 episodes. There are often guest panelists coming in who are mostly celebrities or athletes who are a fan of the show.
  • Introduction to new Members: Every time a new member is supposed to come in, we see them revealing the news to their friends and family. We never see their faces, we only see a part of their face or maybe a shot from the back. This is to establish a little background and context to every new entrant. This element does not come in to play with the original 6 members though.
  • The House Layout: Ever since Season 1, the house layout has been more or less the same. There is a Girls’ Room and a Boys’ Room. There is a dining table with the iconic table which becomes the centrepiece of the show, with most of the conversations taking place there. There is a lounge area which is mostly situated next to the dining table. In some seasons they have also provided with a swimming pool and a terrace. The Karuizawa season had a beautiful garden and foyer area since the climate was colder there. There is also a playroom where they have a TV where the members can sit together and watch the show week on week. It is as meta as can be! In Season 2, the house opened up a special Japanese styled room for one of the couples that had formed on the show.

There are these elements and several others which keep the audience hooked. While these are the ones that are out there, there are subtler ones that you might not even notice but they make the show what it really is.

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Lullaby, Stranger

I recently got an opportunity to attend a choreographed concert called ‘Lullaby, Stranger’. In their own words:

LULLABY STRANGER is a choral performance, meant to be heard lying down. Moving between shared and private spaces, this choreographed concert speaks of our most intimate moments. Songs of love and fulfillment, of absence, loss and longing, of nightmares and prayer and death, weave a journey that stirs tension as well as tenderness. Through the evening, sounds and bodies appear and disappear in a symphony of small encounters.

K invited me to accompany her and I will be forever grateful to her for this experience. We left around 7:30 for the 9 o’clock show. After a short walk to the metro, a very short metro ride, a cancelled train and a cab driver who refused to turn on the meter, we finally reached the venue. K was prepared as always and took out the small joint. I asked a guy for a lighter and we lit it up.

The show was delayed by 20 minutes but then it finally started. Our phones were confiscated and we were given a bag to keep our shoes in. We entered the ‘Black Box’ – a dark room with about forty mattresses arranged in squares such that the head of no mattress faced the head of another. The mattresses were really cozy, covered in white sheets, with a comfy pillow and another white sheet to cover yourself. All of us chose our mattresses, K and I chose opposite sides of the room.

On the roof were art installations which looked like a golden colored fabric had frozen in the air while in motion. The lights were slowly turning on and off and the golden wave of fabric glittered and disappeared in sync with the blink of my eyes. I couldn’t figure when the show really started because I had no clue of how it was going to be like. People were still entering through the entry door and bits and pieces of jazz music from the cafe outside filtered in. Was it a part of the act or was I reading too much into it? Suddenly around 10 people came sauntering in and walked on the patches of empty floor in between the mattresses. And then, IT BEGAN.

The Conductor raised her hands and her team everyone else harmonized along with her. It was a goose bump raising performance – a shiver ran down my spine. The selection of songs was a carefully chosen list of lullabies from across the world (List in the end). As the performers moved from one direction to another, the sound of music traveled with them. One of my favorite lullabies was a Japanese lullaby called ‘Ho, Firefly’.

The performers changed their stances during and in between songs. They came and slept next to us, looked at us, it was slightly unnerving but slowly you eased into the whole process and you started to sync your breathing with the breathing rhythms of the person lying next to you. I had gotten really comfortable in my space and closed my eyes and listened to the music, listened to them harmonising and listened to how the voices shifted as they moved from one side of the room to another.

When the show ended, they came next to us and gave us their hand and picked us out f our beds slowly. We stood in the empty patches while they took our beds and lay down in it. And then they ended with the first song they had sung.

If you ever get the opportunity to catch this show at the G5A in Mumbai, I assure you it’s worth every bit of your time. Please don’t miss it.

List of Lullabies:

  • Because –Β  Lennon – McCartney
  • Wanting Memories – Dr. Ysaye
  • Hotaru Koi – Ro Ogura
  • Shenandoah – Michael Trotta
  • Trilo – Ale Moller
  • If I Should Lose you – Ralph Rainger
  • Unravel – Bjork
  • Ya Thuli Khanjar Maare – Abdul Ahad Nazim
  • Adinu
  • Der Leiermann
  • Media Vita

Unwanted Reviews – 2

Another day at work, I decided to randomly click on whatever music related link that appeared on my YouTube page and decided to review that music. This time around I will also have a verdict as to whether I would want to hear it again or not. I kept on choosing mildly interesting titles from the suggested list and here is what we have:

The video looks great and the music is great for when you’re walking because of the beats. I can’t imagine how many people it must have taken to bring this edit into place and all singing the same song again and again. My verdict is YES I would like to hear it again. He sings it in such a high pitch and his voice is so powerful, its amazing.

OMG how cute is this! And I didn’t expect her voice to be like that, reminds me of Passenger, a teenage version though. This gives me just another reason to love Youtube and its algorithm which I do have my complaints with often. A BIG YES for this one, I will actually add it to my playlist for sure! Do not miss the well written lyrics:

Wishing I could see the machinations
Understand the toil of expectations in your mind
Hold me like you never lost your patience
Tell me that you love me more than hate me all the time
And you’re still mine

I had to try another one, after loving the last one and yes this band is here to stay! YAY! I found a new favourite. πŸ™‚

I used to listen to Rudimental back in College and maybe I was looking for the same kind of magic but the song didn’t give me the same feels and I would rather NOT listen to it again. The video is worth watching once though, its all kinds of travel goals! πŸ˜€

Idk how to describe this one. I went in expecting a better song considering the video and the beautiful beautiful colors but alas! Very average song. NOT adding it to my list. The video again is very refreshing. A good reference to store for when you want to deck up something with a hundred colors. πŸ˜›

 

Why do writers write?

Writers write to keep memories from dying.

Writers write because it’s their high.

They write because it’s easier than talking.

They write because they want someone to read them like they read others.

Writers write because sometimes punctuation is really important.

Writers write to convert words into a painting in your mind.

They write to take you everywhere they have been.

They write so that you can hear every echo in the story they wrote.

Writers write so that their words can pierce your heart.

But they also write to mend broken ones.

Monsoon Playlist

A roundup of the monsoon beauties before I these songs disappear into the vortex of my brain.

I love all the shades of a relationship they managed to capture in this one song with the one common motif of travelling in the underground. I am a fan of public transport and I have so many stories related to it. It is a modern cultural experience in itself. To see it being used like this was nothing short of magic to me. πŸ™‚

I have loved Angus and Julia Stone since ‘Big Jet Plane’. Their dreamy music is always so soothing and this video is Vacation goals AF! πŸ˜‰

I stumbled upon Roo Panes accidentally and the only question I have is why didn’t I not know him earlier? It’s like I have found Damien Rice from the parallel universe!

This one is just to add the much needed color and peppiness to the sobriety that might have been induced by all the indie songs above. XD

“I’d rather dance than talk with you”. Enough said. πŸ™‚

 

A few good things – Part 1

 

Desperate times need desperate measures. Here is an attempt to add some good vibes in my day by counting my blessings. πŸ˜›

  • A beautiful yellow colored butterfly that flew by my windshield while I was listening to Ek Chaand.

  • A man bumped into a woman. They apologized and moved on. The woman blushed.
  • A child ran excitedly after the auto in which his friend was sitting. The friend had his hand stretched out. He got in. They drove away laughing.
  • This video I found on Reddit that gave me goosebumps!