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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, Iโ€™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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 peopleย  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.

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 –ย  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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜›

 

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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. ๐Ÿ˜›

  • 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!

Unwanted Reviews

So this one 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. I kept on choosing mildly interested titles from the suggested list and here is what we have:

H.E.R. – Lights On

The music reminds me a lot of Honne (I wrote a post about them earlier), but the touch of their vocals is missing. I shouldn’t be comparing and this is good in itself to listen on a breezy evening when you are all alone. This is what you would add in your “Chill” playlist for easy listening.

SZA – Broken Clocks

The music is very similar to the last one but slightly more upbeat and reminds me of Alessia Cara’s Stay. The lyrics though are great! Another good one for the “Chill” Playlist, but I doubt I would add it to mine. Recently, it feels like all of these songs sound almost the same.

Jain – Makeba

So, I cheated a little bit here. All the suggested music was by SZA so I chose this one instead. I have been obsessed with this one ever since a colleague played this during one of the office parties. The music and the lyrics are brilliant and the music as well. Jain is only 21 and has been all around the world. She spent quiet a bit of her life in Africa and her music has been influenced by African Music clearly. This song specially, has been written for ‘Makeba’ who was a UN goodwill ambassador, an actor and a singer, also known as Mama Africa. Do watch the video and experience the brilliance of editing!

Madcon – Don’t Worry ft. Ray Dalton

What do I even say? Yes it’s happy, yes it’s uplifting but what is this? Also, it’s been published by Warner Music Germany. What’s better than the song is the lobster at 2:34. xD

Robin Schulz – Sugar

OMG I thought that was Justin Beiber for a moment. I think this is a happier video than the last one! Just look at that cop go! It is embarrassing to say it but I do that sometimes when I am alone – dancing like a crazy person that is. ๐Ÿ˜€

 

 

40 Days of Dating

For everyone who has the slightest of interest in social experiments and relationship psychology – 40 Days of Dating will keep you in its spell from Day 1 to Day 40. Here is what their “About” reads:

What do you do when youโ€™re tired of the prospect of dating? Two good friends with opposite relationship problems found themselves single at the same time. As an experiment, they dated for 40 days.

Since both of them were designers, the website is a colourful journey of the 40 days, interspersed with beautiful typography of a moment or a scenario that stood out from that particular day. They answer the exact same questions about each other every day and it makes for an interesting read and some amazing material to define the human psychology. There are moments when you will relate with their situation, the trivial topics they sometimes fight over and the misunderstandings.

Here is the link to the website which you must scroll through even if you cannot read through it:

http://fortydaysofdating.com/

TBH, I think people who have been dating for quiet some while should answer these questions as well. It would probably give them a wholly new perspective on life and of course, on their relationship as well.

 

Summer Nights

There is this thing about summer nights, a nostalgia that doesn’t fade, be it months or years or even decades.

I remember the nights I spent at my Nani’s place, lying in the cot on the night under a starry sky, the rings of the mortein coil rising to the sky while the pomeranian who slept below my cot snored lightly.

I remember the nights at my Dadi’s house, when there wasn’t even a cot to lie on, just a hard plastic mat and sometimes it used to get so cold in May that we used to bring out the blankets from the trunk on the terrace.

It was an altogether different feeling, waking up to sunshine on your face and once in a while, to rains, when you had to wake up and rush inside, taking your bedding and covers along.

I remember the nights at my house in Lucknow. It didn’t happen often but when it did, I was surprisingly glad. No electricity meant darkness, which meant freedom, to go to the terrace, in the middle of the night or outside, to exchange some notes with people you couldn’t meet otherwise.

Summer,

A love hate relationship with you has given me memories which are equally bittersweet. There were power cuts all the time, but anything beyond the mundane life was welcome. It seemed like life got even more monotonous during your time. It was the same day lived, over and over again, specially during the vacations which we craved ย for but within 10 days, got bored of.

Now, there is watermelon in the evening, followed by finally switching off the A.C., when Maa came rushing in to tell us to get some fresh air. We reluctantly go to the rooftop and listen to some music until it is dark and the mosquitoes attack. And then we go back to our artificially created atmosphere.

I do miss you, it is true. I miss the feel of heat on my skin when I came back from school, craving a chilled glass of sherbet. I miss sitting on the staircase playing cards with my cousins because we couldn’t watch TV. Most of all, I miss the darkness of the night, where everyone gathered around together, because they had no screens to look at, no instruments to distract them, and we could just be there, in the moment, waiting for the light to come back and at the same time wishing that it does not.

I miss you, Summer.