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.


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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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.  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. 🙂

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:

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!?

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.

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.

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.

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

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 people  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.

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.

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.


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  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.

Jim Jam

On my way to work today, I passed a supermarket and  I saw an aged man coming out with a huge bag in one hand and a Jim Jam (Biscuits with jam in between them) in the other. He could hardly manage to carry one bag and was struggling with opening the pack. He finally opened it and the smile on his face was the same as a kid who had found his favourite toy after a long day of searching. He opened it and licked the jam before eating the biscuits separately. Not only do some habits die hard, but some people always remain a kid at heart. ❤

If I Were A Cat

So recently I had the golden opportunity to visit the “Cat Cafe Studio”. It was one of the best concepts for a cafe I have ever seen. There were almost 15 cats and kittens in the room. There were set rules like – do not pick the cats up, sanitize your hands before you touch them and to not wake them up when they are sleeping. The downside being that most of these cats were asleep when we were there but once they wake up, you cannot resist petting them and just wait for them to come towards you! The feeling is actually indescribable, you will only know it when you are present there, and of course if you like cats.

I sort of had an epiphany when I was there and it was the realization that cats are actually my spirit animal. People have crazy spirit animals who are wild and unique but mine is as simple as a cat. That’s probably also what I want to be in my next life. Though the internet differs when I took the quiz for the same, my answer was:

The owl spirit animal is emblematic of a deep connection with wisdom and intuitive knowledge. When the spirit of the animal guides you, you can the true reality and see beyond illusion and deceit.

Leaving that aside, I wish I were a cat because

  • All I want to do is laze around with a book during afternoons and sleep until late in the mornings.
  • All I want is to be pampered all day and never give any of that love in return 😛
  • All I want is to be fed good food and fish and run around and out of the house at my whim
  • Most of all, I want to be the master of my own life and make my own choices without caring about the world at large. HAHAHA!

And that is what i believe cats think about inside their tiny brains.

Do not miss the adorable puns in this adorable video about how cats became our feline overlords a.k.a me in next life. 😛

Lost and Found

I haven’t written on the blog for a really long time but finding this treasure forced me to write again. I am a sucker for cheesy videos and if they are couples with great animation and even better music, my day is made! This channel has several such videos and I just cannot wait to go back home and binge watch all of them.

For the time being, watch this and relive the charm of UP (sort of).

There is something about older couples that just makes you go ‘Aww’. It’s beautiful how the little elements keep popping up and all of those tiny things merge in the end to form a beautiful story. All the while it left me wondering about what’s going to happen and the end was the best it could possibly be. ❤

To find love in objects of affection is one thing, but to make love grow through them is completely another.


Summer Playlist

Even though I don’t like beaches so much, I love the part where you sit on the sand and look at the sunset and feel the cool breeze brushing your skin. For some reason, this is that one song which reminds me of the beaches. Maybe because I discovered it on my trip to Goa or maybe it really is a beach baby kinda song.

You cannot do summer better than they do summer in this beautiful song by ‘The Bird and the Bees’. It’s their love for L.A. and I am a sucker for songs written for cities and if the city is to be as dreamy as this one, what can be better!?

From Chinese beats to Indian, the transformation just blew me away. Glass animals doing their usual thing in this one – being amazing that is.

Discovered the next one on Apple Music owing to my addiction to chill playlists. There is nothing better than cuddling up with a book and a cold beverage, sunlight filtering through the curtains with music like this playing in the background.

A little too angsty and rushed but I still love it since I have spent my afternoons binge watching this show.

Bruno Mars is the definition of easy listening combined with pep and upbeat-ness(?). His new song, for which the video is also great btw, is the new waiting-for-monsoon-but-loving-the-lazy-summers score!

This one because one Chainsmokers song is a must for the list and the concept of a waterbed was so new to me! Please don’t watch the video, it sucks. Posting the audio here!

It’s in the name and how can I possibly not include this weird and beautiful song I found on the treasure that is ‘TheSoundYouNeed’.