Friday, August 31, 2007

Test (on) Tube, baby...

Right, so I decided to venture my blog into the maze of cryptic crosswords. Ill confess, I've been a fan of this geeky business since I was a kid. All courtesy my Dad, who spent his mornings multi-tasking between ignoring my mother's fervent pleas to start exercising his body and joyously exercising his mind. Sometimes, the crosswords were beyond his reach, so he started employing my help in finding words or just in finishing off the left-overs. Google hadn't woken up, so we used big fat Oxford dictionaries. It ashames me to admit that I've spent hours combing through them, looking up all words that were 5 letters long, with the 2nd and 4th letters being R and Y! (One such word is CRAZY)

So it wasn't long before I had caught the craze, and soon me and my Dad were fighting over first right to solve the crossword. That gave my mother some more headache: soon she was multi-tasking too, between yelling at my Dad to exercise, and exhorting me to go out and play. Every extra moment of sleep was critical: if you weren't awake to jump on the scared paperboy when he came into deliver the paper, you had lost the match there itself- 50% of the crossword would be solved by the time you could put a hand to it. Soon it became very competitive, and after a few cases of domestic violence over the newspaper, it was amicably agreed to buy 2 newspapers. The scared, bewildered paperboy just couldn't fathom what was the matter with this nutty news-hungry family who loved the paper so much that they weren't satisfied with one- he soon changed his delivery area, citing personal problems.

So, back to this one. I've tried to make this one fairly easy, so as to not scare away people who havent got much practice in cryptics. Cryptics are very enjoyable because on first look, they look so tough and yet when one finds the answer, it always seems that it was right there staring at you. Solving these requires a fair bit of lateral thinking: you have to force your mind to abandon its usual flow of logic, nay, interrupt it at certain points and then reconstruct it all together at the end. That's what makes them so much fun. I don't understand what all the fuss about Sudoku is- working numbers into a grid is just so boring! Cryptic crosswords combine language skills with logic and lateral thinking all into one neat little 15X15 grid that can massage your brain better than anything else.

And if you are one of those who want to get started on cryptics, but dont know what to google, there's something for you too! I like some webpages that give a fairly easygoing and comprehensive introduction: try this and that. You might want to read these before you try the one above.

Finally, some notes before you start solving: This is a themed cryptic, and the theme is London Underground (mostly zone 1) stations. Which explains the total lack of symmetry- I've not added any words outside the theme to make it look better. If you are not acquainted with London, heres your cheat sheet. Clues are a mix of cryptic and simple ones, mostly the former. In some cases where the words are multiple (like Willesden Green), clues may refer to the entire word formation (e.g Will+esd+eng+re+en). Some clues refer to the theme, or hint towards it (e.g "area in london...", "london's financial center...") whereas some don't.

So get cracking! I already subjected my manager to the ordeal yesterday, he being the perennial test market for all my eccentric ideas and thoughts. The trouble one has to take for one's mentee :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Confessions of a Judgemental Mind

Sudha ran an interesting article the other day, writing about the 10 things that she judged people by. She's tagged me to do the same, and I thought, I consciously stay away from negative emotions on my blog because I'm such a cynic at heart. So do I really want to do this? But then I said, what the heck, lets give it a go!, but I know, this is going to be ugly. So here are my 6:

They live life within their comfortable closed loop of thinking. They mock those who are brave enough to experiment, and react bucolically when someone confronts them on the shut windows of their dust-gathering brains. They are the parochials, the narrow-minded ones. I find quite a few Indians here, and also in India who can be described such: they are parochials on issues such as integration with non-Indians, respecting people for qualities other than wealth, and attitude towards women. I judge them instantly and I instantly despise them.

Their minds, in an effort to make sense of the complications around them, simplify by classification. They occasionally get lost in the maze of things, and to rationalize, they run to the help of adjectives. They are the stereotypers, the judgers. They judge you from day 1, moment 1. They judge you oh-so-unfairly even before you open your mouth: they have already labelled you based on your appearance. "You are wearing outdated fashions, you are so uncool, you would be so boring to speak to!" "You are Muslim, oooh you must be a fanatic" "You are so hyper, its because you are insecure about yourself!"- their minds are at it already. I pity them for their unevolved thinking, and really cant stand it when they proceed to share with me their half-baked judgements of me. So ironic, but I judge judgers.

They love to focus on the grim realities of life, only that they do it to an unreal extent. They brood over the wrongs, the lows, the sorrows. The fact that they call themselves "practicalists" is probably the only euphimistic thing they can ever do: they are the pessimists, the half-empty ones. Most of them refuse to play the odds: they are content with making no effort and then complaining about it for weeks after. "What are we doing yar, we dont have a girlfriend" "Some people are earning so much, shit we have no money as compared to them." They look at life's bell curve with one conveniently blind eye, focussing only on the part thats better off than them. They defy the purpose of life, happiness.

They sweat over the small stuff all day, and they do it so well that they are bloody good at it. In the process however, they lose touch with the broader meaning of their lives. They fret and fume about love affairs, about doing things as per schedule, about pleasing their bosses, while they lose no sleep over where their life is heading. I call them the microscopes, the 9-to-5s. (Ariel says I was one of them a few years back!)

They are the spoilt kids of yesteryears, born with a silver spoon up their arses. They strutted about in college in their own elite cabals, laughing at the rest of the world and their lack of social tact. Somewhere down the line, they forgot to do anything useful, while the gawks worked away. Let me introduce to you the rich-dad-poor-kids, the arro-cants. You find them in different kinds- punks in RAIT ("ultra-cool" engg. college in Bbay) or the ICSE kids. There's a great sense of achievement to meet them now, remember at being laughed at, and to have the last laugh.

They spend all day sitting in front of the TV, fascinated by the kitsch that cable television throws at us. Content to vegetate with their own lives, they excite themselves vicariously with the ongoings of celebrity lives- Abhishek Bacchan's new hairdo or Preity Zinta's broken foot, they know about them all. The PR-driven hypocrisy of these "icons" of our society doesn't ever faze their enthusiasm- they are our country's starry-eyed's, the couch potatoes. We dont have a shortage of role models to look upto, but whose to look beyond Bollywood? I think they (and there are many of them) are the bane of modern India.

And, finally not to forget those, for whom there is no black or white, but just various shades of greys. No thought excites them, and no action disgusts them. Existence for them is a clinical and emotion-less duty that they fulfil- they are the impassionates, the fence-sitters. I get frustated by their lack of passion for anything, by their inability to stand up for any cause or attitude.

And oh, by the way, I also judge diplomats, cunning foxes, backbitchers, sweet-talkers, boasters....:)
(And I tag Ariel to air her judgements!)