The tragedy of not knowing a word’s meaning

Words and dictionaries. It is like worlds and dictionaries.


The Story of Snafu

The most imminent characteristic of technologically disabled people? Refusal to start using T9 prediction. As a Guardian of Grammar, typing text messages without the handy prediction was wrist-phagous for Koopy. But what does she hear? There was this new thing that could help you type texts faster, and your wrists get to live too!
Koopy was wary of switching over to the other side. After all, she did not know how this new power worked. But a comrade called Sherie (Cherry yo) assured her it was safe. With trembling fingers she dared to activate this power on her cellphone, but it would not permit her to type anything when she first tried.
‘Could be it that it refuses to take to me nicely? Was there some ritual of passage I ignorantly stepped on?’
 Koopy tried typing a word and presses the same key twice. The power asked her with a question mark, what she wanted the holy screen to reflect.
Helpless Koopy, she did not know the language inn which this power spoke, till random button pressing led her to snafu.
Now to Koopy, it sounded like a funky pink elephant with a purple belly and a green snout. But guess what the dictionary told her.
I am a hungry reader. That by no means says anything about the number of books I finish every week, but I devour titles. In another ‘verse where my bibliophagous shoulders would be be free of the weight of copying lab assignments and missing the first lecture every morning, it is safe to conclude that I would have entered a trance-like state no different than your average baba with dreadlocks on mountaintops and buried alive underground.
When I enter the precincts of an author’s creation, it feels a crime to step right back and obey a pearl of wisdom (such a cliche, I know right?) from my primary school English teacher, the jolliest I know till today: always keep a dictionary with you, learn new words, use them in a sentence.
So I do the second thing I do best: guess meanings. Context and content are pretty much the primers I need to figure them out. Except when someone miraculously happens to ask that same word’s meaning, I can feeeel the word in my brains, I could even construct a sentence to drive things home but I fail at articulation.
How often do you refer to a dictionary?
I have a desktop program for a dictionary that I have pinned to my start menu. But things weren’t always so; sigh, my Oxford box set is divided between home and dormitory, eating dust while I type fancy letters into my dictionary program. I wonder if it misses me leafing through its leaves and poring over alien words I bumped into?
That is one aspect of physical dictionaries that programs will never be able to match: the exploratory. I could be looking for what snafu means but as my index finger ripples through its infinite cells, a new word is bound to catch my eye. Since mine was a dictionary and thesaurus combined, it led to me spending a good hour just reading the meaning of words and their place in sentences.
I think I’ll go back to the older days; I miss my Oxford dictionary too much. Of all the conversations we’ve had, all the words it has taught me since I was a child, accompanying me to school everyday after it did the same with my brother when he was in school. It bore ink stains: scars from all wars with ignorance and clumsiness it has endured over years. Yes, it is true that my copy of the dictionary is no longer the same, yet in spirit my Oxford dictionary stands strong by my side, as strong as its spine.
Like I gushed on the exceedingly serene Facebook page for Le Blog, Catch 22 was a grand work of art with its disarming simplicity and voice, often seemingly insane, it fixes pieces and plucks some out and the end made me want to read it
all over again.
In the light of my bibliophagous lexiophilic (…another new word) pursuits, I will write of all the words I never knew before I read Heller, and how it is books like these that make you thankful for the joy of being able to feel alive, simply by the act of reading printed paper.
Have you ever had this sort of feeling after reading one book? That there are all these words you never knew existed! Koopy can hear you alright.

You talk but I no hear. You boring.

The Technology, Education and Design is long gone from TED. Wait, maybe not design, but the other have disappeared in a fog of fancy sounding talks with grandiose verbiage and eclectic graphic elements and absolute fluff.


Suddenly, now that everyone realizes that nothing is impossible, it seems inventing ideas and theories and boring people and addressing an audience who paid a pittance (not) to bask in the glory of the elusive epiphany that will capsize their lives the right side up; TED has lost its anchoring.
It started out on principles of learning, sharing and innovating. As more talks and conferences are being organized independently throughout the world, the brand and what it was meant to stand for is being taken for a ride.
By phony people with glossy speaker skills. Another striking feature that makes me squirm is how vulnerable each of these individuals project themselves to be, following every do by the book.
Most of them are a waste of time and even if titles seduce me into streaming them on Youtube, I regret making a fool of myself again and swear on someone’s Richard I won’t, again.
I am on the lookout for good speakers anyway. They do not have to be TED people, but the platform and its visibility is undeniable, not to mention increasingly pretentious.
Good speeches were supposed to convey groundbreaking or changing or revolutionary or different ideas, efforts, concepts or progress to  the masses who do not have much channels of access to such information. The Internet proves to be too vast sometimes.
But TED decides to be elitist and makes you pay for it too. [TED tries to answer the question intelligently: Is TED elitist?]
No one argues the availability of these recorded videos or their transcripts or the speakers’ profile or someone’s chances of organizing an independent event. Are the speakers any good? Will they be a worthy addition to the event? What could the audience possibly learn- take back home?
Or wait, will they feel cheated?
Man, I feel cheated almost every other day I watch a TED video.
You’ve probably heard of Susan Cain before. Haven’t? She gave the much popular talk on introverts and how they create meaningful impact in the world in their own ways.
The first time I watched her speak, I was taken aback by how much I identified with her feelings as a child. The impulse to pick a book over a summer camp included.
She is the reason why I and a lot of people figured out that being shy isn’t the same as being an introvert. Going by a universal definition of the word, an introvert is someone who recharges his/her batteries in some form or element of solitude rather than the commonly prescribed group-activity—> relaxation/leisure format.
I am grateful to her for having helped me accept myself; sometimes, I do not see the point in a lot of things one is expected to do and it is okay. There are no helicopter buzzing over my dorm, waiting to take me out because I peel away from the definition of an average person easily.
She went further, sharing how preparing for the talk itself had been a challenge she had decided to embrace. Her spirit caused me to literally get up and move and decide to work on my social skills because The Big Bang Theory doesn’t seem to be looking for any more people to hire.
[I noticed that each time I did not allow myself to think and ‘rushed’ into speaking instead, I fared much better at it. I would initially think myself into believing I;m no good. Ever happened with you?]
So now, I was turning into a braver self who decided to become, for purpose of clarity, a better speaker + listener. Unless you know what the other person is talking about, you can trust yourself to make little sense when you yap.susancain
Over time, I would revisit Cain’s speech for shots of motivation when doubt, lethargy or fear assailed my balloon. Although Susan’s story and her words were liberating, were reassuring at first, they now look to be no better than the massive stereotyping drive on the other side of the river: extroverts.
It is akin to being confined to a box and then being told of the world outside. Labels aren’t very effective if you’re looking to improve, really.
I began to identify myself as an introvert.
Maybe a business card with ‘Introvert’ embossed in pastel would look good.
I was proud of being a person who ‘ recharges his/her batteries in some form or element of solitude rather than the commonly prescribed group-activity—> relaxation/leisure format’.
And then it dawned on me, how stupid I sounded.
Instead of working on things I’m not so stellar at, I decide to embrace a label that encourages me to accept who I am (which is not bad) but also lulls me into comfortable complacency – which is not good.
So when it comes to the introvert vs extrovert debate,
1. I figured I’m bang in the middle of the road
2. I don’t care what I’m called anymore. (#1? Teeheehee.)
Wouldn’t you just rather start working on things than sit by the lake and ponder over your extrovert qualities?
Nevertheless, I came across this in-your-face woman who is superhuman, if you go by her resume. She is witty, she is candid
and loves to hit below the belt if that is what would take for you to pay attention.
She makes sense and talks about something I don’t regret having listened to. She speaks of getting out of the self imposed paralysis we gift ourselves in any situation where we deviate from routine.
In addition, I came across an adorable video on how photography has grown on us and what methods and science it was treated under before Instagram took over.
And of course, there’s Caroline Casey. I haven’t seen all those videos. What TED does isn;t futile either. Let’s hope they recollect why they initiated the movement in the first place.
Do you have any favorite speakers?

‘Ab Nukkad Kispe Ho?’

There is no dearth of social issues to harp on. Blog posts are probably passé; street plays are the *in* thing. Every college has a dramatics society which eventually lays claim to the nukkad and the common man. My university is no different.


Dutifully links to the university website’s page for the drama festival. This, here, is my senior.

As preparation for a national drama festival here at KIIT is inching towards crescendo, my theatre group’s script for the nukkad natak, or street play, went through gashes of blue ink and black as my seniors leave switched on the midnight bulb and play god to a better script with greater clarity and a harder hitting message.

It is interesting how it began as the story of a parrot and his lady, and then doubled its pace, only to ask the audience: Ab kispe nukkad ho?

It is rather easy to sit with one flaw in our societal fabric in mind and churn emotional and linguistically gobsmacking dialogues. It is easy to win the judges’ points, because by now you probably know what they look for in a good performance. As you walk towards the clearing in middle of the public to perform, as is wont in street play performances, you take a deep breath. You slip your mask on, go all out and roar your lines out in the open air, as if challenging the very evils you slay in your play. An enchanted, enraptured audience and an enchanted judge later (if you’ve been that good), you settle down with a beaming face.

You might just start gearing for yet another drama fest.


Street plays started out as means to awaken them who slumber in the face of injustice, fear, callousness. They are tools to set in motion a clear, ringing call to arising, a ringing call to a stand and a ringing call to think and a ringing call for action.

But for how long? It is both true and sad that the penultimate nail in the coffin proved to be a happenstance in a bus at night; a young girl and her friend were fiendishly abused and left half naked to die. Police authorities squabbled over jurisdiction on the case, while passing men and women maintained a calculated callousness towards the two undead victims of our hypocrisy.

And just like that, the nation was enraged before one party could point fingers at another. Debate and candle light marches and political agenda followed (very late). This was a minefield of concerns that the Pandora’s Box cuddled:

‘The government doesn’t care…’

 ‘our women aren’t safe, our men aren’t safe!’

 ‘Our women cannot dress or move about freely…’

‘the government is full of male chauvinist pigs.’

‘rapists should be hanged!’

‘Where are the fast track courts? They have been upto no good.’

‘The government simply doesn’t care’.

The political machinery is responsible for matters in India today to some extent. We, the people are responsible for the vermin we live in today. What felt more outrageous: that, that the minor rapist got away, or that the Nirbhaya episode was followed by at least five more documented cases of rape?

We, the people frantically look for solutions and send our women into shelter, under cover. In a democracy, like many have pointed out for long, a matter of an individual’s life or death cannot be based on emotion alone. The legal system demands reliable proof of a crime. There are punishments for crimes of every severity; I too, like many, feel that even a life sentence falls way short of justice, but will making these rapists suffer till death for their condemnable actions make the country safer?

Once these four men die, will all rapes disappear?

Rapes are an act of impulse. A dirty, lecherous, savage, unforgivable impulse that many people have given into and ruined people, literally. Death to a few is a superficial manner of dealing with the lives of the many women in our lives and others’, in the land that once worshipped her as divinity.

Unless we, the people decide to change how we think, our mothers and sisters and wives and girlfriends and neighbours and maids and daughters will have a good chance of getting raped all the while you cocoon yourself into thinking that such a thing could not happen to you.

Daughters are told to cover up and dress *decently*. They are expected to come back home as early as possible. They are asked to ignore lewd passes made at them while they walk back home wearing a skirt. Girlfriends and wives are asked to ‘chill’ and not pay attention to a lowly autowallah. It is a waste of time. Why don’t our parents instruct their sons to respect the women in their lives in the first place? Why don’t they instil in them a sense of responsibility towards both the sexes? Why don’t parents teach their children to stand up for what they think is right?

I am a daughter and I am often appalled by the blinding contrast in attitudes in a place like Delhi wherenn

the Slut Walk was supposed to be a message, nay declaration of women’s right to wear what they want, a declaration that rightfully pushed the blame onto the perpetrator, and the number of girls in Delhi I know whose parents turn down their noses at spaghetti tops and shorts and such.

Unless we accept our folly and our role in the problems we face as a nation, nothing shall change. Not the rapes or murders or burglaries. Nothing, unless we claim our share of belongingness to this place we stay in. Towards our own people.

I will be enacting that street play with friends at the end of this month. Right now, I am writing this post to shout out to anyone reading my blog that I am not one of them. Those-Who-Choose-Silence-over-Action people. A lot of people will watch the nukkad natak, some will read this post. Will it make a difference?

I know it will.

A German pastor around the Second World War, Martin Niemoller put it succinctly in words:

When Hitler attacked the Jews, I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. When he attacked the Catholics, I was not a catholic. Then they came for the communists, I did not speak out as I was not a communist. When they came for me, there was nobody left to speak for me.

PS- ‘Ab nukkad kispe ho?’  in Hindi roughly translates into ‘What do we enact in a street play now?’

Also read: I changed my Facebook DP because-