Wordplay

When people ask me what I want to do for a living, I have always told them that I want to be a filmmaker. While this is true, it is merely a subset of what I wish to achieve, and that is to create stories. People create stories in different ways through different mediums, and what’s common amongst all these mediums – books, movies, short stories, plays, radio shows – is writing. Which is why I want to be a writer. And then a filmmaker. 

I’ve only recently been toying around with the idea that writing could be my fulltime job. Previously it was only an affectation, a hobby, something to dabble in. But now it feels more concrete and definite and within my reach. I’m lucky to have been surrounded by the English language in the form of my grandfather and my father as sources of motivation to decipher this world with words, but I haven’t really taken advantage of the resources that allow for the learning and implementation of the plethora of words that lies beyond colloquialisms and amateur writing. So what I’ve been trying to do is learn more words and catalog them, along with their definitions and an example sentence. 

Is that enough? I don’t think so. Writers don’t keep a log of the words they encounter while they write. They use the words that come into their head at that very moment and then play around with them by substituting different words that achieve the same purpose and convey the same meaning. Therefore, the larger a writer’s word pool is, the finer and more perspicuous his writing becomes (I love those words perspicuity and perspicacity. A few days after I learnt those words, they popped up in Cloud Atlas and I felt I was the only one in the theatre who understood what it really meant.). I want to try something out on this blog where I employ the ten words I learn and weave a story around them so that they become etched in my mind and serve to teach you something new. Let’s get started. 

The cenobite wordlessly looked past the police officer screaming in his face. The room was filled with stress and tension fueled by the officer, but the monk’s face was placid, reticent and calm, calm, calm. This silent treatment infuriated the officer even more, but none of the words that were aimed as bullets at the monk were even recognized. It was like shouting at a wall, only a wall that did not seem to show the signs of the officer’s anger. This cenobite was highly regarded by his peers in the monastery fifteen kilometres from this police station, now cordoned off as a crime scene, much to the chagrin of the hagiarchy. The monk was no detective, nor was he interested in finding out what had happened to the girl whose mouth now lolled in a metal container in the basement of the station. His only concern for the time being was the reopening of the monastery, and it was this concern that he directed towards the officer.

“When will the monastery be free from your custody?”

This question caught the officer off guard as he was busy spewing through a rant laced with the choicest of threats and sharpest of expletives, specially accumulated over the years from the various lowlifes and criminals that he had encountered as a patrol officer when he had started out on the force. He stopped to catch his breath, wiped his brow with his handkerchief and bore his eyes upon the disinterested monk.

“When we get to the bottom of what happened there!”

“And when will that be, Officer?”

“You mocking me, old coot?”

“Cut the cockamamie, Officer. We both know that I am absolved of any suspicion with regards to what took place last night at the monastery.”

“What’s a cock and baby?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Did you just tell me to cut a cock and baby? You’re on the edge of my temper, you filipendulous old man.”

The mondegreen had confused the officer even more. The monk lamented over the state of the force in his head, a state of corruption and bemusement all the way down.

“Look sir, I have no proclivity to be a thorn in your side. On the contrary, I wish to get this investigation over with as soon as possible in order to proceed with the celebration of Siddhartha’s birth anniversary that is scheduled for overmorrow.”

The officer half sat on the table, his left leg swinging off the side, eyeing the monk to see if it was an earnest request. Satisfied, he got up again.

“You know for an isolated geriatric monk such as yourself, you have quite the silky smooth tongue.”

“So the ladies tell me, Officer.”

The officer seems to grimace at the monk. And then he laughs raucously.

“And a sense of humor too!”

And then the officer walked out of the interrogation room. This conversation was over for now.

The source of the officer’s uncontrolled rage at the monk was fueled by his urgent need to get out of the station and head to the hospital. His wife had rushed into labor a few hours ago and he was unable to be by her side. What infuriated the officer even more was that he and his wife had failed to settle on a name for their firstborn. They fancied themselves as onomastics enthusiasts, but they were unable to agree on a unique name for their son. They went to the Greeks and Romans, famous leaders and philosophers, philanthropists and scientists, even athletes. They had come close several times, especially with Orson and Joaquin, but then they hadn’t made the final decision. His wife pulled out of the process, it stressed her so. She eventually morphed into a Xanthippe, constantly berating him for being unable to decide what to call their baby boy, and he was kicking her stomach in protest at being nameless. The officer had more overtime shifts the final month than any other policeman in the state. But the extra money didn’t erase the harridan that his wife had become. He hoped that today would be the day that the harridan died and that his wife would come back from her brief exile from his life.

The officer stormed into the Inspector’s office, ready to launch a barrage of sentimental excuses to leave the office. The assiduous Inspector held up his hand before he could finish.

“Dalai, I know why you’re here. Your wife is in the hospital and your child seems to have been born. Get back to work.”

“What?!”

“Oh, congratulations Dalai, it seems to be a boy. They had to check twice to see whether it was a penis or a small hole. Get back to work.”

“But sir…”

“I thought you loved overtime no matter what. We’re understaffed today and we’ve got fifteen cases on the backlog. I don’t want the top brass to accuse me of favoritism if I dismiss you, so let’s arrive at a compromise. You get the testimony from that old curmudgeon in the Interrogation Room, and you can go.”

“Sir, I already did. He had nothing to do with it.”

“But he’s in charge of the monastery! Did you…did you even beat his face up?”
“No sir.”
“Cut a finger?”
“No sir.”
“Hold him hanging over the terrace?”
“No sir!”
“And you claim to have gotten his testimony. You indolent fool, juice him up with sodium pentothal and get the truth, will you? Why do you think our country condones human rights? To get shit done!”
Assiduous was the Inspector’s middle name, down to getting the right testimony.

The monk felt the paresthesia as the needle made its way to his vein and injected the truth serum into his system. His body went lymphatic at first, which upset the officer, who subsequently took out his disappointment on the nurse, who subsequently put him in his place when the monk came to almost immediately. His limpid eyes were rolling like roulette balls that wouldn’t stop spinning. His head hung loose, like one of those bobblehead toys the officer had passed by in the kiddy stores, searching for teddy bears to take with him to the hospital, two months before the delivery. His body had the vigor of a dead old lady, and embodied the amorphous nature of synthetic liquids. Dactylographic methods could not identify who this man was, and so the officer took the opportunity to find out.

“What is your name?”
“Edgar Allan Poe.”

The officer turned to the nurse, who shrugged. She was as confused as he was.

“What is your real name?”
“Edgalpoe, EA Poe, Poe Nalla Radge!”
“What were you doing last night?”
“Sleeping with your mother!”

The officer threw a punch to the monk’s face and the monk’s head spun sharply with this contact and rolled back to its original place like a punching bag. The officer looked at his watch and saw that the day was almost at its end and he couldn’t stay any longer in this special kind of Hell. He stormed out, and the nurse went back to watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. The monk lay in his seat waiting for some more questions so that he could tell his version of the truth. The next morning the monk would realize that he had abased himself and would punish himself by doing extra Vedantic meditation while being submerged in the ice cold river at the foot of the monastery.

The officer’s wife lay staring at the hospital ceiling above her. The ceiling itself wasn’t remarkable. It was a structure of rhombuses dotted with multicolored dots and divided by the white fluorescent lights that made her eyes burn if she looked into them for too long. Her body was finally resting after the strain of producing new life into the Universe. She was cursing the officer in her head, that scoundrel who didn’t have the fortitude to decide upon a masculine name for his son. Names like Josiah and Armenio had found their way into their name lexicon and the officer had expressed eager interest for them. Personally, the wife would have called her son Jack, but the officer wanted everyone to know how learned he was through what he called his son. Someone should have named the officer Pompous Ass, but they hadn’t. And suddenly the officer burst into the room, his eyes searching for his baby boy. She smiled out of relief, tears coming to her eyes that their boy was finally here. The officer cradled his wife’s head in his arms, whispering apologies for his late arrival, whispering assurances that life would now be brighter and that they were responsible for someone other than themselves now. Promises were made that would broken in a few months, but the moment retained its purity in their hearts for eternity, but they would never be able to focus on this memory until their deathbeds.

And then the officer whispered something into his wife’s ear.
“I have a name for our son.”
“What?”
“Edgar.”

She slapped his face. The Xanthippe seemed like she was here to stay.

The twelve words I learnt:

  1. dactylography
  2. hagiarchy
  3. mondegreen
  4. onomastics
  5. lymphatic
  6. xanthippe
  7. filipendulous
  8. paresthesia
  9. overmorrow
  10. cenobite
  11. assiduous
  12. proclivity

If you don’t know what they mean, check them out, note them down, write a sentence or two, and use the story to remember the context in which it was used. I hope this was helpful. 

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