At a loss for words

It is very difficult for me to decide where to start this. I am not sure how it happened in the first place, and I donít know if it could have been avoided, but since it happened, my life hasnít been the same. It is not every day that you find out of the half million words in the English dictionary, some are capable of killing you.

Well, letís stop talking in riddles and start at the very beginning, to use the words of some well known person whom I donít recall at the moment. It was all because of a computer. The diabolic machine could have killed me, and not by any hi-tech trick, but just by shocking me.

I keep mixing up the story over and over again. Let me get down to the raw, basic facts.

My passion for the game of Scrabble is probably well known, at least by the people who know me. And given the sort of fame I enjoy, there must be very few people who do not fall into this category.

For long I have played against human opponents, and have had what I must modestly call an excellent success rate. So it is hardly surprising that I was always on the lookout for opponents who could stretch me a little. Not that I thought such people existed. But when I heard that there existed a program called Maven that plays Scrabble "quite well", I was obviously curious.

Once again people who know me know that I have an inborn disdain for computers in general, and I particularly look down upon those that attempt to perform jobs that are primarily designed for demonstrating the superiority of the human brain. So although I procured a copy of Maven and was looking forward to playing against it, I did not exactly hold it in very high esteem, at least at that point of time. I had been warned though, that this program had a reputation, but I was not one to be cowed down by hearsay. And, I told myself, what could a lowly machine do to someone with a vocabulary like mine.

And then the game began. At this stage I must digress once again. In my Scrabble career I have seen a lot of players, and except for one Mr. Manjunath, no one measures up to my speed of playing. I have observed that responding very quickly to a word played by an opponent has the effect of unnerving him. This way of gaining a psychological advantage over my opponents has helped me to some extent. My brilliance has done the rest.

Now back to the game. As I was about to make my first move, I noticed that Maven was maintaining a timer. This particularly irked me, as I never appreciate people keeping a time tag on what I do. So this thing had its homework, and was trying to unnerve me.

Barely had I placed my first word and started tallying the score, when Maven played its word and scored it too. I was momentarily taken aback. So this lowly machine had been checking out on me. I decided to be a bit wary. But not to worry I told myself, this machine can never match my genius. The game continued.

The next thing I noticed after some time was that Maven played American words as well. This meant that it was a SOWPOD player, as the professionals say. No problem, I told myself. At last I had found some use for the non-British words in my collection.

But the trouble soon began. It started playing words like "napoo", "foussa", and "galloot", which I never knew existed. Moreover it was not giving me a chance to challenge any of those either. This enraged me, and I too started playing words that I never knew existed. Things went well for some time, but on one occasion I played "fran", to which it objected and said that such a word did not exist in its lexicon. I never thought that the word existed either, but I was enraged at this peremptory behaviour. I said "So? I say itís good. "Maven meekly accepted this without a word. (I mean it did continue to play words, but none to indicate that it was greatly displeased.)

This meek behaviour melted me a bit and I decided not to repeat such a thing. The game went on.

Soon however it discovered another way to bother me. It started playing words like "bania", "puja" and "lungie". Now it knew that I would not certainly object to the existence of these words, but I got an uncomfortable feeling that it was not playing by the book (at least the ones I read). It was then that I noticed it was offering to help me with my game as well. Now this would be something very unbecoming of me to do. Take help from a computer? Naa, not me. But at that moment I must have been pretty shaken already by the way things had turned out. So I decided to take the help.

And that turned out to be a really bad decision. It helped me get a few bingos, like "stornello" and "grivets", but slowly and steadily I was playing into its hands. It had me in its power and it knew it.

The game was at its fag end now. But then came the coup-de-grace. It played two words that could have been the cause of my death. (Once again I borrow words from some well-known personality without remembering the personís name.)

I somehow survived. I shudder to think what would have happened to a lesser mortal. I warn you dear reader, beware of this program. It had taken away five hours of my time without me realizing it. The events described here have actually taken place and are not a figment of my imagination. And the warning is not exaggerated either.

If you think you have a strong heart, read on to find out the words that could have killed me. I do not take any responsibility for what happens hence.

The two words were "vitta" and "backra".