Puzzles

“One day the good journal announced a special offer of eight thousand rupees. It excited Rama Rao’s vision of a future tenfold. He studied the puzzle. There were only four doubtful corners in it, and he might have to send in at least four entries. A larger outlay was indicated. ‘You must give me five rupees this time,’ he said to his wife, at which that good lady became speechless. He had become rather insensitive to such things these days, but even he could help feeling the atrocious nature of his demand. Five rupees were nearly a week;s food for the family. He felt disturbed for a moment; but he had only to turn his attention to speculate whether HOPE or DOPE or ROPE made most sense (for “Some People Prefer This to Despair”), and his mind was at once at rest.”

-R.K. Narayan, “Out of Business”

Notes: I feel a very strong sense of irony in this passage. Rama Rao’s desperate hope that he will win a large prize from these puzzles seems especially absurd when juxtaposed against the alternatives of dope or rope (connoting substance abuse or suicide, respectively).

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