Discrepancies in society occur due to the names and the food we eat but these are thrust on us as embellishments, to project our physical selves as ideal packages.
My sister and I have more differences than similarities despite the concerted efforts of our parents to present us to the world as similar looking sisters. We were(are) different in mentality. Although there is a difference of 29 months between us by birth, we dare not look similar under any circumstances especially out of school because to school we had to be in uniform. C.E.M Joad puts it 'Uniformity is a danger' but my uniform means the garment to be worn at school. May be this rebellious feeling dawned in my sister’s mind first because to be out of uniform was a tremendous relief. Whenever mother shopped for fabrics to stitch clothes for us they were always similar. Later when the tailor took down measurements between us asking for the designs or patterns , you could see my sister(being elder to me) making eyes at me threateningly to emphasize that I should change my pattern, lest I copy hers. The fabric may be the same but the designs differed .
A ‘designing’ approach can lead you to newer pastures. Do not get me wrong. I wanted people to get different impressions about us so we longed to dress differently although we belonged to the same flock.
As children we had no choice about selecting names for ourselves, unlike today. a notification in the government gazette and an insertion in the local newspaper decides your name to be legal. My sister was named Lakshmi as father wished to name her after his mother. Then my turn came, father selected Reshmi (no ancestors to be proud of, except being a blood sister.) but it had to rhyme with Lakshmi . A few years later I asked father quizzically what name would suit our brother, because children / elder siblings were not consulted for selecting names, especially daughters, how chauvinistic. He was confused with vague choices because this time the gender was different so rhymes did not matter. Finally being influenced by the Bengali novelist Sharat Chandra he settled for the first half but was compelled to add Narayanan, to pay a tribute to our grandfather. So he was named Sharath Narayan, grandson of Shri Ambadi Narayana Menon. Do you know Kerala folks adopted the biological mother’s name (family name)? My father despite being the biological son of Shri A.N. Menon had to call himself Shri V.B. Menon ( Vadakoot Balakrishna Menon ) to elevate the status of his mother, a matriarchal approach. Oh Ho Ho too much of name talk connecting our biological roots.
We sisters had to go to a local Convent school for girls as father wished it. Then after schooling we had to go to the same college nearer home but I decided to opt out, to be different not defiant or adventurous. Experiences were different and I had also to eat the humble pie, like wearing the discarded clothes of my sister as I spent more money on transport and books.
All said and done, do I have to speak of similarities ? Yes one trait stood out - the waist length hair, thick and lustrous along with a flawless complexion visible till date. Now it feels good to be compared.
The (H)airy Story
If name is an asset, hair also is an asset considering biological factors, so also for us, sisters. Let me at first confide the bad(sad) aspect of the asset. We were victims to pre-mature graying so right from a young age our anxious mother ventured and vowed not to spare any effort to bring back the black lustre to the hair. Our hair, my sister’s and mine. Then began the rigours of ‘Ayurveda’ treatment that left us drained and pale en route, chasing one doctor after another.
Oils, lotions, pastes made of black sesame seeds, herbal drinks whereby we only enjoyed the intervals when we looked like normal children of humans. When we went out to play in the evenings, our friends enquired why we wore castor oil faces. Oh the ‘third degree’ meted out to us for accepting this “hair”treatment, I kept praying that the future generations should not face this torture. This treatment worked wonders in a couple of years. But nobody invited us for shampoo ads, even if they would have father would say a firm ‘No’. But one benevolent act of his is laudable, he installed a special swing in the house, to play and dry our hair after a bath. So cool.
Mother was successful partially. The overall effect was a ‘Salt &Pepper’ effect, I mean the hue, but not to forget the strong follicles that nurtured our long tresses coupled with the genes that bestowed an extra grace. You know black clouds with silver linings (not figuratively)! To be brief we looked mature because of the hair but we were immature in thoughts.
Surnames to rue
The cosmopolitan background of being bred in a metro leaves you smacking some surnames which had to be pronounced well. In Office this Parsi colleague whose first name can be ignored because her surname was ‘Wariava’ who was friendly to another Tamilian colleague . Everyday at lunch break the Tamilian was ready with a three – layered lunch box who kept yelling ‘Waria Waria Va’, means coming or what , then come.
Another surname was ‘Kale’ who was as fair as a white lily, refused to be called by his surname. Call me Kishore , he said. Those days I had to meet my printer twice a week for work on phone and in person. His surname irked me and a Mallu colleague. The man was a tall East Indian Catholic from Vasai. I wouldn’t know what was the East Indian connection. It was believed that he belonged to a community that always looked ‘rattled’ and fortunately all their ancestors converged for breeding in Vasai. They looked frail but were always in combat mode , physically or vocally. Mr Couto, an exception, was softer than the Pope and had the surname Couto. In Malayalam it meant, ‘ will you join me or shall I join you’. Bah ! We never sipped a glass of water together even once. Such was the distance and formality maintained but the surname always made me smile.
Mrs Wariava’s lunch mate was Mahalaxmi, who was sometimes late so the former kept calling her- Maha-late, Maha-bore, Maha –drama etc, She loved the term Maha.
Manu was the best of the lot , who earned a surname Manu Bas, pronounced as ‘bus’. During lunch break he scrambled for left overs from other staff members, he would lay them on his table and kept eating till all shouted, turn by turn, Manu Bas means' Enough Manu'. He would go Chomp Chomp for 30 minutes with eyes shut and his brows bearing the strain of chewing. So they were always raised or twitched, I mean his brows. Looked like an over fed wrestler with a 50 inches waist that outsized his shoulder. But “Bus” Manu had the cutest smile when he was not munching and an apt surname.
Attributes can flinch
Names couldn’t vouch to give the right attribute to the ‘named’ subject. Mother had a close friend Sita who was the epitome all virtues according to her. May be but we were too young to analyse these virtues except that she looked good and was blessed with three sons—all named after acclaimed kings /princes namely ; Siddhartha, Ashoka and Harshavardhan. They were affluent though but turned vagrants from their teens till their father sculpted and entrenched them in the coffers of accounting for he worked (slogged and sweated)for a reputed Chartered Accountants’ firm in Mumbai.
Similarly other names I knew were :
Netra (eyes) always had eye problems and also underwent surgery once. She was a Maths teacher so conjuring problems to lead them through criss-cross paths and arriving at answers taxed her eyes.
Meenakshi (eyes of a fish) she was never proud of them because they looked like marbles on a peg.
Dheeraj (patience/courage) Always ran out of these attributes at spur of the moment.
SuryaKala (ray of art from the sun) Far from it , she had a sly look and always hid behind walls and trees as if running away from people.
Manjulavaani (Mellow-voiced) Always croaked like a frog and avoided music concerts. Only Vaani was better.
Names that misled despite a sharp mind—Frank Connors or Frank Abagnale who was always on the run….. with the title for the film “ Catch me if you can”-ended in tragedy (Starring Leonardo di Caprio & Tom Hanks).Names do not make you popular but you actions do.
So be Busy with an active & positive mind .
So be Busy with an active & positive mind .