le nom

She liked her name. Very much. In fact, she liked both of her names.

In her family, though she never really could understand why, each of her siblings and cousins were bestowed with more than one name. She especially felt sorry for the boys. What with a few Gods names thrown in for good measure, there was always a grandfather’s, grand-uncle’s, or some adopted grand ancestor’s name which co-incidentally would also happen to be another God’s name, and then there would be a poor excuse of a modern name at the end. Almost as an afterthought.

In a similar, yet slightly luckier fashion she had two first names. The first was slightly quirky sounding to many, even to herself when she was old enough to realize it. It didn’t seem to fit with her. There was a long twisted tale on how it got morphed along the way to become what it was from what neighbors bestowed on her as a sweet endearment. Her father took his time fixing a date for the naming ceremony, and folks needed to call the baby something in the meanwhile! So her first, first name was chosen not by her parents or her large extended family but by her grandfather’s neighbor’s daughters, who incidentally happened to be moslem. Way to go for the namesake of the clan’s first grandchild, she would scoff later on. This was the name she grew up with. One that was unique for a conservative South Indian Brahmin family, to choose a North Indian surname as the given name. She later found out that it very well could have been Japanese in origin! Imagine that!

Quite the unconventional set of parents she’d never have imagined to be born to, but there they were. Uncles and aunts delighted in their first-niece’s strange moniker. She was unique, a conversation starter at the very least.

Her second then forgotten first name was bestowed on her during the traditional naming ceremony when she was a toddling round 8 month old, by a cheery paternal aunt. The aunt was the last of her dad’s sisters and a favorite amongst all. Including herself, after all, she took after her spirited and vivacious genes to the tee! The aunt chose a beautiful, romantic name. It, of course had to be linked to some God somewhere but it was a more modern sounding version of it and was as perfect as any. The name stuck along as a vestige, one that no one really cared for until she became an adult.

Growing up, she decided that she’d rather prefer the loving sounding name to its rebellious prefix, especially so when she moved countries. A new life called for a new name, a new identity. It took her all of a couple of weekends to answer to the new ring. The more she heard it, the more she fell in love with it. The way the tongue touched the roof of her mouth, the longer syllables, and the underlying romantic character she represented. There was even a song she particularly loved. A melodious dance-able number.

Unlike most names that would be shortened no matter how small they were to begin with, no one shortened hers. It three syllables long and folks were just comfortable saying it the way it is. She took a lot of pride in it, the stylish twirls and curves as she wrote it. She enunciated it for the non-desis, giving meanings and creating little easy to understand rhymes so they’d say it the right way and not butcher it. To her surprise, once explained they did say it well. Phonetically her name was perfect. The now-offending earlier name was left far behind back in her hometown amongst a lifetime of friends, lost boy-friends and family.

Thinking back, she thought of all the folks who’d say it in different ways. The accents, the stresses on the syllables, the tenor, the depth of each sound, and she’d smile and grimace appropriately. Until at last, as expected she came to a halt on him. I wonder how he’d say my name. She’d asked herself numerous times. Strangely, despite spending a good part of a year and more than four hours a day together, she had to acknowledge the fact that he never did really utter her name. Not once. Funny! She prided herself on not being a nag and so she pretended that it didn’t bother her, but it did, and being stubborn, she refused to act on it. She’d ask him occasionally in passing, and he’d brush it off saying “am not used to calling folks by name, besides, there isn’t anyone else here, just you.” She’d grudgingly accepted the explanation; as in all fairness it did ring true.

He was made differently, unlike her. She used people’s names in conversation. Apparently, he didn’t. Even if they were the only two last people on earth, she’d still address him by his name, she was sure of that. It came naturally to her. Somehow it seemed the right thing to do, to show that the person was given due importance, a personal vibe so to speak. It took her some time to accept his rationale, and she did. Having no other choice helped move it along.

Names being her interest, she fell in love with his when she first heard it. It was unique, to her. Though he claimed it to be quite common, he was the first person she’d ever known by such a name. So she’d use it whenever she could; with childlike unbridled enthusiasm. It came naturally, playfully, lovingly, sub-consciously and dreamily. She didn’t like to shorten it either. The three syllables flowed through her lips, with easy pizzazz and style. Almost every time she conversed with him, she’d find a way to use it with subtle panache. The way her mouth would become a shallow raft at the start, the tip of her tongue would flick her upper teeth and then a grand finale as her lips would pucker up.

A piquant kiss as a reward, she’d describe it saucily.

What didn’t happen in reality, she made up for, in imagination; a childhood habit hard to kick off. She thus dreamed and spun herself into an intoxicating web of him. She fancied his voice as she collected various pieces and put them together; a mosaic of rings and tones hinting of her desire in his voice. Her name would undergo various connotations, through a voice that reminded her of the sound of the sea. The salty crunch, the wet gruffness, and the crackling quite like the sound of sand falling through a sieve.

Her name was versatile, she claimed to him.

To be said with gentleness when he’d ask her why she was upset. The clarity when they had a sane conversation to the brusqueness when she incessantly questioned on the why’s he refused to acknowledge. The laughter that carried her name to depths as he’d humor her and the name that would drown under her giggles as he’d tickle her with his wit. The name laced with envy as he’d chide her on a luxury she had and he didn’t, and the angry tone when he’d snap at her when he was confused with himself. Her name became an enigma when he faced her expectations, a bounty when he discovered her at odd times. The cheeky tune it took when he’d kiss her. A muffle as he nuzzled her neck. The whispered rendition at her ear as he’d make love to her; soft, sexy and drunk with passion. His breath soaked with her name, as he flooded her senses.

She loved it all. The more she loved it, the more she wanted it. So, she wondered if she could persuade him to mutter it once. Oblivious to her yearning, he played around. Oh, how she craved to hear it. Once. Tucking her pride into a corner, she’d even allowed herself to beg him: “just once, to be in your arms and to hear you say my name.” Despite his petulant mood, he’d smile at her childish fancy . “Am sure he thinks you will never grow up, a child-woman he’d think of you” she told herself, and then mollify “Like I care. I want to hear it.”

With a pout as a stubborn rebuttal, she started the countdown, checking numbers off her calendar.

Until she got a mail she’d been eagerly waiting for, a reply for one she’d bared her heart to him. Quickly she opened it, fingers numb with excitement “Ah, finally, he decides to address me by name!”. The wide grin and the spark in her eye fade ever so mutely into a rapid succession of incredulity, shock, betrayal and anger. Sadness blanketing it all, like an overwhelming suffocating layer of ice.

You see, it isn’t prudent that despite one’s dream coming true, one does not smile, grin or clap hands in glee when one is hit with a ‘Dear Jane’ letter.

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14 thoughts on “le nom

  1. “Raspberry” is a Wodehouse term for breaking a relationship. In Wodehouse world, the prerogative is with the woman. Men may not, under any circumstance break off an engagement or even reject a woman’s overtures, and this restriction forms the basis for most of his plots. Bertie Wooster, for instance, is forever getting engaged to the wrong sort and relies on Jeeves to get him out. This is usually by feigning mental unbalance or promiscuity.

    It takes a master to infuse this with hilarity but Wodehouse is more than equal to the task.

    By the way, the piece is very well written. You have a way with words. I had meant to say this in my earlier comment.

    Cheers!

  2. GDS: If I tell you I am going to have to kill you :P
    Kidding! They aren’t delicious sounding at all, its all in her imagination.

    Sirop: Thanks :)

    naren: Ah see, I’ve read Wodehouse, but apparently not enough to recognize a raspberry. He is of course the ultimate master.

    Thanks :)

    Prestid: lol, I know :)

    CW: lol, As long as they are coming, why stop no?

  3. A thoroughly entertaining read rads :)
    You sure have me DYING to know what the name could’ve possibly been! I’ve been trying to think of a name to fit in for the past two days now!!

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