16

Flash Fiction: Homecoming.

 

I couldn’t stop smiling. My husband was coming home. After being deployed forever, he was finally coming home. He had left when I had gotten pregnant and had not even come home to see our baby. That’s the way he is. Nation always comes first. Family comes later. That’s the way I like it too. That’s what attracted me to him. I was hoping it would be a good day for Baby Zac too. That he wouldn’t be cranky today. That he would be the perfect baby, just for today, just for his Dad. I couldn’t stop smiling cause we were going to be a family again.

I was rocking Baby Zac when the doorbell rang. I quickly checked myself in the mirror and made sure I looked good. I was looking a little pale but I hoped he would not notice. My mother-in-law beat me to the door. I guess she is just as excited as I am to have him home. I peeped out, a little shy and a little excited. There he was, looking just as handsome as the day we got married. We smiled at each other, so glad to be together again.

My mother-in-law meanwhile was sobbing at the door. She had just got news of her son’s demise. His body would be coming home soon, to be laid to rest next to his wife and their stillborn son.

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24

Little Girl

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If you’ve read my first ever post, you would know that I am a woman of many names. All through my life, I’ve always had a ton of nicknames. I guess my name is very nickname-able cause everywhere I went, from school to college or work and even amongst relatives, I’ve had different nicknames. As I moved countries, newer nicknames were added to the tally. From Ninu to Nini to Nin to Niko to Nenne and more recently Ta. I’ve seen more than my fair share of nicknames and the source of all the names being my proper given name, Ninitha.

I remember that it was when I was about 13 that I first began to wonder what my name meant. Up until then I was perhaps oblivious to meanings of names. When I was 13, I had a little niece and I helped my sister pick out a name for her. I had poured over baby books cause my sister wanted a ‘meaningful’ name and that is when I realised the meaning of my name, or the lack of it.

In my part of the world there is a very funny tradition, where people just call their kids extremely meaningless names. Yes, parents do that. ON PURPOSE. They smush their names together to call their kid something or their call him something, perhaps meaningful yes, but without a care in the world for how the kid will get through high school and college with a name like that. Case in point, meet my friend ‘Niceboy’. I swear I am not exaggerating but I do have a friend who is called nice boy, as one word – Niceboy. There is also a ‘Peacemol’, peace being the English word peace and ‘mol’ being the local word for daughter or girl. If you visited us, chances are you would run into a ‘BlueLotus’ or  a ‘Sweety’ or a ‘Pinky’. You might even meet a ‘Rambo’ or a ‘Karl Marx’ , yes with the surname too.  It might be the fad now to call kids names of fruits or abstract names but people in my state have been calling their kids weird names for ages. So take that Kanye West if you thought your North West was ‘smart’. We’ve been ‘smarter’ a whole lot longer. 

The other habit, as I mentioned earlier, is to smush together the names of the parents and make a new name. Say the mother is Lily and Dad is Francis, rest assured their little girl will be called Frilly. The resultant name need not even have a meaning and even a obscure sounds will do. I am surprised that even in this day and age, educated, worldly friends of mine still follow this path to name their kids. Recently a friend of mine had a baby who they named after a mutation of their names. It sounded alright, except it means dandruff in the local language, something I was mortified when I heard, but the parents did not  seem to care.

I will forever be grateful to my parents for not having used either of the paths above to name me. My name (thankfully) is neither a mutations of my folks’ names or is it something ‘meaningful’ like Niceboy. I was just  Ninitha. However, after having checked out all the names possible for my little niece and aided my sister’s search for a meaningful baby name, I was now uber curious to know the meaning of my name. 

As my Dad was in the Navy and had traveled widely, i was sure my name had exotic origins. I imagined him having heard of this name during some of his foreign sojourns and naming me after it. But my Mum quickly shot down my flights of imagination when she said that she has made up my name. Just like that. Apparently, around the time I was born, Anita was the trending name and so my Mum gave it her own twist and called me Ninitha. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Not only was my name cooked up, it did not have any exotic backing to it either. I was merely an Anita with an N. So off I went to scan the world wide web, determined to find a meaning. My theory was that, that even though my name lacked a meaning in the languages I knew, perhaps it did in any of the other languages of the world.

My search lasted all of 4 years, 4 long years at the end of which I finally stumbled upon the meaning. Ninita in Japanese meant ‘Little Girl’. I finally had a meaning and a meaning I liked. Though I am not little by any stretch of the imagination, I was after all ‘Daddy’s little girl’. 

 

Pic credits: http://www.decoration-creations.com

7

“Mooooooossssssaaaaaakkkkkaaaaa”

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I still remember my first boogeyman. The only one.  I’m pretty sure he was born from the depths on my Mother’s imagination when I threw a tantrum or refused to finish my bowl of cauliflower soup. Nonetheless, he was an important part of my childhood. My scary ‘Moosakka’.

In retrospect I realise that it was not even a scary name. Moosa is a pretty common name in India. Its the Arabic version of Moses and ‘kka’ simply means brother. Logically, it should have been the worst boogeyman ever. I mean, who calls their monster, their brother? But my Mum being the ever so polite person that she is, decided to adoringly call it Moosakka. I guess kids are oblivious to logic cause this Moosakka was my stuff of nightmares.  Every time I was naughty or unmanagable, mum would call out his name in a low, hoarse voice reserved just for him. I don’t know if it my imagination or if she really did it but it always appeared to me that his name was called out in slow motion.

No attempts were ever made to tell me how he looked like. Well played Mum, cause in the absence of a description, my little brain began to perceive the most horrific figure. In my head, Moosakka was a huge man with a minaret for a head. SCARY! Well, not so much now, cause I am used to mohawks that resemble minarets but to a 4 or 5 year old it was.

Moosakka never did anything or I never gave him a chance to do anything. My Mum had me around her little finger thanks to him. I distinctly remember wondering where Mum got to know all these people and wondering if Mum kept the right company but I dared not question her lest she summon Moosakka. He was always just around the corner.

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I did eventually get over him. Today Mousakka is one of my favourite dishes and the instead of sending chills down my spine, it gets me salivating and hungry. Have you tried it? Its most yum! As my friend, with whom I had the same conversation yesterday, pointed out, it is the saddest fate ever to befall a monster: his transformation from horror to deliciousness.

As a mother myself. i completely understand why Moosakka was born. We underestimate our toddlers. We underestimate their power for chaos. They thrive in chaos and confusion and gain strength as our resources go down. And then they send their bowl of soup flying around the house. If you have ever had to sit and pick spaghetti off your hair or wipe clean the walls off any remnants of beetroot puree,  you will know exactly why Moosakka was born.

I haven’t yet created a boogeyman for Z. The impending worry of a possible  ‘Time out’ seems to work just fine for him. I know a lot of mothers turn their noses up at the concept of scaring their kids into obedience. I say to each her own. I grew up scared of a monster but only scared enough to tow me back into line. Infact the monster has  left me with more memories I cherish, than nightmares.

Someday I know I will need my Moosakka again but until then I shall chase him away. He has done me no wrong but I need him to lurk in the background for now cause while he’s the monster my Z may deserve, he’s not the one he needs right now. So I’ll chase him away, because he can take it. He’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian of Mothers’ sanity. A watchful protector around the corner. The Moosakka

Pic credit: 4.bp.blogspot.com                                                                                                     simplyrecipes.com

22

Ghost of Birthday Past – The First Day!

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Today I turned a year older, not much wiser, but definitely older. I entered a new decade. I hit the big 30. Am I where I thought I would be? No! Did I accomplish everything I thought I would? No! Yet, am I happy? YES! As I sat eating cake for breakfast, I had one of those moments when the past flashed before my eyes. I could see each of my birthdays pretty darn clearly. How they were celebrated, who were with me and to some extent even the resolutions I made. Some of the made me giggle, some made me happy and some sad. So today I thought I’d write about my past birthdays, starting with the one almost 30 years ago.

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (How many of you know where I took those lines from?) The first day ever, 28 of August 1983. Obviously this is only a dramatic recreation of the events of the day seeing as I was slightly occupied with entering new world and all to actually remember anything.However most of the childbirths in my family follow the same blueprint, the one I will be explaining to you.

Mine is an extremely close knit family. Something happens and everyone in the family comes over from wherever to be a part of it. There is no extended family. Everyone is immediate family. On of the most celebrated moments in our family is the birth of a new one. I’ve attended enough child birth hooplas to know what must have transpired when I was born. Technically the festivities start from the moment you pee on a stick and see two lines. From then on its mayhem. Every food ever to have been made in the world gets made and presented to the pregnant person. Any hopes of not putting on weight and having a healthy diet is bundled up and thrown into the ocean. The family singularly unites to fatten the pregnant woman. They will have it no other way. Little children, ogling at the delicacies, are shooed away lest their desire for the food cast an evil eye on the pregnant woman. I know, I’ve both been shooed away and have had kids shooed away from my food. Though its infinitely more fun when you are the pregnant woman than the kid.

Anyways, the family usually unites when the woman starts showing signs of labour. I remember my Mum telling me she had a fairly long labour and so I’m guessing the family gathered as soon as my Mum felt her first moment of discomfort. From then on, while Mum lay in the labour room, there must have been pre-birth celebrations outside the labour room. Food would be brought to the hospital and distributed. Everyone decides to camp outside the room to hear the good news as soon as it happens. There are singing and dancing shows by the kids in the group and intense gossping amongst the elders. Everything from wars, to suspicious looking new neighbours are discussed. Everything goes on until, the nurse pops out and announces the birth of the child, which in this case is my birth. There, I have officially been born. The news is usually received with shouts and cries of joy. Everyone hugs each other, some people squeeze hands, kids are jumping with joy and the nurse who announced the birth is gifted money. Everyone tries to outdo the other. If an uncle give 50 bucks, the other gives 100 and another gives 200. Everyone is in a mad dash to show that they are the happiest. Don’t ask me why? I was only just born!

In the midst of all this, someone rushes to pass the good news to the ‘Dad’. Usually, the Dad does not partake in the discussions and gossip outside the labour room. He  stands away from the crowd, probably by a nice long hall way that he can pace. Even non smoking Dads turn smokers just for the duration of the labour. You could have a token friend or a cousin about the same age as you for company. There will be a nervous energy in the air and he will compulsorily pace the hall. I mean, what kind of husband does not smoke or pace the halls when his wife is in labour? Its a must. It is in the giant rule book of childbirth.

Once the news of the kid has been announced to the Dad, he can then proceed to stop pacing around. He can now look sheepish or smug and come join the big gang where he will be thumped on the back. Someone will produce a packet of traditional sweets from somewhere and then suddenly everyone is clamoring to feed the Dad. He gets enough sugar pumped into his veins. Adequately satisfied that the Dad has been force fed, the family then channels their collective energy towards the next nurse who happens to pop out of the labour room. When she does, she will be bombarded with questions about the child and the Mum. their well being, who the baby looks like, the baby’s weight and so on to which the nurse is now obliged to answer cause one from their tribe has been adequately compensated.

The kids meanwhile jump into action. Taking advantage of the all around happiness, they target the Dad and approach him for chocolates. It is another of the traditions to feed the entire hospital, well atleast the entire maternity ward, chocolates to celebrate the birth. So off the Dad and the army of kids go to buy chocolates. This however is a trap. It never stops with chocolates, the army will attack and won’t stop unless a loot of ice cream, juices, sodas, candy and chocolate has been collected. The Dad still appears largely happy, though considerably poorer financially.

Usually, by the time Dad returns from the shopping spree, the Mum and the Bub have been brought to the room. Dad avoids eye contact with Mum and sneaks glances at the baby who is now being passed around the room. The baby, for atleast the next 72 hours will be rocked to sleep and just generally held by the assortment of doting grandmothers, aunts, cousins etc thereby effectively ruining it for the Mum. Having tasted the first dose of familial spoiling, the baby hence forth rejects the bed and demands to be held all the time.

Thankfully, because of the absence of Facebook, no pictures were posted or status messages uploaded. Kids were born into the hands of the parents and not on Facebook. No messages were sent on Whatsapp and no one Facetimed with anyone. Everybody where either there or would come visit in the next 24-48 hours.

So there, I’m pretty sure this is what happened when I was born too. Since then, I’ve attended so many childbirths in varying capacities..as the enthusiastic candy distributor, to the bored teenager, to the gossiping cousin and then more recently the Mum in labour. Except for the advancement of technology, everything else is almost still the same.

Pic credits: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Birthday_candles.jpg