What’s in a name?? Nothing perhaps. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet as the Bard would have it. So I remain I in spite of the many names I am known by. One of my friends recently remarked that I seemed to have as many as a thousand names. Maybe not a thousand as of now but I am certainly in the running for that magic number with my friends and foes alike chipping in with their fair share. Let me tell you about some of them. I will not delve too deep into the treasure chest filled to capacity with monikers that throw light on the different aspects of the personality of yours truly. I’ll just skim the surface and will touch on the ones that my Lord & Master bestowed upon me in all his love.
I made my appearance way back in the ancient age, 1959 to be exact. Exactly twenty-eight days after said appearance, it has been told to me, the family gathered together for the naming ceremony. I was christened ‘Shailaja’ the name foisted on unsuspecting me without prior consultation of any sort. I was still a bawling tiny baby back then and of no consequence as yet. So my opinion naturally did not count. ‘Daughter of the mountains’ it meant and referred to Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva. I did not think much of my name in subsequent years as I slowly but steadily grew and became more familiar with it. I wanted so much for my name to be something of two syllables like ‘Nimmi’!! For some reason the name Nimmi fascinated me most of my childhood for no particular reason. I regretted that my parents hadn’t named me Nirmala so that I could justify the use of ‘Nimmi’ as my pet name.
‘Shaileeey’ went the near and dear ones as the years went by, the tones differing according to what the situation warranted or their own moods. ‘Shailaja’ it was in school for the teachers and fellow students. The younger ones added the tag ‘chechi’ (elder sister) to my name. Sadly no pet names came my way, though my siblings were luckier in that respect. Well that about sums up the different names I was known by till I turned twenty three and my Prince Charming rode err… rather stormed into my life. Do you know how much racket those army boots make especially when a young Captain is trying to impress his would be??
Now the Prince Charming who shall hitherto be referred to as L&M (which post he aspired for and was unquestionably conferred with) was somehow uncomfortable calling me by my christened name. Even its shortened version sat diffidently and uncertainly on his lips the few times he tried using it in front of family and friends. It just didn’t sound right rolling off his tongue!! But then, when not in the earshot of others I was lovingly called ‘Mol’!! Thus rested matters or so I thought not having any inkling of the frantic efforts on the L M’s part to zero in on a suitable name for good old me.
Inspiration struck my L&M one day and he happily confided to me that he was going to call me ‘Shelly.’ That was the cool Army Captain in him coming out with a super cool version of my traditional name!! It brought to my mind the romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, though the all important ‘e’ was missing in the name given me. Shelly. Anyway it was fine with me. He referred to me as Shelly to his friends, but never called me so. He continued calling me ‘Mol’ as before. It looked like he was not completely at ease using the name Shelly either! Of course it didn’t make it any easier that the little girl next door told us one day on opening a book and seeing written therein, in L&M’s neat handwriting, the words, ‘To Shelly with Love,’ that her little dog also went by the name Shelly!
Inspiration struck the L&M yet again. I will call you ‘Ponni,’ he said. Hmmm… This I felt was copyright infringement. Those days I had a dog back home called Simi whom I called by many names the main among which had been, you guessed it, ‘Ponni’!! But being the new young wife I simply smiled sweetly in acceptance and forebore to say anything about violation of copyright. Now the strange thing was that even though I was given this new name my L&M never used it either! Of course the name was splashed on the letters, gifts and cards et al. But from him nothing!! I waited patiently day in and day out to hear him use the name he so carefully had picked out for me. But my patience went in vain. I still remained, ‘Mol’ to him.
Then off he went on another of those missions that army men are frequently sent on. While away inspiration struck my man yet again. ‘I have chosen two names for you’ he wrote in one of his daily letters to me. ‘You choose the one you like’ I was given the honor of choosing one from the two: MILY and MINY. They were acronyms for what he wanted to tell me. Oh no, no! I am not going to tell you what they stand for! Come on, use your imagination. Let those grey cells move a bit! I used neither daisy petals nor went ‘Eeny meeny miny mo.’ I made my decision like I always do, quickly. No dilly dallying or indecisiveness for me, thank you! Now do you understand why it is that my husband himself takes me shopping??
I chose to be ‘Miny.’ I liked it better of the two. I had this oh so romantic notion that it described tiny five-foot-nothing me rather too well. Soon I started calling myself Miny and scribling this name on all my books, cassettes et al. I even introduced myself as ‘Miny Mohan’ to new friends or at least told them, ‘Please call me Miny!’ Almost all complied of course. But to my husband I was still, yeah you guessed it, ‘Mol’! The only difference being that now the vowel ‘u’ got itself attached to the ‘Mol’ and so it went, ‘Moluuuuu’ Of course I was always thrilled to hear that. But… but, why not ‘Miny’??
Life in the army means, separation, separation and some more separation especially so if you are an Infantry officer’s wife. So when my L&M moved yet again to a new place I found myself left behind yet again with my two monkeys… err…children. One day in one of them daily letters I found a new name awaiting my approval. ‘Shalu’ the L&M had mentioned seemingly in very high spirits. Distance does make the heart grow fonder. But it did not make me any fonder of this new name. I crinkled my brows. Here I had grown to love ‘Miny’ the as yet unused name and new names were being thrown my way!
“No” I said putting my foot down.
“No??” asked the crestfallen L & M.
“No” I was sure about this. “You never call me by the names you give me! I don’t want any more names” I told him. I was going to stick by ‘Miny.’ So out went ‘Shalu’ rejected though I do have a card or two with ‘Shalu’ inscribed, sent just before I put my dainty foot down in denial.
Sigh! It did no good. It never made him go back to the previous choice of his ‘Miny’ and use it, though I had fervently hoped he would. I continued clinging to the name with optimism. When I opened my first mail account, that is the name I used for creating an id. I even contemplated using it for my blog site. But whom was I kidding?? The L&M was not going to call me anything other than ‘Moluuuu.’ So, I dismissed all this ‘Miny’ nonsense from my life and decided to stick to my own name or its shortened versions for mail and blogging purposes.
Now I am known as ‘Shail’ to all my online friends who read my stuff. Some of them call me plain ‘Shail’ and others with suffix and prefix like chechi, edathi, didi, akka, Aunt, Aunty, ji and the like apart from some unique ones like Mausilove, ShikariShailji (each of which has a story to it) as also the prim and proper Mrs. Mohan, an off shoot from the days of life as an army wife. Well I don’t have to tell you the other unique name that my monkeys, err…. sons call me by. In case you didn’t know, it is ‘Amma.’
And what about my L&M?? ‘Moluuuuu’ he still calls me. However it is now mostly its metamorphosed version ‘Molsey’ that I get to hear more. Oh yeah, that is what my L&M calls me now. I don’t think it is likely to change in the near future. There he goes again, ‘Molseeeey….’!! Ok guys, catch you all later!
This was initially posted at sulekha.com