When my younger son was around 2 years of age, I decided to give him a hair cut and ended up with the Elikaranda (Rat- Gnawed) Look!
I watched him nervously as he sat there playing. Oh dear God! What had I done to the poor beloved thing’s mass of curly mop??!! It looked horrible. As if the friendly neighborhood rat had had free run of his head! Hairless patches mingled with those with tufts of hair sticking out in uneven rows! I had thought it would be a pushover, as easy as they come. No wonder these haircutters charged you the earth to lay hands on your hair! It was far from easy!
My baby turned back and smiled at me so innocently. He had been enjoying Amma’s hands going through his hair and was looking back to see what had stopped it. Of the calamity that had befallen his thick mop of curls, he had not the slightest inkling!
That had been the problem in the first place, that he had this thick growth of hair, which was becoming a nuisance in the hot summer months. And Amma had taken things into hand. How she wished she hadn’t though! Now what was I going to do? I shifted from one foot to the other anxiously. Not that any amount of shifting was going to get me anywhere! I had not yet started on Sudoku puzzles back then and so solutions didn’t reveal themselves as quickly as I would have liked them to. Still I had youth on my side and I racked my young brain for a solution.
Son senior and my better half were going to be home soon. And the last thing I wanted was peals of laughter and mirth at my expense! What was I going to do? Right then I could only chew on my nails.
Just then I heard my maid walk in. As was her habit, she called out to Son Junior on her way to the kitchen. Suddenly I got my answer!
“Saraswati!” I called out to her.
She walked over to the drawing room.
“Oooh Memasahib, you have cut his hair!” she said, on seeing my son.
Her eyesight not being all that good she had not yet noticed the Rat-Gnawed-Look that my son was sporting. But now I had to let her in on my guilty secret, as I needed an ally. Accordingly, I confided all to her and asked her to go and get the barber who frequented the locality. She left immediately on her errand. I chewed some more nails and waited on tenterhooks. I had attempted the hair cut coz my son wasn’t too comfortable with strangers and would scream his guts out. And his lungpower was incredible! Now I had no other recourse, but to let him yell. I didn’t know how I was going to manage to give a hair cut to a screaming child, who wasn’t going to stay still?!! But I had to get it done somehow! Some more nails got chewed. Where was Saraswati?? What was taking so long??
My son meanwhile had fallen asleep. Oh bother! Waking-up-from- sleep-time is not the best of his times. But did I have any choice now?? I had to do something about his hair, come what may!!
At last the barber arrived!! I had no time to wonder what he thought of the elikaranda look! Soon the man was snipping away…after informing me that there was nothing else to do but make him a motta! (clean shaven). I told him to go right ahead.
The sleeping baby made giving the hair cut a bit difficult. There was always the fear of his waking up and testing that lungpower of his! The man suggested that instead of snipping off his hair little by little, he would just shave it off with his knife within seconds. I sent a silent prayer upwards and said, ‘fine’
He took out his sharp knife (gulp!) and true to his word, shaved off his hair in seconds. All this time Junior slept the sleep of Kumbhakaran!
The ordeal was over atlast! Soon Son Senior and my better half were back and they were both thrilled with the new look. ‘Yul Brynner’ he was called. I am sure the little one liked all the fuss, though he did not know the reason behind it!
Now I would like to tell you about an offshoot to this story. The maid Saraswati, took to calling my son ‘Motte!!’ (clean shaven) whenever she came in for work., and he would respond smiling sweetly, dimples showing (Yes he has dimples!). One day, my husband was standing with him perched on his shoulders, outside the little shop just beyond the Pangode Military camp gate. There were many women, daily wage earners, in the shop who had come for their evening purchase of kerosene, rice, sugar etc. While waiting for his turn to be served, my little one, pulled his shirt and said,
“Acha, Acha, Motta!!” (Dad, Dad Motta)
Many among the women turned to coo over the cute child on his dads’ shoulder. My son again repeated,
“Acha, Acha, Motta!!”
Now, motta in Malayalam. also means egg, probably why it was used to describe a clean shaven head!
One of the women said,
“Ayyo! Kochinu motta venam!” (the child wants an egg)
There were murmurs of approval and agreement from all around.
My husband meanwhile was trying to shush the child, coz he realized what the little one was upto. But would the child listen?
“Acha, Acha, Motta!!” he said yet again pointing towards where Saraswati, the maid was standing in one corner. Resignedly Saraswati then admitted to her fellow shoppers that the child didn’t mean an egg, but was referring to her as motta, as that was what she herself called him daily! There were oohs and aahs and laughter all around. Now the tables were turned. Saraswati had become the motta, inspite of having a head full of salt and pepper hair! From then on to this day we refer to her as such! Motta.