Come early morn on 19th March, there I was at the Vadodara railway station being received by my one and only sis, yes the one who bit me. Catch me foregoing a chance to mention about the time more than four decades ago when she, a two-year old bit me, her elder sis, just above the belly button, leaving her mark. Oh no I did not have any trepidation as I alighted from the train and was warmly received by her that she would go for a repeat performance. Having once been the Aggressor, in subsequent years she had transformed herself into Benevolent Protector coming to the rescue of yours truly when that unwelcome roach had to be squished or the unmoving wall of people breached so as delicate darling moi could step down from the overcrowded city bus.
The day dawned bright as we chatted away. Soon the maid was there, followed by the woman who collected the trash. Each time I was introduced with much fanfare.
“Didi aayi hai gaon se” (Elder sis has come from native place)
They would smile and I would grin back, oh yes, the light glinting off my silver capped molars as always. A wider grin you couldn’t have asked for. I watched these women talking to my sis. I couldn’t get the whole of it as their language was a closed book to me. I thought I caught the word ‘mota’ (fat). She looks like you, they seemed to tell her, only thing she is fatter. Ooops. Oh ha ummmm…. I squirmed mentally under the scrutiny and the conclusion thereafter. Yet, I grinned good-naturedly back at them. After all I am fatter than my sis and these simple folk were only speaking their mind unlike slicker ones who might deliver the unpalatable truth sugar-coated. Oh for some sugar-coated words! Oh sigh, never mind.
Then it happened yet again. There was someone repeating that offending word, ‘mota’ Oh sigh, not again. Ahh well, what’s the use of sighing now?? Have I resolutely shaken my head and said ‘NO!!’ in no uncertain terms when that second or third helping of ice cream has come my way?? Sadly not. So I might as well grin and bear it when people throw words like ‘mota’ liberally around to describe me. But why ‘mota’? Wasn’t that the wrong gender? Did I look masculine or what?? Oh bother!
But what’s this?! The woman was pointing to my sister and jabbering away, her sentence liberally interspersed with one ‘mota’ after another! This had me nonplussed aggrieved and piqued as well. I know I did not enjoy being described as ‘mota’ but I had come to look on the term as my personal property and had sort of developed an affinity to it. And here was this woman pointing to my sister and saying ‘mota’! I felt affronted. My title was being conferred on someone who was not even in my class Gosh, was the woman blind or what?? I looked at my sis quizzically. Has she taken leave of her senses, my look conveyed.
That is when my sis burst out laughing. Oh yeah, you have to hear her cackling laughter to know how it goes. It would probably give the geese a complex.
‘Mota in Gujarati means elder!’ she told me still cackling.
Realization dawned on me. Good God, these people were speaking in Gujarati and I had just assumed the word ‘mota’ meant the same in Gujarati as it did in Hindi. All the while the term was being used to ask whether I was the older of the two! And this particular woman was telling my sis that she looked the elder of the two on account of the few strands of grey she sports.
Oh ha ummmm… Oh ok alright, now I got it. Sigh, but the fact remains that I am mota (or rather moti to use the correct gender!) either way, be it Gujarati or Hindi, elder and fatter. Sigh. Oh Gym, here I come.