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A rose by any other name…

Lily? Jasmine?? or Frangipani???

‘Sankashti!’

I vaguely heard someone saying that. I was seated in a CST bound train, reading ‘Eat, pray, love’ and fortunately the novel had finally arrived to an interesting part. ‘Sankashti’!!… the moment I heard this, I snapped up and looked at the woman saying it, wondering whether it was ‘Sankashti’ that day. To the uninitiated, this is one of the common fasts observed amongst the Maharashtrians.  It is observed every month on the 4th day of the waning fortnight and is observed to receive the blessings of Lord Ganesha. I started observing it from class 10 – since I believed it was necessary in order to score well. I didnt study as much and scored okay in class 10, but the practice of fasting has continued.While  I’m not a devout hindu,  I have faith in Lord Ganesha.(fasting has got nothing to do with being a devout hindu, but that is a topic for another post I suppose). I have continued to fast month after month, year after year hoping that one day the Lord will pity me and grant some sense. 🙂

Well, coming back to the story, I thought that it could be Sankashti and that I might have missed to fast. Mentally, I berated myself for not only not observing the fast, but actually eating a hearty breakfast that day, which I normally end up skipping. Then I realised that if it was Sankasthi that day, everyone in my family had missed it – we all of us fast on Sankashti. That was unusal, because my mother would never miss it! So I looked at the woman once more. She was still on the phone talking to someone. I concluded that she must have spoken about some past / upcoming Sankashti. I was just about to go back to my reading when I overheard, ‘Sankashti!’ and I turned to look at her once more. She was saying ‘Sankashti, what a brat you are, always getting into mischief’… and I was floored!

SANKASHTI was the name of the child this woman was talking to!!! It’s a Sanskrit word which I worked out would be sandhi of 2 words – ‘San+Kashta’ – ‘San’->>’Sam’ meaning together (in this context – ‘WITH’) and ‘Kashta’ meaning ‘Hardships’. A fast is obviously penance  and hence the meaning ‘with hardships’. Then I began pitying the child whose name was ‘Sankashti’. Maybe she was born after several troubled hours her mother spent in the labour room etc. But still ‘Sankashti’ was such a vindictiveness on her mother’s part, if there really was such a thought process behind the name. But then I thought there wouldn’t have been. Not many people care to dwell on the fact that most of the Indian names have sanskrit origin, much less their meaning. Lately, there has been some sort of trend of naming babies with some archaic Sanskrit words from scriptures. Internationally, if they can name kids randomly (Read: Brooklyn, Apple, Ireland etc) why cant we follow the madness? Of course its everyone’s choice to name (And call) their kids whatever they want. So infact, there could be some people complimenting Sankashti’s parents on such a cool choice of name.

Personally, I tend to associate an image with every person I know, and this has sometimes posed problems for me. The image is mostly influenced by the peson’s name. An Indian name mostly has a meaning – so if it is ‘Anjali’ – it is a specific hand posture using which one normally offers a gift to the God. Contrary to the popular opinion, it’s not an offering to the God . It literally means ‘palmful’ and usually you use this gesture to offer any gift to God etc. Now though I don’t picture a palm in my mind every time I come across an ‘Anjali’, I mostly have problem processing such names. And there are many I know who seem to have such visual names. If they(my friends) read this post, all I have to say is this : FORGIVE ME! YOU WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW THIS.

Well it’s not like I always picture the meaning first, but it stayed in the back of my mind that ‘Kinchit’ means ‘small in quantity’/’Little'(quantity) etc when I got introduced to one of my MBA classmates. I found it funny, but not many agreed, because it is apparently a common Gujarati name and my college was full of Guju bhais.  I remember one of our professors basing her whole session on some one liners like ‘Come on Kinchit, I’ll give you a clean chit if you answer this etc’… then there were numeous ‘Ketans’ (house), ‘Parthivs’ (made of mud) that I kept on running into. Then there’s fair share of abstract names too –  a ‘Vanchana’ (worry) that I know, ‘Rachana’ (Arrangement/ creation – it doesnt say good arrangement or bad). A guy’s name was ‘Apekshit’ – (expected) and his youger brother was ‘Akalpit’ (‘beyond imagination’ and sometimes can also be used as ‘Unplanned’) –  thereby making their parents’ family planning details totally public… 🙂 . One of my own nieces in the extended family is named ‘Sakshi’ (a witness)…. and the list goes on…

I believe that your name somehow becomes a part of you, your personality. So Akalpit may for all reasons grow into an unpredictable young man. But on the other hand, it wasnt Vanchana’s fault that she was given such a name. It necessarily does not mean that she has to live up to it. Fortunately, my parents did not name either myself or my brother in such a manner that our friends would have teased us. But I’d have surely felt resentful if I was called  ‘Akriti’ (diagram), Nupur (anklet – though a very pretty sounding name), Sulabha (‘easily available’), Anumati (consent), Apeksha (expectation), Pratiksha (the wait), Heena (Mehendi) etc

‘Animosity’

Not Cute?

To tell the truth – I’m not that much into animals.

Ok. That was not entirely true. I’m NOT AT ALL into animals…or birds or insects…(or reptiles or fish or amphibians and all the other categories that I can’t remember)….

Yes, I’m all for wildlife preservation and I’m totally against cruelty to the animals, but the maximum that I can contribute to this cause is by sending money to PETA, WWF etc.  Besides, apart from sporadic spraying of mosquito repellent, thrashing of a stray cockroach and setting up an occasional mousetrap, I’m ‘mostly harmless’ towards other living beings of non-human variety (not that I’m other than mostly harmless towards beings of human variety – thought it was better to clarify).

As a policy, I avoid purchasing anything made out of leather, fur etc. Additionally, being a vegetarian, how much do I have to lose in supporting campaigns against meat?? – ‘none at all’ . That’s pretty much it. Sometimes though, I find it strange that I have such an apathy towards animals, while I flaunt my love for the nature all the time. But its true. One cannot be always appreciative of ‘life, the universe and everything’. I cannot make myself love the animals. To me, animals looks great / majestic/delicate (insert whatever adjective) only from a distance – like when they are in forests / oceans / muck / tree – whatever is their natural habitat. Nevertheless, by some ‘strange coincidence’ (Yeah, I’m a fan of the Hitchhiker’s guide  in case it was not apparent) I have been thrust into the company of animal lovers and pet-keepers all the time since my childhood. Does it indicate my destiny / karma etc to take up a pet or something? Nah, I don’t think so.

Growing up, I had to cope with those periodic visits to my various aunts’ place whose houses had members of quadrupedal variety (and sometimes non-pedal variety, otherwise known as ‘Fish’). There were birds even, at some point. Not that I was particularly afraid of these animals. What I always found tedious was to pay compliments. I mean… these animals came and licked you and you were supposed to find that cute. Or they just landed on your lap and purred and then left like a huge hairball on your new clothes and you were supposed to talk about how these beings ‘exude’ love while trying not to sneeze!!! …..or when some of these beings chittered and chattered suddenly for some reason exactly when you were trying to nap, you woke up and excitedly proclaimed (instead of shouting with annoyance) that they were trying to predict some natural calamity or something!!!  There were times when you hid into a corner and ate something for the fear that it will be pounced upon and snatched away….

So far so good.. a pup wags its tail and looks with those puppy eyes, a cat purrs and all, so there’s definitely something to talk about there. Birds usually would be love-birds and would have various colours so  despite the nuisance value of each of these there would be things to talk about. But I would be stumped the moment I’d move on to the fish…(those beings which couldn’t even hear the names that my cousins had kept for them and those that made the fish-tank and the surrounding area utterly stinky). For sure, some had nice colours, but I could never go beyond  ‘ I think this fish is trying to kill this other fish’…(which was all the action that was happening in that fish-tank). I thank my stars that they never ventured to keep some pet tortoise or even lizards or something!! What would I have said then? my head hurts  from the lack of imagination!

All I noticed over all these years was the lengths that the owners were required to go, to feed, clean and train these animals and yet remain friendly with people like the next door neighbours, people within the locality, the mail-man and sundry delivery men etc. I wonder at the enthusiasm of my cousins who have survived several such pets of various variety and their generations…

Having seen much of the pet (keeping and maintaining) world I  eventually (that wasnt really a gradual process) decided to maintain minimum contact with these beings concluding that I don’t understand them. Surprisingly, most of the friends that I made in my adult life were animal lovers. So I am from time to time subject to the discussions about the antics of their pets, where I have to laugh, nod and indicate that I am listening!!

Of course it’s not exactly like I’m totally away from animals… they have made a place for themselves in my life in their own way…

…like those pigeons that are currently in their nth generations on the loft above my house and occasionally set up a makeshift nursing home in my window-grill, enter the house just to perch on a fan-blade and then fly helter and skelter within house when chased, instead of returning the way they came ( through the wide window in the room!!).. I was once told by my brother that pigeons are actually related to dodo birds – which I have come to believe

…that stray bitch which has made the passage on the first floor of my building as her permanent home and is always positioned outside this out-of-town neighbor’s door. Doesnt wag tail or anything when I pass by, but lets me (and other residents) pass by quietly and barks at any newcomer. 🙂

…or the Myna (a.k.a. Salunki in Marathi) which has set up its neat nest outside of the bathroom window and sometimes acts as vocal accompaniment to any random bathroom singer from our house 🙂

….or a hitherto unidentified bird of spring that has been amusing itself by repeatedly pecking on the wind-shield of this car which we can always see through our drawing-room window,every morning around 8.30 – 9.00!! – cannot understand. Why? why only at specific time? Why only that car when there are numerous others parked next to it?  Is it trying to break in? long way to go pal… or maybe its trying to check itself in glass-made mirror or it sees itself in this mirror and thinks there is another of its kind…or its eating some insects stuck there …where exactly? on the glass?? maybe there are invisible bacteria like insects there..

….A crow that regularly visits us every 10 – 15 days. Whenever this happens, my mother mentions the death anniversary (what is it called in English though? we call it Punyatithi in Marathi/Hindi) of some close relative which is coincidentally approaching etc and believes that the ‘Kauva’ wants to remind us of it – and then offers some food and water.

I think I already have my hands full with these pseudo pets. So if someone wants to question my animal-love or lack thereof, I can definitely point out these pseudo-pets and claim that there’s no ‘animosity’ between the animals and myself. 🙂