The ladies from the older generation of the Vaz family were singing wowieos. Emily had seldom paid much attention to the meaningful lyrics before. However, as her family came forward to douse her with, what is traditionally believed to be purifying, coconut milk, she felt her eyes become wet. The conversation she had had with her mother kept playing over in her head. She tried her best to keep the tears from falling, but they still came. Since the guests were pouring copious amounts of the sweet smelling liquid on her head, they were none the wiser and Emily could cry in peace. Lost in her thoughts, her eyes had glazed over and a fixed smile had appeared on her face. A young man with horn rimmed glasses and a shock of curly hair came to apply the milk on her and said in a thick, recently acquired American accent, “Imli! Can’t believe you’re walking down the aisle tomorrow!”
Emily blinked a couple of times. Hearing her old nickname had broken her reverie. As she registered his sudden appearance, she laughed. “Arun Shetty! I…” she began to say before she was interrupted by a cousin trying to drown her in coconut milk. “We’ll talk later Imli. Got the whole night!” and Arun disappeared into the crowd.
It had been years since anyone had called her that. Indians, who do not have an Indian name, sometimes suffer greatly when their names are mangled by those who are not exposed to those with Western roots. When Ramu, the keeper of the keys at the school that Arun and Emily attended, told him that Rajesh Sir, their sports coach, was looking for ‘Imli’, poor Emily was never able to lose the nickname. It followed her wherever she went for, unfortunately, not only was Arun her schoolmate, he was also her neighbour. She had spent many evenings in tears wishing that she had the power to force Arun Shetty to swallow his own tongue so as never to be able to talk again. Abbey had told her to ignore it because it was a silly nickname. She looked nothing like the tamarind to which Imli referred. Of course, Emily didn’t. She simply wouldn’t. In all honesty, she just couldn’t. Until a fateful basket ball match during a tournament in which Emily was suffering from streak of terrible luck.
Arun had shouted, “Go Imli!” very loudly from the stands and even though Arun argued later that he was only trying to encourage and not mock, his endorsement had sent the children from both schools into gales of laughter at her expense. Emily, already upset because the coach had threatened to bench her on account of her poor performance, stormed towards Arun seething and punched him in the nose. The two of them had been sent to Principal Varkey’s office and suffered punishment together. But, that punch gave rise to great change for both of them. For Emily, it broke her streak of bad luck and she was finally able to laugh off that wretched nickname. By the end of the year, her basket ball jersey read Imli instead of her christened name. As for Arun, the shape of his nose was never quite the same and he became prone to rubbing his now crooked nose very often.
When Arun went to America to study engineering, her nickname resounded less and less in the school halls and the lanes in their neighbourhood with each passing day and she was surprised by how much she missed it.
She had no idea that he was back in town, although she had met Madhu Aunty and Shetty Uncle only a few days earlier. She looked forward to catching up with him during the real party, once the formal Roce ceremony was over.
Bathed and changed into a gold ghagra choli, Emily had her long hair down literally and was dancing to the baila when Arun tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around and broke into a wide grin. “So, Mr. USA, home on a holiday?”
Arun nodded his head and looked at Emily. “You’ve become sort of pretty Imli. That Ethan fellow is a lucky guy.”
Emily laughed. “Compliments, Arun? Are you sure it’s still you behind those glasses?” She grinned. “It’s so good to see you! Aunty and Uncle didn’t tell me you would be in town for the wedding. Am so glad you’ll be here. None of the others from the old gang could come.”
“Ma and Papa didn’t know either. I had a holiday due so booked my tickets and flew in two days ago. I go back next week.”
Emily was forced to cut short her conversation thanks to her cousins who physically dragged her back to the thick of things, “I’m looking forward to seeing you at the wedding and reception tomorrow Arun. Maybe you can tell Ethan he’s a lucky guy too?” she managed to call out laughing. She waved goodbye and danced her way back to where her family was heating up the dance floor, remaining there till the party ended, well after midnight and it was time to go back home.
- Wowieos: Traditionally sung only at the Roce ceremony, it is a mournful sounding song in Konkani where the first few verses loosely translate into blessings on the bride given by her family. They later devolve into thinly veiled dirty limericks which usually leave everyone listening giggling.
- Baila: A typical form of music in the Konkan region in India. The songs are usually fast numbers with heavy Portuguese influence. Most often they have the ability to send invisible lassos over the heads of middle aged men, causing them to take to the dance floor with moves that, if nothing else, are very contagious. It takes only minutes before the floor is covered with dancers of all ages, following the steps and rhythm and dancing along.
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Post 9!!! Am hoping to complete the challenge this month. Fingers crossed for me!!