Emily: Chapter Seven



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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Come back tomorrow to see what happens next! To catch up, click here

Post 9!!! Am hoping to complete the challenge this month. Fingers crossed for me!!


D is for Dance

He was sitting at the table watching the celebrations when the band began to play his favourite song. His eyes glazed over with memories. How many evenings had they danced to that tune together? How many times had he whirled her in his arms? His eyes automatically searched the crowded room for her. When he spotted her, her arm was linked through his and she was laughing. She had forgotten. He sighed and smiled a little sadly; she’d dance with him now.

He had turned away when suddenly, “Daddy! That’s our song! Aren’t you going to ask me to dance?!”



Image courtsey: bridalmusings.com

Written for ABC Wednesday “D is for…”

abc15 (1)

Dear Diary…

Dear Diary,

Would you believe another 25th of December has gone by? Father insisted on going to church today and I wish he hadn’t because during the service, when I looked at him, he was crying and it nearly broke my heart. He tries so hard to be strong but then Christmas day comes along and I can almost feel the pain radiating from him. I think he thinks he should have been able to stop it…that he should have done something differently that day, but how could he have known what was to be? How could Father have stopped what happened? I wish he wouldn’t blame himself. I don’t. I almost reached out to him, to hold his hand today, but, I hesitated for just a second too long and by the time I decided to, the moment had passed and it was too late…

Christmas used to be such a wonderful time for the family Diary…we used to have a big celebratory dinner with delicious food and carols and dancing…I wish only the parties could be remembered instead of just that Christmas night nine years ago being the clearest…why Diary? Why are painful memories like that always so powerful? Why doesn’t the sadness ever end…?

On that night, I remember I was sitting at the foot of the stairs rubbing my tummy because I was hungry. It was way past my dinner time and Mother and her sister, Aunty Tina had only just begun setting the table! Father’s youngest sister my beautiful stylish Aunty Kendra, who insisted I called her just Kendra, was pouting at her reflection in the mirror that hung in our little foyer as she combed her hair first this way then that trying to get it to sit in a style she found most flattering. Aunty Grace, Father’s elder sister was at the piano, absent mindedly playing the first few bars of “Jingle Bells” while her husband Uncle Jude was successfully convincing Father to break out a bottle of his more expensive bubbly. I remember that the last time I heard Father laughing was as he went to the bar to fetch it. Uncle Jude popped the bottle and I recall that the cork went flying through the room and landed at the far end of the hall. I was supposed to submit an art project once school re-opened the next year and I thought the cork would be a useful addition to the piece I was making. I bent down to poke my head under the sofa to see if that was where the cork had rolled off to when Aunty Enid (who was quite old at the time) didn’t see me, tripped over me and fell. The glass she was holding fell to the ground and shattered and she cut her hand on the shards. I remember Mother rushed to her side to tend to her injuries giving me a very stern look. Father just pulled me up and gave me a hard smack on my behind in front of everybody, his eyes flashing. He hissed at me to apologise, which I did, shakily. Then he just walked away from me. I was so angry probably just as angry as he was. I was almost seven years old…how dare he smack me in front of so many people when I was almost old enough to be a lady?!?

I turned around and stormed out of the room, my eyes smarting almost as much as my derrière. I threw on my favourite pink coat, and bolted out of the house. I walked out onto the road going in a direction that I thought would take me furthest away from my house and from my father with whom I was so angry…but the further I walked, the less angry I got. So I turned around to head back home…

Diary…the last thing I remember about that Christmas night was the appearance of this patch on the snow…like bright red ink staining a white sheet of paper…

The next time I see Father, please make sure I give his hand a squeeze Diary…he won’t be able to see me, but maybe he will be able to feel my presence and know that I love him and don’t blame him and that the accident was never his fault…



I randomly generated SEVEN words to write a piece of fiction. The words I got were: Christmas, Diary, Cork, Comb, Ink, Dinner, Power. Hope you enjoyed the read. 🙂

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013.

Write Tribe

That smells like home

aeroplane-164663_640Growing up, I remember that during the summer holidays every year, the four of us would pack a very large number of suitcases with goodies from “the Gulf” for our relatives in India and travel from our little town of Al Ain, (which was so little, it didn’t have its own airport for the longest time) to Dubai to make the journey to Mangalore. I remember the never-ending queues we waited in to get into the air plane and then fighting with my brother to get the window seat. (One of the many perks of being the younger child was that he usually had to give it to me…. 🙂 ) The aeroplane had a distinct smell. A mixture of your run-of-the-mill bug spray and the essence of some wild exotic flower. The scent was so strong that it used to make my father and I sneeze and sneeze until our eyes watered but, there was no getting around it. Through the years, I’ve made many journeys by air and the air plane smell still never fails to set me on a sneezing bout and remind me of all those trips to India I made growing up.

By the time we reached Mangalore, we were all tired but, I remember that I always knew we had reached because as soon as I stepped out of the plane, half asleep though I was, the humidity would hit me like a solid wall and fog up my brothers spectacles.But, that happened only if we landed when there was a break in usually constant monsoon rains. If it was raining, we were greeted by the delicious smell of clean wet mud. It was something that I didn’t get to breathe in too often since I lived in the dry dry desert. To this day, the smell of the earth just after the rain has tenderly caressed it reminds me of holidays spent in my grandmother’s house.

Speaking of my grandmother’s house, I guess, that’s where memories my nose has made seems to be the strongest. I remember that there was a lady who had a herd of cows in the plot of land behind our house. Every morning, I would wake

Way back when! My cousin and brother with me outside our house

Way back when! My cousin and brother with me outside our house in Mangalore

to the sound of cows mooing and the smell of cow dung. Even though I’m more scared of cows than I could possibly explain to you, funnily enough, the smell of their poop generates a good feeling deep inside my being. 🙂

My grandmother drank a glass of hot milk in a tall steel tumbler every morning at about 11 I think and I remember the smell of boiling milk permeating every room of the house…so strong there was almost no getting away from it until a strong gust of wind would blow through the open windows in the hall and bring with it, the tantalizing fragrance of ripening jack-fruit and a wonderful confluence of the sweet scents of all the flowers on plants that my mother had planted when she had first entered that house as a bride.

Come afternoon and the house would fill with the aroma of fish being fried in piping hot coconut oil…a smell that would linger on much after the last bits of the fish had been licked off my fingers. My own mother never used coconut oil to cook, so after my grandmother’s house, I only smelt that smell at my in-laws and the memories came rushing back….

Once dusk had arrived, Ratna, the girl who stayed with my grandmother to look after her, would light one of those old tortoise coils to keep the mosquitoes away. The smell was so strong, it’s no wonder the mosquitoes couldn’t survive it! Although no one lights them any more, when I see them in the store, I think of my holidays in Mangalore.

Eventually, tired out doing nothing in particular, I would fall asleep to the sound of crickets chirping and frogs croaking only to be awoken the next day again to the sound of cows waiting to be milked in the next compound in all their smelly goodness….


To get your home to smell exactly the way you want, try Ambi Pur. Check out their page at www.facebook.com/AmbiPurIndia.