I couldn't help but roll my eyes. "You could have at least given me a different official name and continued to call me "Sharadeeee" at home. What was so special about her that you wanted name your ONLY daughter after her?"
"I am not going to tell that now. There will come a time when you can really appreciate her and her life. At that time, I will tell you. Now come and feed the fishes."
Sigh...no one can beat my mom when it comes to killing conversations. I resignedly threw the puffed rice to those ugly fat fishes and continued to shoot baleful looks at her, which sadly made no difference to her state of mind.
As I grew up, I started feeling that the name was not as bad as it sounded. It was even quite unique -Sharadha Srinivasan threw up only 6 search results in Facebook! How cool is that? If anybody asked me if I was on Facebook, I would shrug coolly and reply, "Yes. You will not find many Sharadha Srinivasans." Slowly other things started becoming a priority in my life -studies, friends, boys, job and not necessarily in that order. I had also come to a sort of truce with my name. But I was not beyond using it to throw some guilt on my mom's way when I wanted to evade curfews or shop for a couple of thousands more. "Yu can't have everything you want Mom!! I am still carrying that boring name that you are so fond of. Sometimes, I want things to happen my way. It is MY life afterall." I would huff. But moms being moms, she fell for the ploy only when it suited her. Ah well...no one can say I didn't put up a fight.
I fell in love with Ajay and married him. Me, being me, didn't change my name to Sharadha Ajay because it didn't have the same majestic ring as Sharadha Srinivasan...or so I deluded myself. On the second year of marriage, I conceived and my mom bullied us all to visit the family temple. So off we all went -Mom, dad, mil, fil, Ajay and a 3 month pregnant me- to a small village near Trichy to visit our family deity, a fiery goddess ensconced in a serene temple. We make it a point to visit this temple atleast once in 2 years and definitely to seek blessings for any big happenings in the family.
"When you stand here, think of all our ancestors Sharade. Our problems are not so different than what theirs were. Hopes, dreams, fears and ultimately, prayers remain the same across the millennium and across generations. So whatever be our troubles, remember that it has already been faced and that the solution for it already exists." Mom said. She is not a very philosophical person -atleast not with me. I was staring at the wisdom in her words with an open mouth. She just smiled and continued, "That is why I named you after my grandmother." I didn't expect her to finally open up about the long standing name war. I didn't want to open my mouth and interrupt her flow. so I let her continue.
" Your grandmother was one of the strongest woman I ever knew." Said the strongest woman I ever knew. Seriously. My mom can be scarily strong. A tough no nonsense woman who has never cracked even when our family went through some of the most testing times- my dad's near fatal accident in my 7th standard, the financial losses that we suffered due to a bad business phase in my UG days, the troubles we had convincing our relatives for my inter caste marriage -my mom was truly the super woman who handled all these situations with amazing faith and resilience. I was surprised when she said thus about my great grand mother.
"Sharade was no ordinary woman. Do you know how conservative the society was in 1920s? Even now, in this modern society, it is considered a taboo to separate from your husband. But Sharade did that when she was 15 years old...with a one year old daughter in tow. My grandfather was an abusive alcoholic and Sharadhe was carrying her second child. In his drunken meanness, she beat her black and blue -a regular happening -but that night she lost her child.
"That loss must have stirred something in her...I don't know. She never liked to talk about those days...but the next day, she stepped out of her house and went back to her father's place. She was greeted with insults there. A daughter who has brought shame to the house by running away from her husband. Sharadhe just didn't care. I don't know how she could have managed to live there and eat their food. But she did. Barely literate, she started making pickles and appalams and started selling them for a meagre living. Once her father died, her brothers didn't want to support her and her growing daughter. Who will take up the marriage expenses? That was their worry.
"Thrown out of the house soon after her father's cremation, Sharadhe eked out a living selling home made pickles and appalams and cooking for other people. She ensured that her daughter received good education and was stubborn that she went to work. Sharadhe strongly believed in financial independence you know...she also managed to marry her daughter off to a good family, who were open to welcome a daughter in law who went to work.
"Sharadhe was alive when I was born and she named me Meenakshi after her favourite Goddess. She used to say that I should live like the princess that Meenakshi was..." My mom paused with tears choking her throat. She blinked them back and continued, "I was her pet. Paati doted upon me. Looking at her, you will never guess that she had such a past. She never liked to talk about it. Hard worker...till her death, she washed her own clothes and mine too...can you believe it? She was 78 when she passed away. Always full of good cheer. Nothing used to faze her.
"Whenever I had to face any tough situations in life, I just used to think about my paati...My problems are nothing compared to what she faced. I have her blood in me and I wanted to name my blood after her."
I was speechless. I never knew that the cute grandmother smiling out of the picture frame in our living room was such an iron lady. For a moment, I felt so proud to be her descendant -conveniently forgetting about my alcoholic abusive great grandfather roots. I don't know why my mother waited so long to tell me this story. Why not earlier...or why not later? But her timing was impeccable.
Soon after that temple trip, my mother fell sick. She was diagnosed with stage 4 blood cancer. The pregnancy passed in a haze of hospitals and tests and chemo and caring for my emotionally broken father. Even during all the mayhem, my mom was adamant that I didn't quit my job due to all these, insisting that I continue to work. "This too shall pass", she kept on saying. She passed away with my name on her lips, after braving 3 rounds of chemo. I hardly had time to mourn for my mother's death when the labour pain sneaked up on me and squeezed out my baby -my beautiful little girl.
Karma is a bitch, and I now have to listen to my daughter cry everyday about her name. Yes, I named her Meenakshi, being fully aware of the consequences. But one day, I will tell her the story behind her name and I hope she will make her peace. Ultimately, nothing but these names tie us to our roots and keep the memories alive.