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Sydney, Australia
My musings and meanderings on childhood - mine juxtaposed with that of my kids'. Everyday incidents and images from our life in Sydney turn my thoughts towards my own wonder years growing up in Bandra, Bombay, India.

26 June 2008

What’s in a Name?

The other day, I went to the North Sydney post-office to pick up a parcel. It’s become quite a routine, this parcel-picking-up of mine, thanks to my love affair with eBay. Sure enough, I got this lady at the counter who always mis-pronounces my name, “Alice-ON”.

Which got me thinking about names, misnomers and nicknames…
How come in Bombay, the Catholics usually have foreign names instead of Indian ones (the Mangloreans are an exception; then again, they are an exception in themselves!)? Maybe it started out when the British set up shop on Indian shores, and the locals, wanting to get jobs in the English offices, started speaking English. And went one step further in their “English-isation” by giving their kids English names. Perhaps Mohan, Mohammad, Laxman, and Jitesh became Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…

Sounds like a list of the Bible Gospel writers. Which brings me to the other possible explanation – Catholic conversions by the missionaries. Religious fervour running through your grand-parents’ veins resulted in your parents being christened after saints upon whose feast they happened to be born on: Bonaventure, Maria, Peter, Assumpta... No heed was paid to correct pronunciation. So Basil was “Bay-sil”; Augustine – “Aah-goo-steen”; Juanita was pronounced the way it was spelt instead of “Wha-nita”…

Our generation - today’s modern Macks - go for celebrity-style names like Brittany and Brad; too bad “Chloe” got called “Cholay” (the spicy chickpea dish) during the school role call! And thank God poor ebony-skinned Bianca doesn’t realise that her name means “white” in Italian!

Which brings me to the dreaded nickname that is superglued to you for life. Michael-on-the-cycle; Ball Curry; Lepsy Leper; Bruce-your-balls-are-loose; Master Neef, back beef; Looking London, Talking Tokyo (generically bestowed on any cross-eyed person); Bum (you guessed it, he had a big one!); Sex on Toast; Boobs at the Back (a lady with a mighty stoop)…

After years and years of nickname nightmares, they even have the audacity to forget your real name, or how you acquired the moniker in the first place!

As for me, I was called ‘Batli’. Why? Because I carried a water-bottle around in high school. Bet you, when I go down to Bombay this Christmas, my former classmates will call out, “Hi, Bats!”. Yes, even after 15 years…

Do you know of any funny nicknames? Post a comment below:

10 June 2008

Of Men and Motorbikes

In the last couple of months, both the main men in my life – my husband and my dad – sold their motorbikes: Breslyn, his Honda CBR 250cc, and dad, the Yezdi which he had for 25 years.

A ride on Breslyn’s Honda CBR was a thrill personified. Once we had donned our riding jackets and helmets, I’d park myself on the tiny back seat, give Breslyn the thumbs-up and cling on for dear life as he’d rev the engine and take off. Sometimes lazily winding our way through the Swan Valley, savouring the idyllic countryside. And sometimes speeding in a blur of sound and fury along the Mitchell Freeway in Perth. While doing 100kmph in a car barely makes a mark on your psyche, on a bike, it’s a total adrenalin rush. Every atom in your body pulsates, every fibre of your being responds to the sheer thrill of being alive. Young. Free. Vibrant.

My dad’s Yezdi, in sharp contrast, was an old relic from the past. His “second wife”. Once a month, dad would give her the royal treatment - testing the spark plug, buffing her with Rubbing Compound, checking the oil and doing all those motorbike-related thingies that only guys get. During the monsoon, she even got a special coating of anti-rust and her very own “raincoat”!

Weekends would see the four of us on our mandatory outings to my Nana’s House or Land’s End. Yes, FOUR of us on a bike - what a sight! Dad riding the Yezdi, mum demurely sitting sideways behind him, and my brother Jason and I perched atop the petrol tank. No helmets, no worries.

For me, the best motorbike memories were when dad would hook off early from work to be at the school gates at 3.30pm to pick me up from primary school. Me, feeling as proud as punch, enjoying the ride of my life…