The entire family had turned up in the room. The name of the newborn had to be decided and time was running out. Only a day remained in hand and the child’s birth needed to be registered with the municipality, which can’t happen without a name. The distress was palpable.
Within the room on the first floor, on the bed, facing the window, sat the mother with the newborn child, delicately cradled in her arms, wrapped in soft, white Turkish cloth. She hugged him each time he was talked about. There was silence in between. But the silence only created the need for a sound. Someone spoke and then another threw a rebuttal. The process went on in circles. And the mother hugged and kissed the child laying her emotion filled eyes on him as though she was protecting him from the discussion.
“Let his name be Vishnu.” said the grandfather; his eyes brightening.
“May be Ganesh would serve better” mocked one of the granddaughters of the old man, “Given the tradition of the family he would certainly develop a paunch as he grows up.”
The mother hugged the child once again and spoke something inaudible in his ears. The child did not appear to have understood anything.
“What’s wrong in the name? Each time we call him, the lord’s name would be on the lips.” The old man countered, visibly upset.
“What if he commits a misdeed and you need to scold him?” threw the grandson with a laughter that was a near equivalent of a taunt, “would you not be scolding the Lord then?”
The old man sank back in the chair. It was difficult to decipher from his face if he had heard or understood or appreciated the logic but he went quiet with an insufficient illumination in his eyes.
The grandson of the old man offered his suggestion, “Let his name be Gundappa.”
“Oh!” interjected the grand-daughter, “let his name be Prem or Rahul. That is in fashion these days.”
“Let the name be something modern, about something around us that is meaningful.” The aunt said, “What do you say?” she looked at the father of the child who had kept quiet till then.
The father of the child looked shaken from a deep slumber. He looked at his father’s face, looking at the young boy and girl, his mother, the aunt as if he was in search of something that he had suddenly forgotten. He remembered that he had not spoken to his wife on this subject. He observed that his wife had not spoken a single word apart from uttering those inaudible monologues in the child’s ears; visibly inert to the developments around her, although, he instinctively knew that she heard everything and worse, registered in her mind every word. It was a symptom that had the potential to blossom into something explosive if not addressed just then. And the strategy that spun in front of him was instinctive and natural — evade the situation.
“Give me some time” he said, “By today we would decide one. Let me talk to the mother of the child as well.”
The mother looked briefly at her husband, half-shocked, half-angry. He seemed to have understood something that those eyes had conveyed and her jaws had commanded. He wished that all moved away from the room. Luckily for him it happened soon.
“That is a good idea. Let them discuss and keep a name.” The old man uttered, “He is their child. They would know better.” Something in his tone stole the wisdom in his words and sprayed a hue of emotion. He got up and moved out of the room. Soon each one followed him except the father of the child.
In the silence that pervaded, the wife gained momentum. She carefully laid the child on the bed and looked straight into the eyes of her husband.
“Why bring my name in public?” It was a question that sounded like a rebuke.
“What public? They are your own people! Aren’t they?” The husband said.
“That is the reason why you should have kept quiet.” The husband could hear the sounds of her breathing, “You kill it the moment you open your mouth. What a pity!”
The husband did not find an immediate answer. He felt upset with himself that he was unable to throw a fitting reply to her despite understanding what she meant. He held a cigarette between his fingers.
“Now apply your common sense.” The wife scorched, “Go out of the room to smoke.”
He was upset on himself now for lighting a cigarette in front of the child. He left the packet untouched. He looked at his wife who was busy arranging the sarees in the cupboard although it was clear to him that she was occupying herself for the sake of remaining occupied. When he heard her loud silence, he made a very cautious exit to the adjacent balcony. As he stood there, trying to understand what inflamed his wife whenever his family was considered, the mobile rang in the room, and he heard her receive it with a giggle.
“Yes, Maa” she showered her smiling voice, “All is well here … Names like Vishnu, Ganesh … I don’t know what to say, ancient … Yes, you are most welcome, please suggest a name for him … don’t worry about who would say what … ‘Vivaan’! Wonderful name … Baba must have thought this name … Yes, we will keep that name … Thank you so much, Maa. I love you … Tomorrow at 10 o’clock his birth registration would be done …”
When the conversation had ended, the father of the child walked slowly from balcony, across the room and to the street, thinking nothing, gripped by an unknown sentiment that quietened his core. He walked slowly through the street towards the market; his chin down, watching the road ahead. After a while he raised his head and his eyes fell on the yellow sign board at the top – “Tarakacharya – Astrologer”. He stood below the board, waited for something in him to develop and then walked in.
“Good horoscope.” Tarakacharya pronounced, smiling as if he was relieved that the horoscope was not bad, “Only that the Saturn is in the sixth house watching the twelfth wherein Jupiter resides. This may be a case where the income would be equal to expenditure …”
But the father darted in impatiently, “Which name is suggested by numerology?” he asked
“The birth name is Tapan.” He said unhappy, “I would suggest any name that begins with T or N and adds up to ‘One’. Remember your surname should also be added. Jupiter needs a strong vibration in his entire life.” he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes.
Just before folding his hands, he gave a small chit in his hand in which each alphabet had a number assigned beside it. The father returned home.
He rummaged on the Internet and through name-keeping books and found too many options of names that began with T or N. He was happy with the effort but at night, sleeping on the divan, he grew restless. “My grandfather’s name, father’s name, my name all began with the alphabet A” he spoke to himself, “With a name that begins with T or N the tradition would be broken? But that should not be an issue. Strong vibration from the number should strengthen my son.” he reasoned and then the suggestions from all the relations emerged in front of him, “Vishnu, Ganesh …” and finally “Vivaan”.
Next morning, the father walked in from the municipality office and handed over the birth certificate to the mother.
“I have got it laminated while coming back.” He spoke softly, smiling, “keep it safely.”
The mother took the birth certificate from his hands in one quick stroke and looked fiercely back. “What have you done?” she screamed, “I had told you to name him ‘Vivaan’. What name have you given?”
The father looked at her; into her explosive eyes; her quivering lips and smiled,
“Don’t worry. As he would carry my surname for the rest of his life, the name I have given would sound equally musical. It means the sun.” He said and walked to the child on the bed.
He kissed the forehead and for the first time watched his face intently — the bliss, the similarity with him; the glow of innocence; a part of him.
Unknowingly his lips moved and he whispered in his ear, “Arko” and smiled. As if in response, the child woke up that instant and smiled back.