It is almost three years since I wrote my last post. I am worried for multiple reasons – not writing often, still being a part-time family man, detaching myself from social responsibilities and most important of all – aging so fast. I am equally happy for multiple reasons too – started writing auto-biography, having a family who still don’t complain much and most important of all – planning financial life much better. After all, I have two kids now and my first priority is to have them lead a financial-free life. I have no shame to agree to that.
My auto-biography is coming up well except that I probably need another 5-6 years to complete it. I started writing it last year when I was in California. I started writing in English as I wanted it to reach to my non-Tamil friends and colleagues. I also wanted to experiment if I could write in English, to my satisfaction.
This post is mainly for my kids. What if my second kid asks me, “How come you wrote something when you had Arjun but not me?” or what if Arjun says, “How come you wrote shit when you had me but nothing for Aravind?” Oh yeah – after the second naming world war, we settled with the name Arvind. Arjun-Arvind.
No – no numerology. No – no horoscope. Yes – Arvind and Arjun-Arvind sounds phonetic. Yes – we named him in a temple in a traditional Hinduistic way.
A lot has changed in me. I don’t remember if I were an atheist or agnostic when I had Arjun. As of now, I think I’m an agnostic-atheist. I no longer have the hatred towards Hinduism. My alter ego is transitioning from be-serious to be-very-serious. I wish India had the balls to fight Srilanka. I wish India had the mercy for Kashmiri people. I want to draw a picture of Kaali holding guns, bombs and bio-weapons. I want to experience yoga and practice it ever. I want to go to Sabarimala and follow their rituals for the whole tenure. I want to starve in the month of Ramzan. All in my terms. I wish. I wish.
“Oh Oh! Calm down be-very-serious part. He’s just a human being.” – This is me. I can’t live without either of them.
Leela, Arjun and I were in California last year. It was only there we found that we were expecting our second kid. It was a surprise but we were pretty happy. One of my colleague asked me, “So Jags, did it happen in India or US?” I thought for few seconds and said “Hmm.. I don’t know. Seriously.” Oops!
We were in India for the delivery. We didn’t knew the gender of the baby. I wanted a girl but didn’t say this to anyone (Come on Aravind – don’t fight with me, I wanted a girl even when we had Arjun. Read my previous post). On the delivery date, it was the same nail biting experience. If I were in US or Europe during the delivery, I would have screamed more than Leela and cried more than the baby.
A nurse came out of the maternity ward and asked, “Who is Jagadeesh?”
“It’s me”, I rushed to her. I was curious if it was a boy or girl.
“Please wait here itself sir, Ashwath doctor will bring your baby”. We Tamilians use the work “itself” a lot.
I stood by the main door of the maternity ward. I tried hard to act normal. I was successful too. I think I’m a good actor. Perhaps everybody thinks so? If one can act normal while got caught lying, then he should be a fine actor. In such case, do I? Well, do you?
Dr. Ashwath opened the door after few minutes. There was no baby. I looked behind him if a nurse is carrying the baby.
“Jagadeesh?” he caught me by my unnatural acts. Damn, I thought I’m a good actor.
“Yes doctor”, I said anxiously. I was watching him closely for his next few words.
“Congratulations, you have a baby boy”.
I pulled my chin a little. I realized a couple of drops rolling in my cornea. It was all for a second. May be two but not more. No one noticed it. I was successful in converting the chin-pulling into a smile, and dry out the cornea water. Am I good actor or bad actor? Honestly, I don’t know.
“We are cleaning the baby, we will bring him in five minutes”, Dr. Ashwath went inside again.
I started thinking about wanting a baby girl. When did it start? Why do I think so? I don’t know. Or there’s just too many.
With I was a kid, my mom use to prepare rice flour by hand, supply door-to-door and was earning pennies. She worked so hard that her hands are still unnaturally rigid. I grew up seeing her struggle, love and courage. Is it because of that?
When I was in 12th standard, my sister prayed that she would stop eating non-veg if I get good marks. And she is not having non-veg for the past sixteen years. Is it because of that?
When I was in college, I saw a girl who was so perfect in studies, character and behavior. I didn’t respect her emotions and eventually spent several sleepless heart-aching nights. Is it because of that?
When I was in Java class, I followed a girl who was very simple yet so admirable. I never realized that simplicity can create such a massive effect. A perfect example for a crush but she was my Mona Lisa. Is it because of that?
When I was in Germany, I once had a small fight with my ex. At that time, she said that I’m too introvert to raise a daughter. I took it so personal and wanted to disprove that statement. Is it because of that?
I don’t know. Or there’s just too many.
My philosophy of dad is simple. Be there when they need me. After all, a parent’s duty is just to love them, no matter what.
“Oops! Calm down Mr. be-very-serious”
I heard a baby crying inside the maternity ward. The sound approached nearer and got louder. It must the one. She must be the one. I mean, he must be the one.
When the door opened, I was holding Arjun on my shoulders. The baby looked like a clone of Arjun. He was crying loud and Arjun was holding me tightly. “Arjun.. Arjun.. See your brother. He resembles you a lot, right?”
The baby was still crying loud. Perhaps that’s the one and only son-crying dad-happy moment.
I was kind of jumping places due to project work and so we had to keep postponing his naming ceremony. Obviously, we didn’t settle with a name! I thought of Surya. Some of my colleagues suggested Karan so as to have Karan-Arjun. After multiple rounds of review, we settled with the name Arvind. Arjun-Arvind.
It was just last month we had the naming ceremony in an Amman temple at Tirupur. The temple is located just one block away from my home. I have quite a history with temples and Gods, and this one is of particular importance as it is close to home. I loved it once when I was too young and the temple was old-fashioned, with goat shit all over the places (including Gods). Anyway, after renovation, almost the entire surroundings of my area believe that it is “Maha Kali Amman” in the temple who monitors and controls the world. Especially mom and sister. I no longer fight with them except when they start preaching rituals and religion.
So, on the naming ceremony, I was in that temple with Arvind on the shoulder and Arjun on the lap. Myself and Leela had to wear garlands and repeat the mantras mentioned by the priest. I was quite successful with delivering them exactly, but I could sense Leela struggling a lot. She was actually changing the mantras and creating new meaningful and contradictory words. Oops!
The priest asked us keep our both hand palms tied together and placed on the right lap. Leela did it correctly too. I wanted to confuse her and I know I can do it quite easily. I looked at her smiled, and said, “it’s the other way around.” She changed the lap. I said again, “No.. No… its the other way around.” She moved half-way through, kept the hands in the air and looked at the priest. “You were correct earlier, keep it like that” She must have cursed me. Ass-hole.
After saying few more god-only-knows mantras, we had to write Arvind’s name on a bowl of rice, three times. Though not visible clearly, I watched Leela closely on how fast and well she is scribbling on the rice. I don’t know what she wrote but I swear it was not “Arvind”. I consoled myself after few minutes. After all, she is a doctor and I should expect her hand-writing no better than what I saw.
We came out of the temple, and I had Arjun wear my garland. Leela had it on Arvind. I wanted to capture that moment and took few snaps. They still look mostly alike. When they grow, what will they become of? Coen brothers? Waugh brothers? Conlon brothers?
After a month, my father in-law was about to go to Coimbatore to get Arvind’s name stamped on the birth certificate. He asked Leela, “So, what is the spelling of Aravind?”
Leela said, “A R V I N D”.
“What? Are you kidding?” he changed his face.
“Why?” Leela changed her face quickly too. Inheritance!
“How come there is no A between R and V?” he sounded as if Leela had no common sense.
“Arvind sounds more phonetic. Aravind is old-fashioned.” she sounded as if her dad had no common sense. Inheritance, again!!
“No no. Check with Mapillai again. I mean, what kind of name is Arrrrrvind?” he stepped on to the “r” letter and took a while to step out.
Leela got confused and called me, “Appa says Arvind is not good. He says it should be Aravind.”
“That’s true. Arvind sounds more of north Indian type. I am fine with Aravind. In fact, Aravindhan is what a Tamil name should be.”
“No No No No … Lets settle with Aravind.”
“Sure, its your call”
“OK, tell me finally – is it Arvind or Aravind”
“I said its your call”
“No. You tell me.”
“OK. Should it have an “h” in the end? Like Aravindh”
It reminded me of Vickkrum guy whose original name was Vikram. “No no, don’t complicate. Just keep Aravind”
“OK. That’s final, right?”
What is it with these girls asking the same question again and again? If they are not sure, is the entire world not sure as well? “Yes, I am sure” I pitched the tone slightly higher so she can believe that I am sure. It worked.
So, its going to be Arjun-Aravind.
One of the unique things being a Tamilian (and some of Malayalee too?) is that we don’t have a family name. It’s just J. Arjun and J. Aravind. I liked the concept of dad and mom in the initials, and hence they are going to be L. J. Arjun and L. J. Aravind. In the passport, since “Last name” is mandatory, we had to expand the initials. Thats how Jagadeesan. B became Jagadeesan Balakrishnan, Arjun became Arjun Leelavathi Jagadeesan and Aravind is going to Aravind Leelavathi Jagadeesan.
“We should have Arjun’s name recorded as Arjun Leela Jagadeesan in the passport, I didn’t knew they would simply take my name and replace it”, Leelavathi hated her full name.
My name has a history too. I asked my mom once, “Amma, did you name me as Jagadeesh or Jagadeesan?”
“Jagadeesh” she said instantly.
“Then how did I end up being Jagadeesan all these years?”
“I don’t know. I think your dad took another guy when we joined you for L.K.G. and while writing the form, since your dad was not comfortable writing in English, the other guy wrote your name as Jagadeesan in your admission report. Since then, you become Jagadeesan.”
What can I say other than “India in 80s”. Well, I most certainly like my full name – Jagadeesan Balakrishnan. After all, I am dragging dad all through my life. I wonder if his name was really Balakrishnan or something else.
Oops! Just like the last post, Aravind might also say this to me in the future – “you could have better named this post as Jagadeesan Balakrishnan and not Aravind!” Sorry kiddos, your dad has tons of things that went unspoken and they are getting the form of writings.
Now Arjun is three years old, and Aravind is 7 months old. Since they are in the same house, life is more fun and challenging. Last week, when I was sitting in a chair watching TV, Arjun ran to me shouting “Appa.. Appa… Aravind kicked me from the bed, I fell and broke my leg. See.” he showed his knee and I realized that all he needs is more love.
I heard all the 2 or more same-gender-kid parents saying “Welcome to the club, Mr. Jagadeesan Balakrishnan”