La La Land – Chapter 4

Smoke drifted gently from one of the huts, as the lady of the house went about her task of preparing the day’s meal on a mud stove. It was fuelled by the wood bought home from the nearby jungle a few days ago.

It had been left to dry in the sun and now crackled and burned fiercely with its fellow branches, all of which had been chopped off the same tree.

It was soon joined by a couple of others of its ilk and their insistent crowing woke up some of the sleepy headed people around who stretched, yawned and reluctantly got up from their cots.

In the cow shed adjoining the milkman’s home, the cows were far more active. They munched happily on the straws provided by their owner before they would be milked and made loud moo sounds expressing their contentment with life in general.

Bright sunlight soon warmed the courtyards of homes and somewhere a mother was calling out to both her children, “Hey 24, call 10, breakfast is served!”

For you see the tribes of NLOO had one peculiar custom – They took their names very seriously and had devised various methods to be christened. For starters, they did not name their children immediately on birth.

It was only on the 21st day that a baby would be named. Now this was not any simple affair!

A large brass vessel which was the common property of the people and kept in the custody of the village Sarpanch would be bought specially for this occasion. It was filled to the brim with water and turmeric was liberally added to it and stirred, until it imparted its deep yellow colour to the liquid.

Then many strands of Bermuda Grass, locally known as Durva or Doob grass would be mixed in the water. Each family member (including the baby who was to be named) would be given a single grain of rice.

Each member would then keep a note mentally and mark his/her grain while standing around the vessel along with others. Before coming they would have already thought of a name they would like to give to the baby (in case they emerged victorious in the naming ritual), or they could decide one at the place itself.

The vessel was then tapped gently, and rice grains would start floating towards its centre where the baby’s grain lay on the blade. The people assembled would cheer enthusiastically for the family member they wanted to win. Each rice grain was egged on like participants in a race!

Whosoever’s rice would come closest to the baby’s grain would emerge victorious and the winner was met with raucous applause and whistles of celebrations!!

The name finalized, the infant would then be bathed in the same turmeric water and the Doob grass blades crushed and rubbed on its skin. The grass known for its innumerable health benefits, was an integral part of the rural medicine kit. Among its various benefits were its anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antiseptic properties.

The tribes believed it would protect the baby lifelong from various skin diseases including the dreaded leprosy.

However, sometimes the naming ceremony would end with unintended consequences. Once the grandfather of a child desirous of having his own name passed on to the future generation won the rice race.

Now the mother of the child was in a fix. How can she call the child by the same name as her father-in-law?! That would indeed be blasphemous!!

So, the child was promptly given a name based on some special characteristic trait in their personality and his/her identity would be formalized on this basis.

The local panchayat would then meet to debate and finalize the proposed name. This name could be given at any age, but it was not necessary that it stay with the person forever. It could again change with a change in circumstances.

It was such quirks that made life in La La Land so peculiar and different!!

All Illustrations have been done by Kishor Mistry and you can follow his Instagram account kishormistry_ for more wonderful art!

Copyright © 2023 Wasim Jawaid

This work of fiction, written by Wasim Jawaid is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. For permission requests, send an email to the author wasim.jawaid@gmail.com

One thought on “La La Land – Chapter 4”

  1. Hey! Reading your blog after a long time! Loving the La la land….very funny, especially the hero Honda and vintage vespa part! Like the alliteration used. Nice illustrations too, Kishor! Well written Wasim!

    Like

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