Whatever name you give
This way or that
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
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Besides the security and name tags for the new born, her foot print was also taken for record and given to the parents. Identical name tag at mother's wrist was tallied every time baby was brought back from the Nursery room for feeding needed at night. Many people love to have the ink-impressions of hand as well along with baby's photograph for record and as a room decoration as well.We chose 4th of July the date for this present day ritual for the baby with the tag Born in the US of America. A photographer was available in the hospital to give professional service for baby's photos even though friends and relatives visiting take many with the baby and proud parents there. Bouncing back to life, few weeks later another professional was hired for photography session that lasted for four hours at a stretch to give that wonderful results to cherish for long. Her patience with sleeping baby and pains to take shots all possible ways brought us some brilliant results that impressed the photographer, a mother of four kids, herself too. How could the grandparents go without, they too get photographed with the baby and her proud parents together.
Birth certificate was received within a week baby arrived in our world and next step was to apply for a passport to ease little angel's travel home-bound at an earliest to meet all there waiting eagerly.
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Only mother knows the pain and joy as well of being adored with the supreme power of nature bringing a new life to the earth by the virtue of motherhood only a woman can experience and deliver. To give birth to her own kind, a baby girl is the rare experience not all can achieve and here our daughter was delivering on the first opportunity itself. We parents feel amply rewarded for the long wait all these years. Nature has at last been so generous enough to bless us all. It is perhaps for this reason they have maternal pattern of society for the Nairs and many others in Kerala. Very much like the one we have in Meghalaya from the north east region of the country, while our own in Nepal with some families still have to come out of the clutches of social stigma attached. As per custom there, when a baby is born the joy is shared with the mother's family by sending - betel nuts 12 nos., jaggery one block, fennel 200 grams, ghee one packet, ginger one piece, salt one piece, nutmeg 12 nos. with some vermilion. If a baby girl, all these items but nuts, nutmeg and jaggery are sent in broken halves to know so easily. Was this sign by any means related to broken halves of the coconut for the Peredhil ceremony of the Nair?! These are sent on a bronze or any other plate with leaf and are sent back with equal quantity added. When we were in Kathmandu last time, Ranjana's niece was narrating the pain being in patriarchal society her experience bearing a daughter each time half a buffalo head was sent as per family's custom. For the second one and to baffle one whole buffalo head was sent instead in anguish. Both of her daughters are growing smart doing very well than their cousins to make the mother proud of and to prove everyone all wrong.
'The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.' We had to wait for almost a month for the naming ceremony as per the custom followed by the Nair family, which is known as Peredhil, held on the 28th Day of the birth known as Noolukettu in Malayalam. Elder brother Vipin with Swapna and Arnav had come all the way from Houston, Texas to be with the family and bless the new-born on this auspicious occasion. As the scheduled flight was cancelled they had to stay overnight in a hotel at the airport but they could catch early flight next morning to be here on time for the ceremony.
Whatever name you give, this way or that, the baby is yours always. In our system, Nauran is done on 5th or11th day for girl while it is 6th or 12th day for boy. Whereas Peredhil is usually done on 28th day for girls and on 27th for boys - significant to note the weightage changed. Simple was the naming ceremony of Peredhil when the parents in their traditional attire were seated on the floor with bare baby in mother's lap. In their front was the auspicious lamp with kalash and puja thali with betel leaves and broken halves of coconut in front of them. Besides a tray with some customary articles like jadi-butti (nutmeg, majhiphal, dried stem and root pieces), black holy threads, black bangles and panch-dhatu anklets sent by grandparents in Palakkad especially for the ceremony. Black holy thread was tied around the waist of the baby decorated with bangles and anklets. Highlight of the naming ceremony was when it was mother first to whisper the name in baby's right ear with left one covered with betel leaf and repeating it in the other with one covered. Next was father's turn to do so with rest of the family members following thereafter.
Since it was a week day, a typical Malayalam feast waited for friends invited for dinner. Not only the menu was elaborate with all delicacies home-made right from sambhar, pachadi made of pineapple, kooto curry of black gram, kalan tusi of horse gram and pumpkin, thoran of cabbage, ada payasam, avial of mixed vegetable, olan of mango, injipuli of mango and ginger, achar of raw mango, banana chips, sharkara uppiri besides papadam. All were seated on the floor and meal was served on banana leaf. Wondered how these leaves were arranged - these plastic ones were brought all the way from Palakkad by the in-laws during last visit especially for such traditional functions. When visiting Kerala in 2014 we had the rare opportunity to have a taste of these delicious preparations besides kind hospitality from the Nair family. So it was but natural for us to look forward quite eagerly to have the taste once again as such occasions come very rare. Our knowledge in this regard being limited to dosa, idli, sambar, wada, rasam and to the most papadam, our daughter who had by now familiarized herself with the cuisine all these years helped to get the names listed above. It being very common to see a tulsi-math in courtyard of every Hindu home in Kerala, we were not surprised to find that non-vegetarian items excluded in this ceremony like in all their religious rituals. This is quite in contrast with the Newars as we have meat, fish and wine for every occasion of joy right from naming ceremony to that of sorrow (while purification ritual done) as well when we give 'sagan' with all those items. Even alcoholic beverage was, as such, not served on this occasion as well. Otherwise also most of the present on this occasion were not in habit of consuming intoxicating drinks. Such a practice is, however, not a taboo but an essential part of many rituals and every festivity back home in our society. Most remarkable contrast with ours is that for the Malayalam Hindu family beef is not something to shun. It is understood to be very much a part of their culture to relish like the fish they love so much. Friends are surprised to find that while beef is a taboo, buffalo meat is popular with many in Nepal.
Disclaimer: This is author’s personal account of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. Some names (*asterisk for those no more), quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest "The Newars World~Wide Connecting the Dots : Sikkim" is available at Rachna Books.