Wednesday, May 27, 2015
First Word: Tessa Too-Kong: Lilac
Lilac, “lila” in Spanish, sounds the same as my mother’s name, “Leila” with an “ei” and definitely not lilac, which is a colour you associate with Miss Marple or lilac-coiffed seniors in Florida wearing sweat pants and sneakers not playing golf. It´s too cool to be a tropical colour, more akin to desert skies or sunsets on mountaintops. So my mother is “Leyla” with a “y” in Chile, conjuring seductive belly-dancer Mata-Hari --calibre images, and she changes personality to suit… . What’s in a name?
Do people live up or down to their names? Would my children be different had I named them Winston or Cassiopeia, names weighted with expectations? Or the lightness of Sunshine and Ebony? Today’s fashion is for cities of significance to their parents, Chelsea, Sienna, Madison… where does it lead their children? My surname was a weight to carry at school, it made me my father’s daughter and separated me from the herd. I couldn’t wait to change it when I got married. Just my luck to marry in a country where women keep their surnames! I used to doodle at different surnames according to my latest crush to see how they combined with my own Christian name.
There was one boy I did like particularly, my cousin’s friend, who used to wait for me under the house on his bike at 12.15 pm precisely (meaning he barely scrambled his own lunch) to catch a glimpse of me as I came down to ride off back to school after lunch, the pretext being that he’d come to accompany my cousin. My heart thumping, I’d put my nose in the air and ride off because it was against the rules to talk to boys while in uniform. I was about 12 or 13 and he was about three or four years older. By the time our secret romance had progressed to marathon telephone calls that jammed the line for hours at a time, he got shipped off to the family’s ancestral state of the Punjab when he turned 18. When I turned 17, I was flown out to London to study Economics. We met again seven years later when we both returned home. By then, we were worlds apart. All because of my name.