March 30, 2008
We were driving in Spiti, mom, Atreya and I. With us was Kapil, our driver, and Mahinder, his friend.
Kapil had just narrated the story of his brother and wife who had recently been given (!) a baby girl by his mother-in-law. The baby belonged to another family (in an adjoining village) that had many daughters already and couldn’t handle another. Hearing this, I had said to him “Kapil, I have been wanting a baby girl for so long” and he had responded “Didi, why didn’t you tell me earlier? I promise you that you will have a baby girl very soon”.
However ridiculous the whole exchange sounded, I was elated. After years of being told by complicated people that I can’t adopt because I am too old or too single, here was a simple statement from a simple man and I believed him. I believed him.
We reached this lovely out of this world monastery in a town called Tabo. Mummy had wanted us to stay in Tabo but couldn’t arrange a hotel. So we had a couple of hours to spend here before driving off to another town for the night.
It was the most beautiful sunny day with the bluest skies possible only in the mountains. The air was fresh and chilly. We were all acclimatized to the height by then and thus feeling fit. The PM’s daughter had just arrived at the monastery, bringing with her an atmosphere of excitement. My ears were buzzing with what Kapil had said a while ago and my heart was in a funny place in my chest.
The monastery was a brown colored mud-washed low structure. It was more than a 1000 years old. No photography was allowed inside. We were shown rooms after rooms with low ceilings and complicated idols and images. The guide rattled off the facts and I wasn’t interested in what he was saying until we came to this room with paintings of goddesses all over the walls. There were 12 paintings I think. I asked him to name every goddess and he came to the 10th (or so) painting and said “This is Aloka, Goddess of Light”.
Atreya tells me that I turned to him at that point and making a serious determined face said to him “This is it. Aloka. She will be called Aloka.”
My sweetest mother accepted this, just as she has accepted every decision I have made in life. We began referring to my then unknown (and unborn) daughter as Aloka. From then on, many SMSs were exchanged between mom and me referring to Aloka (e.g. “Mom I want Aloka.” “Puja I have talked to so and so about Aloka.”).
That is how Aloka was named.