Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Necklace for Nicholas

When I was about 11 years old, I came home one day all vexed about a teacher, Mrs. Grover, who had scolded me for no reason. My dad had a simple solution. "Every time she scolds you, think of her as Mrs. Gobur!", he said. Gobur in hindi means cow shit. That was it. I was never ever scared of that teacher again. 

When Atreya and I moved to Singapore, we had a tough time remembering people's names because they were so unfamiliar to our Indian ears. For instance, there was this neighborhood shop owner called Li Hui, whose name we could never remember. Then one day, we figured out a way- we visualized her as a shaky woman- hili hui. After that, I would greet her loudly and confidently every day! 

So, a play on names served as a stress buster on one occasion and a mnemonic on another. It serves others purposes too- that of helping me become part of Aloka's school life and introducing her to the art of punning! 

Aloka and I started punning on people's names sometime this year. It's one of our bed-time fun games. Without my telling her explicitly, she seems to know people are sticky about their names, so we don't use the pun names outside of our home. It's our secret game. Well, secret as long as they don't read this post!

It started with two sisters in her class, Carol and Charmaine. Carol became Carrot. For Charmaine, I suggested Champagne, but this didn't make sense to Aloka, who suggested Shampoo instead. Over the months, our list has grown long, with some name alternatives coming from me, but most suggested by her. While we started with words that sounded similar (e.g. Necklace for Nicholas), the game has now evolved to finding alternate words that represent other similarities as well. Here they are. 

Aloo ka parantha
Alokie (Mallika's name for her)
Chicken (she loves chicken too)
Bishan (the town the school is in)
Twisting (he is an active naughty boy too)
Honey (Aloka likes him a lot too)
Magnet (She sticks to Aloka )
Syrup (she is super sweet)
Teacher Leana
Teacher Lioness (she is indeed fierce)
Teacher Aileen
Teacher Violin (she sings very well)

This punning is an organic thing. The other day, when I told Aloka that a friend called Kian-Peng had dropped me home, she said "I am sure he loves to go camping"! 


  1. I love you both for devising such beautiful method to remember names. Keep it up and keep me informed.

    1. Mom aap ko tou I love you both kehnay ka bahana chahiye hota hai!


  2. Yes those dreadful train rides from one end of Singapore to another were made fun by these games. Now that you mentioned, I remember "It's over in Dover" too.