Naming the Baby
by Marcie (with photos by Marcie's husband)
Here is an essay I wrote while revisiting India in the Winter of 2011.
Ok, so this is why I love being in India. Dick and I were taking a simple walk from our beautiful homestay inn in the village of Pathanamthitta, in Kerala state. We were taking the morning off from being tourists, just looking for a simple walk.
Caption: Political posters for candidates representing Kerala’s popular Communist party, on the side of a house along our walk.
We climbed up and up a road, with increasingly beautiful vistas, and finally saw a gated fence at the end of the road. But, before the gate was a house. An elderly woman, (who looked more like a worker than a family member), was doing something over an open fire. Two other elderly women were on their “porch” area and waved to us, motioning for us to enter their yard.
Then one goes into the house and returns carrying a little tiny gorgeous baby, wrapped in cotton, with the kohl black bindi dot between the eyes and darkened eyebrows.
The baby is sleeping, and is given to me to hold. Of course, I just melt, holding that baby and Dick is snapping away with the camera.
This leads to the usual chai, and our attempts to talk with someone in English. A girl, roughly ten, knew a few words of English, and mostly we enjoy everyone with smiles and gestures.
Soon after, the baby’s beautiful mother, explained to me that she would like me to NAME the baby. Yes, that’s right, give their baby a name. Oh, my God!
Dick and I search for names and he comes up with Sitananda (The bliss of Sita, wife of Ram). The mother looks at me, looks down at the baby, moves the cloth diaper a bit, and says “gent”. So, it is a boy…
Next we thought of the boys at Bal Ashram, and we remembered Satyam, which means truth. So, I suggested Satyam, and they liked that, giving it a Malayanam spin to sound like Sutya.
As we got ready to leave, they motioned for us to come inside the house. There, we found a beautiful puja alter readied for performing the “Naming Ceremony”.
The father held the naked baby over a plate of rice, as the women put beautiful bangles on his ankles and wrists, and a leather string around his waist.
Then mama took him in the other room and put a baby-blue newborn outfit on him, and nursed him very discreetly.
We tried to leave again, but when offered kheer (a milky sweet pudding with vermicelli noodles), we stayed to eat and celebrate this puja.
Later, Alex, our host here at Maanas Veedu, took me into town to buy a gift for the baby. After lunch, Dick and I took the upward walk again to deliver our gift, and make sure that this day really happened. The father took our picture with his phone, and said in English, “Very happy.”
Yea, that’s why I love being here in India. Every moment is a possible entre into the lives of people who live so simply and have so much to give. And little Satyam will have a great story to tell about how he got his name!
Namaste and Love to All,
Mannaas Veedu homestay, Pathanamthitta, Kerala, south India
6 Feb. 2011