Many of us have nicknames for our children. The practice is common in all parts of India and in many other countries too. It starts soon after the birth of the child but many new ‘names’ are added as the child grows. Quite often, a different name is given by each parent out of love, affection and indulgence.
Quite often, the nickname sticks and continues to be used by parents and relatives even later in life. At times, even close friends and neighbours use the nickname to address the person lovingly. It creates funny situations at different stages of life.
Recently, my brother’s and my family made a 10-day trip to Leh-Ladakh. The union territory is a tourist’s dream come true with picturesque mountains, lakes and scenery, dotted with Buddhist monasteries. Alchi monastery is one of the prominent monasteries about 65 km from Leh, dating back to the 11th century. The creation of the Alchi complex is attributed to famous scholar-translator Rinchen Zangpo, who translated Buddhist texts from Sanskrit to Tibetan. A three-storey temple complex in a small peaceful village, it has eye-catching sculptures, paintings, frescoes and manuscripts.
At the monastery, we met a couple of elderly Buddhist monks who ushered us towards the three temples and offered to brief us about them. As our 28-year-old son had not yet reached the main entrance, I asked my brother, “Where is Nonu? How come he has not reached yet?”
We both started looking for him in different directions. We were surprised to see the two monks also peeping across behind the maze of walls as if they were also looking for my son. One of them asked how did we know Nonu. It emerged that in Tibetan language, a youngster is referred to as Nonu and young monks are also called the same. The monks had a hearty laugh when they realised that we were looking for our son. They had presumed we were talking of a young monk in the monastery.
Later in the evening, when we were checking into a beautiful family-owned resort, we had a similar incident again. At the reception, calling for help in shifting our luggage, I wondered loudly: “Where is Nonu.”
The receptionist said apologetically, “Sir, he is busy with another guest at the moment.” He wondered whether we knew Nonu from our previous visit. The young errand boy at the resort was also addressed the same way as our son.
On the last leg of our travel back from Lake Tsomoriri, it had started raining. We had lunch at a small roadside tented eatery. A Ladakhi couple was cooking as well as serving food. While making the payment, I jokingly enquired, “Where is Nonu?” The reply was, “He is late today because of bad weather.” It emerged that their help was named Nonu too!
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