A Name Game My Kid Played With Me

It made me reflect on my changing relationship with my country of birth

Nitin Dangwal
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readNov 16, 2023

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On a Sunday morning couple of weeks ago when I was still in bed my toddler who is extravagantly chatty in the morning asked me to tell the names of my co-workers. I began reciting names in the order they came in my head. Ashley, Brian, Sam, Emily, Jason, Todd, Patrick. After giving off this list, I closed my eyes, hoping he would run off to his room, and I catch a bit more sleep.

But like with everything else, he wasn’t satisfied with anything he got easily.

“More,” he demanded.

I scratched my head, summoning more names. Lisa, Martha, Steve, Jake, Brian, Emily.

“You already said Brian and Emily,” he said, catching my attempt to be sneaky.

“I’m sorry, baby,” I said, feeling a tad embarrassed.

I continued. Danny, Henry, Sharon. I stopped, not remembering any more names.

“Papa more!” He implored.

I raised myself on the pillow looking at the ceiling. It was getting harder now. “Ahh,” I said, remembering Martha’s friends in the finance department. “George, Wendy, Fae,” I splurted quickly, and then seeing the eager eyes of my toddler, added, “Scroorge, Howard, Dorian.”

He was looking at me in rapt attention, his hungry mind soaking up these new names. I felt a little bad for cheating, slipping in names of fictional characters from my favorite novels. Then I suddenly remembered — the names of my Indian colleagues from my previous team back in India. So I began saying, Vanita — I stopped.

He was giving me that look — eyebrows triangled upwards, so that his smooth forehead was now furrowed, spotted with small hills of gathered skin; his nose wrinkled, upper cheeks rounded into two cherries, and lips pursed. It was his — I don’t like it — look.

What? I asked.

He replied, slowly, enunciating — “Va — Ni — Ta”, (the ‘T’ of Ta was hard British ‘T’; not the soft Indian ‘t’ in which I had pronounced the name).

“It is not a name,” he claimed.

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Nitin Dangwal
Human Parts

Writing stories, poems and a little bit of everything about life