I had many nicknames. But the
one that got stuck on me for a long time, was ‘Devan‘ . It was not at all a bad name. It was fashionable even among film stars of those days. But It outlived many other nicknames I had. Not because of its novelty. But because of the unbearable misery it caused to me, which my brother enjoyed much,
The story behind the nickname was so humiliating that I would have prefered any other, even the dirtiest one.
I did not have much of schooling till eight. The private tuition at home taught me a bit of malayalam and arithmetics. The estate schools to which I was sent for short periods to get a taste of school atmosphere taught me only a few tamil bad words. So at the age of seven I was sent to the government school at Devikulam where the medium of instruction was malayalam.
The Devikulam government high school had a headmistress at that time. I don't think I knew her name. We used to refer to her as Devikulam teacher.
My father secured admission for me towards the end of an academic year. I think such admissions were rare and my father was able to secure it only because of his position. I heard my father telling mother that the the headmistress agreed to admit me only after some persuasion and that she too was bothered about education of her girl child who was of my age. It seems that my brother also was there at the time.
On the day of my joining the school I carried a gift for the headmistress. It was a large packet of the best quality tea along with the gate pass that was required to take it to anywhere. I was sent sufficiently early on that day to the school along with the peon of the estate office so that I could give it to the headmistress before going to the school. The teacher lived in a quarters on the road to the school. I met her in front of her house and gave her the packet as instructed .The teacher was pleased she asked me to convey her thanks to my father. Her daughter was also with her. She had her head tilted to one side always. Even while talking and walking.It was the first time I saw such a person and I told my mother about her on my return from school.
My Devikulam school days were limited to a month or so and was event less, may be because I was familiar with such short assignments. I got promoted to the next class at the year end and became eligible to join any school. But my problems started there after.
My brother who was in the knowledge of my educational standard was rather sarcastic about the promotion I got. One day while playing snake and ladder he got angry with me on losing three games in a row and alleged I won the games by cheating just like the promotion. “Tea gift” he called out and thus the new name started . Later he modified it to just “tea’. But though it served the purpose the name was not good enough. So he started calling out Devikulam teacher whenever required as he did not know her name. He later shortened it to Devikulam and Devi. But Devi being a lady he changed it to Devan without losing the effect on me. I would not have cared much but for what followed.
Not satisfied with the new name on me he attached a new theme. I was to marry the teacher's daughter and my father had agreed to it to secure the promotion he added
You know how painful it was. But my brother did not stop even there
While calling Devan he tilted his head as if he were the girl .
My parents and elder sisters refused to interfere in spite of my besieging them to stop my brother from calling me Devan. ‘Devan ‘ means a lesser god as per the Hindu mythology . How can it be an offensive one they used to point out. And my brother continued to enjoy some what free use of it for a long time to my utter despair.
I tried many names on him, to even out, without any success. So I suffered for a long time.