Written by Nandini Sethi
“What did you say your name was?”
It was just like any other interaction Sugar ever had. She was named Sugar because her parents thought she looked sweet when she was born. Like honey. But instead what they came up with was Sugar.
It was a funny thing, really. Sometimes she felt like her name shaped her identity. That if her name was sweet, she, by default, had to be sweet to everyone she met. No matter how many times they asked her the same question- but why Sugar!? She had come to terms with the fact that she was meant to be sweet like sugar. You can’t really have a person named Sugar to go around, being a rebel in society, breaking laws and smoking cigarettes while wearing leather jackets. That’s just not how society worked.
In their defence, Sugar’s parents didn’t have a stronghold on the English language. Coming from a tiny village in the midlands of India, they thought naming her something in a foreign language would help her in the future – as if people would respect her more just because she had an exotic name. The sad part is that the name was exotic only where she came from, but for the rest of the world, it was ridiculous.
That’s why when a suitor came to see her, all the way from, well she doesn’t know where he came from, she was glad to discover that he found the name ridiculous too. He must be educated, she thought.
But she was wrong. First, he mocked the way she made tea. No one made fun of her tea. Secondly, he made it very clear, in front of everybody, that he didn’t ‘fancy’ her style of clothing. When she opened her mouth to vocalize her difference of opinion, a single glare from her mother shut her down completely. She had so much to say, but she knew she couldn’t because she was Sugar.
The afternoon was the longest one she’s ever had. Locked in a room together, she had once imagined that she would get along with her beau like a house on fire. But all he did was take digs at her – point her simple sarees, her ‘funny accent’ and boring bedroom.
When they got out, she had a word with her mother in private. “Ma,” was all she could get out before she interrupted her.
“I don’t want to hear a word of it. He is a perfectly nice boy from a lovely family, and it is a yes from our side.”
Well, that was that. Sugar was not going to argue with anyone. She knew that. But still, she felt a flame of rage deep inside her core and she wished she could do something about it, act on it.
Back in the living room, the boy demanded another cup of tea. Ironic. He didn’t even have the decency to ask her nicely as if by ordering her he was marking her in some sort of way. She nodded nicely, sweetly, and trudged along to the kitchen to make his beloved cup of tea.
Milk, cardamom, stir, wait. She followed the correct procedure. Her mother worked alongside her, almost mechanically, like they were used to, and she carefully turned her back towards her view. Then, instead of grabbing the canister of sugar, she took the one containing salt. 4 whole spoonfuls later, she knew the tea was ready.
People make mistakes. Even salt looks like sugar sometimes.