Nicknames in my neighborhood used to abound. Often you'd get stuck with rote, boring ones. At home, I was probably the only kid in the world whose nickname was longer and more complicated than his real one. Mum called me Aspandiar - an affectionate mangling of Esfandiyar. Outside I went by the rather blah Bawa - which was pretty much ensured if you were a Parsi kid.
There was only one variation on this. When we started learning German, the kids started calling me Bauer for a brief period of time. This period of brilliant inventiveness lasted only a few weeks.
Yet when I heard the names handed out to my friends, I would often be thankful to be stuck with a boring one.
Why, next door, my best friend was called Piston. Rumor had it that this nickname came from my friend's untiring, uh, prowess. But not only did I know that my friend had never done it before but also happened to be there when he earned his alias. Turns out he would dive from the high board at the municipal swimming pool in such terror that his rigid body resembled a piston.
My favorite name - I say this with some shame - was a hugely biased one. Dilip was the darkest person in our extended neighborhood and so we called him Kalajam. So dark was he that when he would come out to play in one of our 1o over tennis ball night games all you could see were his bat and shoes (Dilip loved to wear dark clothes and our games had poor lighting - more like we picked the brightest spot near some streetlights).
When he took guard, he loved to smile. So we'd see a bat, shoes and some brilliantly white teeth. Since Dilip was a pichhle jamaane ka Dhoni, when he would walk out the crowd would erupt and chant his nickname.
A few doors down was Lala who used to hate me with a passion. The primary reason was that whenever I saw him I would call out his name. And when he'd look inquiringly in my direction I would pretend to be singing a song that started out with la-la.
We had a Kanji in our neighborhood. Kanji's best friend was a boy of unfortunately short height. We called him Gattuman. His sister was tremendously alluring but hugely commanding. We called her Don. The fair guy was called Bhurya. The guy with hair problems was called Bodiya. The thin one was called Bhinda.
Even our gulley ka stray had a nickname: Baluti because she was small and rather affectionate.
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