My Name Is Alice
This calligraphy is by a young Turkish artist at the Shanghai Expo in 2010.
While I had gone to China for a little holiday in Lijiang, Yunnan, an advice came from my husband that the Expo in Shanghai was a “Must See,” particularly the China Pavilion. So, my lady guide and I arranged for extra days in Shanghai. We arrived at the Expo ground on a rainy October morning. Almost every pavilion of any significance had mile-long queues – but the China Pavilion had ancient battle ground formation queues of probably eighty thousand if I may say so. The endless winding queue that did not move an inch for hours was a forty to fifty person-wide column, with police squads in eights between columns to keep the peace. Ambulances sat around on standby. People had fainted in those fat queues in the summer heat, we were informed. I was glad I was somewhere else that summer. I don’t have the patience of Job: the public speakers announced periodically the five to six hours waiting time for China and Arabia and India. Nor would I stoop to buy the abundant scalpers’ coupons to join a shorter queue, just to rub shoulders with the milling million visitors inside.
Wandering around I spied a calligrapher at the Turkey Pavilion. Its queue was less than an hour.
“My name is Alice,” I said when the friendly artist asked. I mused at the coincidence of the book by Turkish writer Orhan Parmuk - My Name Is Red.
I watched as 'Alice' emerged gradually in black beautiful curves. I could not help recalling the time when my granddaughter, barely three years old at the time of the episode, said to her mother, “Mom, my name is Alice.”
“No, that’s not true, you are Ashley.”
“But I want to be Alice. It’s a nice name. I really like it!”
Hitherto she had always called me Nana, probably assuming it was my name.
So I said to her, “Ashley, my name is Alice.”
“Ohhh!” she said. She smiled in admiration and tried not to show disappointment or embarrassment. “You’ve got the name I like!”
During lunch, she excused herself to go to the washroom. I called out to her to remember to wash her hands. As she skipped back to her lunch, she tapped the back of my chair and said, “Yes, Alice!”
Whenever I look at this calligraphy, I see music floating out of the curves of the strokes. It has a rich magical movement in the alphabets, the way my granddaughter curved her body in disappointment or admiration. She will just have to love her Nana more because of the name!
Not that I had never liked another name myself; there were times when I had wished that I had chosen another name too, like Ashley. But not now, not after Ashley had wished she was Alice.
I had regretted much for bending to persuasions to visit the Expo. I am not a huge crowd person. But I am glad to have gone now that I have my name in Turkish calligraphic hand. It seems a much better adventure than to risk fainting amidst the Terracotta-like formation of patient visitors.
Life is not made of choppy incidents, but of incidents flowing from one to the next. Orhan Parmuk is my favourite author. He does not refrain from naming some of his characters Orhan. I take courage both from my granddaughter and from Orhan Parmuk to love my own name. My name is Alice.
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