What's in a Word?...Probably a 'world'.


Published on January 22, 2018

What's in a Word?...Probably a 'world'.


It was early morning on 30th May 1981, my Mom came rushing into my bedroom, holding a newspaper and screaming my name, “Sonia, you have made it to the Merit List in the 12th Board Exams!” Rubbing my eyes in disbelief, I read my name there. Was a precious moment indeed!

There was of course jubilation and celebration and gifts galore. Amongst the nice “girlie” presents, I saw my Mom’s gift in a squarish box. Aaah! Could it be that red handbag I had liked? I hurriedly, yet carefully slit the cello tape (to preserve the colourful wrapping paper for further use).

As I lifted the lid of the box, my face fell, and my smile became like the twisted lips emoticon we see on our cell phones (in those days there weren’t any, no cell phones, no internet). “You’ve given me these 2 heavy books for coming in the All India Merit List’? How to increase your Word Power? Write better, Speak Better?” I looked at her quizzically, hoping the “real gift” is hidden somewhere else!


She nodded her head, with this mischievous yet ‘I mean business’ kind of smile, adding, “And there is a card too.” Well, that was not the end to my disappointment. The card read, “I remember in 1977, when you were just 14 years old you won the prestigious International Elocution Competition where 75 countries participated. You received a Gold Medal from the Prime Minister, Mr. Morarji Desai. And now you have done us so proud by this remarkable achievement in the Board Exams. There is no greater gift than knowledge, hence I have bought these 2 books for you to enhance your communication skills. With these books, is a Diary. I want you to learn 1 new word a day, not just memorise the meaning, but also use it in sentences.”

I couldn’t hide my dismay, “Is this a prize or a punishment?”

Anyway, I did as ‘instructed’ as a matter of routine.

That’s all well, about the past. Let’s look at the present. How relevant is asking questions in today’s world?

And then…. some magic started unfolding. This was my first love affair…with words. I started loving the sound of every syllable, rounding my mouth for every “O” and words beginning with “W” and biting my lower lip every time a word with “V” appeared. I also realised I need not always feel “excited”. At times I was “energised” or “enthralled” or “stimulated”.

As a matter of fact, my love affair got deeper, and I found myself 2 add-on gifts, a small pocket sized green coloured “Collins Synonyms & Antonyms” and “Collins English Dictionary”(any of you remember those small dictionaries in maroon colour?)

Every time (well almost every time) I wanted to express myself, somehow I was able to “nail” the word accurately. When I got married, these 2 books gifted by Mom were the first things to be loaded in my car.

Gifts don’t necessarily come wrapped according to our specifications, in bows and ribbons and glossy paper, and we may not realise their value instantly. And yet these very ‘unappreciated’ (at the time) gifts made me appreciate one of the most profound realities for me. That, “there is a ‘world’ in your ‘word’.”

This was 1981 and in 1991, she was gone! Showing me the light, she ensured my illumination even in the darkest hour.

My priceless heirlooms…

Sonia Mehta