Rating/Genre: g/angst, is it?
Characters: Mohinder’s mother, child!Mohinder, Chandra Suresh,
Summary: Based on a prompt by Anonymous Person at the Heroes Kink Meme: “So, Mohinder had to be a pretty kid. I want Chandra to dress Mohinder up as a girl, calling him a girl version of his name and so on. The 'unnamed mother' can either protest against it or be a part of it. I don't like Chandra. I'm sure he was sick and twisted.”
Word count: 2 119
Spoilers/Warnings: No/The pov changes halfway through. Other than that; no, not if you’re not warned by the prompt. (No, this is probably not as “sick and twisted” as it could be but I wanted to try…I guess I could have used Chandra’s pov, but… I just couldn’t go there!)
Notes: I don’t know anything about Indian languages or names but I googled for girls’ names that sound like Mohinder. Doing so I found Mohini which according to several sites mean something like “infatuating” or “very beautiful”. I also found that Mohinder is a variant of Mahendra which means "great Indra". (From this site.)
It started some time after Shanti died. Mohinder was too young to remember what it was like before that and he was too young to understand anything about it. He got used to it as if it had always been like that.
“My name is Mohini,” the three-year-old beamed and the guests smiled and patted his head.
If the guests were strangers in the house, unaware of what the family had looked like before, they called him a pretty little girl. The old friends of the Suresh family smiled, too, thinking it cute that the little boy found his own name too long for his little mouth to pronounce and unintentionally shortened it to something as fitting as ‘infatuating’.
None of them stayed long enough to know that the mother wept silently when she brushed the long hair of her only child. The black curls were like the softest silk under the mother’s hands, never too messy, always easy to brush, and she knew that many girls would kill to have hair like that. And yet she wanted nothing else than to put a pair of scissors in it, to take it all off and scream to the world that her son’s name was Mohinder.
Her husband didn’t let her do it. Chandra said the child was too pretty to be a boy and there was nothing she could do to fight him. He reminded her that she was young and ignorant and her duty was to always respect her husband. She knew that his grief was black and deep and it scared her. Scarred her, too. She had loved and admired him once but she did not know that person she saw looking out of his eyes, as if Chandra was a stranger who looked at the world differently from most men.
The child did not know that he was dressed in his dead sister’s clothes. Like most children he liked pretty shiny things and he did not understand the look of his mother’s face when she put tiny gold rings with pearls in his ears.
“What’s wrong, Mother?” he asked. “Don’t you think my earrings are pretty? Why hasn’t Father given any to you? Do you wanna borrow mine?”
“No,” she replied, “no, my boy. Your father wants you to have them.”
“Why do you say that?” The child was in that age when most things he said began with ‘why’. “Why do you always call me ‘boy’ and ‘Mohinder’? Father says my name is Mohini. What is a ‘boy’, Mother?”
The mother sighed, not sure if she could answer the questions.
“Mohinder is the name I gave you when you were born,” she said, “and that is what I will always call you. A boy is what you are and a girl is what your father wants you to be.”
The child did not understand but he knew that his father smiled at him when he sang and danced in clothes that were smaller versions of what his mother wore. He knew that even if he was a boy, whatever that meant, he must try very hard to be a girl because he wanted to make his father proud.
This went on for years. Mohini/Mohinder was taught how to cook and how to sew and learned to read, and he read stories about princes and princesses.
This seemed to give him something to think about. He had a deep furrow between his eyebrows and his eyes, shadowed by ridiculously long eyelashes, showed that he was troubled by something.
“Mother,” he said, “you know how Father always says I’m his Princess…”
“Yes, darling, that’s because he loves you…”
Or is it, she wondered, because he really doesn’t love this child, but only the one we have lost…
The child nodded, “Yes, but in the stories, the prince is always saving the princess. The princesses never really do anything. Why can’t they? What if I wanted to go out on adventures, too? What if I wanted to hunt tigers and treasures and fight demons and villains… but Father says a girl should never leave her fathers’ house until she gets married and he says he hopes that no prince will ever take me away from him.”
Mohinder’s mother decided it was time to try to do something.
“Chandra, listen to me,” she said one night when her husband had returned early from his university. “How long have you planned to keep doing this? This has got to end now, Chandra, can’t you see? Mohinder is your son, he is a boy, and that is what he always will be.”
“No,” he said and his eyes were burning darkly, “you’re wrong. Our child is a beautiful girl, she is even more beautiful than you.”
The tears were hot in her eyes and she didn’t try to hide them.
“But I am a grown woman, not a little girl! Mohinder is only a young child but he won’t be forever… What will happen when he gets older? He’s already asking questions and you can’t keep him like this forever.”
“Oh,” Chandra smiled, “but I can. Of course I can. You see, Nature makes mistakes sometimes but it’s never too late to correct them. Not if it’s done in time. We were meant to have two daughters but Nature has been cruel to us. Science will make it right.”
“But why,” she cried, afraid of what he seemed to be implying, “why? Who do you think you are, playing God like this? You have no right…”
“I have every right,” he interrupted, “it is by actions the world makes progress.”
Chandra’s voice was so full of conviction and he looked so certain of himself. It was clear to her that he didn’t listen to one word she said, or if he did, he didn’t care. But she listened, she had to, and what she heard made her afraid her husband had lost his mind. In the beginning she had thought that it was just a phase, that he was too weak to handle his grief in a normal way but that he was going to stop it eventually.
But years had passed since Shanti passed away. Now she was beginning to think that he was never going to stop and she knew him well enough to know that he could do anything he set his mind to. The way he talked about Science and Nature made her shudder.
She decided that it was time to take action. Mohinder was going to start school soon.
She went in to the city the next day and bought boy clothes, something she hadn’t done in years, and her heart was beating hard. She had never dared defy her husband openly before… but she knew that she had to.
“You will go to school tomorrow,” she explained to her son when she got back home, “and you have to wear these school clothes, and you can’t wear any earrings and necklaces. And you can’t say that your name is Mohini.”
“Why not?”, the child asked, his eyes wide and questioning.
“Because,” said his mother, “that’s a name for a small child and you’re a big boy now, Mohinder. And one day you’ll be a man, like your father. Don’t you want to be like Father?”
“I don’t know,” he said and he suddenly looked so wise as if an ancient soul looked out of his eyes, “I’m not sure, do I have to become like him? Can’t I just be me?”
The mother fell to her knees and took the child in her arms, embracing him.
“Of course you can, my darling. Of course, you will always be yourself and as you grow up you will find out on your own who you are and what you want to do with your life. But for now, you will have to go to school and to make you ready for it and show everyone that you’re a big boy now, we will cut your hair.”
She didn’t know what else to say. Should she try to explain to her son why what Chandra did was wrong, or was it best not to? She decided to say nothing more at the moment. She had tried, finally, to drag her son out his sister’s shadow.
The child who didn’t understand the battle his parents were fighting over him nodded insecurely. He didn’t say a word when his mother put the scissors to his head and began cutting his long curls off and he repeated the name Mohinder in his head, trying to imagine what it would be like to use it. It was a name he associated with his mother’s soft voice, like a secret word, and he wondered if it was the other name that was going to be the new secret.
When he introduced himself to other children the next day using the name his mother preferred, he wasn’t sure if he was revealing a secret identity or concealing it. He looked at the other children, the ones who were dressed like him and the ones who were dressed in the clothes his father would call pretty if he saw them. Should he play with the children with long hair or the ones with short? Were the ones with shorter hair ‘big boys’ like his mother said he was? And if that was a good thing, why didn’t all children have short hair?
Mohinder didn’t know what to think. But some of the children played football and climbed trees and it looked like fun. The children with long hair couldn’t run as fast because of their long saris.
Mohinder thought that maybe if he asked, his father would allow him to invite some of the children with saris to their home. Some other time. At the moment, he wanted to jump and run but he hadn’t more than decided before the teacher called the children back in again.
Back in the classroom, he looked longingly out the window and he was unconsciously rocking his chair until the teacher told him to be still because if a professor’s son couldn’t pay attention and behave, then what would become of the world?
“Be a good boy, Mohinder,” the teacher said, “and make your father proud. I know your father, I know he has lost a lot and you mustn’t disappoint him.”
Mohinder wanted to ask the teacher what his father had lost but something made him not to. He thought that if he knew maybe he could help looking for it. It would surely make Father proud if he found it.
School was full of many new things that first day and Mohinder chatted excitedly to his mother about it when she met him at the school gates. She wanted to hold his hand but he jumped ahead of her and ran back, and took off again, talking and enjoying the wind in his short hair. He couldn’t wait to tell Father all about it.
But Mohinder’s father didn’t come home until after dinner. Mohinder, who was tired of waiting, jumped up to greet him but his mother took a tight grip around his shoulders and held him back.
“It was Mohinder’s first day in school today,” she said and her voice was strangely hard.
“Mohinder?” Chandra said. He was pale and tense as if he was going to have a fit of anger any second but he didn’t move one step towards his wife and son.
“Yes.” Mohinder could feel his mother’s grip tighten. “I cut his hair last night. It will grow back out but I will cut it again, Chandra, and I put all those clothes away. It is time for him to grow up. It is time for all of us to grow.”
The silence was thick and heavy around them. Mohinder could hear his mother’s heart beating loudly and it looked to him as if his father’s heart was working hard, too. The heart of his mother was ticking much quicker than the clock above the doorway where Chandra was standing. The seconds were long.
“Father…” Mohinder swallowed hard and wished his father wouldn’t look at him like that, as if they had never met before. “Father, it’s me… I can still be Mohini if you want…”
“No, you can’t.” His father turned away and shuddered as if he was cold. “Don’t mention that name again.”
Nobody explained anything to Mohinder. For a while he missed his old clothes and the way his father used to say he loved him. He never understood why it had to change but as he grew and learned many new things he started to forget that his parents used to dress him like a girl and call him by a different name.