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SCAMPS M a n ju S o n i … Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth

H

e was my children’s Motabapa, translated as “older father.” They adored him, and he broke their hearts. He was my brother-inlaw, my husband’s brother, twelve years older than him. Motabapa had nicknamed both my children Scampino, with the plural being Scampinos. They in turn called him Scamps. He teased them, tickled them, made them giggle, bought them ice cream, and let them play with his earlobes. Tall and slim, with eyes that crinkled and dimples that cratered his cheeks when he smiled, Motabapa epitomized timeless elegance. His shirts were hand-sewn with his name embroidered on the pocket and cuffs. His shoes were fine Italian leather. He also had a keen eye for a good diamond, he was a descendent of a long line of jewelers after all, and diamonds were his trade. He had a knack for choosing nicknames. His nickname for his younger brother was Joe, after Joe Valachi, the cauliflower-faced gangster who ratted out on the Cosa Nostra. His nickname for his father-in-law was aptly, Bob, after Bob Hope. An overweight cousin

Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952.

was named Mother Moo. I met him for the first time when I was twenty-five and he was thirty-seven. Apart from a mischievous smile and a, “Hi,” he didn’t speak much to me then. But over the years we developed a soft, respectful friendship, unusual in most extended Indian families, which are often divided by gender. Motabapa’s wife, my sister-in-law, was my best friend and my ally in our daily struggle against our mother-in-law’s well meaning, but tight, matriarchal control of her family. When we moved from Durban, in South Africa, to the UK, he and his wife visited us. He wanted to be sure his Scampinos were happy in their new home. I learned later that he had mortgaged his house to pay for the trip. It was Christmas, a magical time. He loved going to the pub and visiting Canterbury Cathedral. He listened, in awe, to the sublime voices of the choir rising up into the ancient ceiling. Between Christmas and New Year we visited 83

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Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...