In a Word


By Anuja Jaiman

I am torn between ragamuffin and heebeejeebies. Not that I have a bag of garbage nor a creepy tingle down my spine, but when I begin to search for a word that might have been one that stands out for me, so long as the word cloud accumulated over the years goes, these two pop out. I’ll go with the former, although I like to use the latter a lot. It is something about saying the latter word out loud – heebeejeebies. Now, I understand it may be hyphenated or two words, but it is a single word that is lit up like a glaring neon sign each time I say it, sounding delicious on the lips and the throat. Say it for yourself!




Without further ado, I read the word ‘ragamuffin’ at some point when I was still fairly young. Those were the days when I was a voracious reader, and didn’t know I was one. I came across it in some book that I do not now remember, but looked it up in the Merriam-Webster big fat dictionary (that I liked to pore over for its glossy pages that listed whales and sharks), after multiple attempts at trying to guess the meaning from the context.


The word means a rag collecting, filthy child. I have always pictured a little girl with messy shoulder-length hair, snotty face, wearing what was once a white frock that’s hanging all the way down to her ankles, ballooning around her as she drags a brown jute sack, collecting plastic bottles and packets of chips from the street side. I do not know where this imagery came from. It possibly is an amalgamation from years of juxtaposed impressions of ragamuffins I see everywhere I go. Some of them smile and brighten up when they receive a smile in return. Saw a lady scream at a kid at the Nehru Place traffic signal the other day. A lady with two kids in the car back-seat. About the same age as the one peeping in from the car window, at a power-puff-girls balloon the little girl in the backseat held.


No muffins. All rags.


What does it take to be nice to others less fortunate than oneself?


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