Sunday, July 23, 2006

On naming da-Puttars and di-Kudis

Late 1949.
Kanyakumari district, Travancore.
Subrahmanya Kovil, Takkala.

The couple walked into the hallowed grounds of the famous Temple.... they were brimming with anticipation and excitement. Understandable, 'coz the naming ceremony of the first born sure is one of the greatest moments in one's life. Of course not as cherished as the first time the little tyke yelled "EMMMMBBBUWWWMMMMAAAAAA" {translation: Hey waitress, where the hell's my Farex?!"} and mommy went "Chettaaaaaaaa, look look! Our chakkarakuttan just said AMMA!" or not as memorable as the time when the Kindergarten teacher hauled you in and demanded where he learned that kind of filthy language from. Still.... it's a pretty mushy chweet moment. Anyway, the woman was carrying their first bundle of joy, only 28 days old but predictable and "stable" enough to sit through things like these.
The daddy walked up to one of the harried junior priests and asked, "INFANT. STOP. NEED NAME. STOP. LIKE SREEKUMAR. STOP. SEE PRIEST? STOP."
"Roger. You have clearance.. Will relay message ASAP. Assume positions at Grotto No 3, Hallway No 4 till priest ingress. ETA at 30 minutes. Over and out." the junior priest managed toshout before he was swamped by an army of bald, vermillion smeared pilgrims just back from Palani. He had no chance, they were armed with Archana reciepts, coconuts and flower n incense baskets....
"What was that?" asks the wife, "You ain't in that communications room in that British Oil Company in godforsaken Brunei now! You've been hanging out with those radio heads for way too long! By the way, I specifically wanted my kid to be called Sreekumar... and you said "like Sreekumar"?!!
"Honey, I want my first born to have any name of Lord Murugan..... thought I would give them a little leeway in that!", counters the husband.
"Oh really? What do you think of THESE names of Lord Subrahmanya?", cries the mother gesticulating at the crowd of devotees from Palani.
"Andavaaaaa!", "Vadivelaaaa", "Muruhhhhaaaaaaa", "Kathirvelaaaaaa", "Padayappaaaaaaa" went the lusty and delirious cries of the devotees.... (If you wanna see REAL devotion, see how Tams pray!)
"Oops!", said daddy, " but I bet I heard a Kumaraaaa somewhere!", and grins sheepishly.
"If my baby gets a Paandi name like those I swear I'm gonna give you hell for the rest of your life", said the lady with a quiet menacing voice that would curdle the blood of the tiger (as the saying goes in the jungle...... and in Mithun Chakraborty movies)

The Priest soon arrived with the necessary parphernalia for the ceremony, executes them with aplomb and puts the baby in his lap for the coup-de-grace. Looking at the parents and then at the child he whispered softly, "Karthikeyan".
"Wooooo, that was close!" says the proud dad and winks at his very relieved wife.

Fast forward to 1955,
Tiruvalla, Travancore.
The home of two soon to be ex-commies.

"Long live the revolution, Comrade Husband. Isn't it time we gave our daughter a proper revolutionary name?", asked the young mom, a teacher.
"Errrrr, long live the revolution and all that, Comrade Wife. Look, isn't it the convention that kids are named on the 28th day....", replied the husband, a soldier. " Maybe we should wait until she's 28 days old. She's only a cpl of week old now, right?!"
"What? Confirm to the defeatist, superstitious, artificial norm imposed upon the toiling masses by a class of faux "godmen" and priests with vested interests?", charges the daughter of the revolution with a fervor dear departed Comrade Stalin would surely approve!
<"Oh darn, I wish I was back fighting those peaceful Japanese in the Arakan jungles!", thought the poor soldier, "This communism fad is sort of wearing off now..... seen enough of those assholes in China. ">
"OK, OK..... you are right! What names are on your mind, darling?"
" How about Suslov?"
"Huh? Who the hell is Suslov? Oh never mind...... but isn't that a guy's name? Oh yes, like that Mikhail Suslov!"
"Errrrrr, yes. But who's gonna complain, doesn't it sound a bit like Susie?"
<"Oh No you won't. My daughter's gonna get a real Indian name!">
"Doesn't the revolution have any women heroes?", asked the wily hubby, <"Ahh.... that should do the trick!">
Sure enough, the flummoxed mom thought for a minute and said, "Seems like we need to change the approach. Comrade Trotsky had always advised this.... he put it to good use while fighting Kolchak's White Army. This was before he fell into disgrace, mind it! I'm not giving the name of any goddess or heroines of backward looking, counter-revolutionary "epics" or such...... let's think of a secular, progressive name".
"Make that an Indian name!".
"Hmmmm, Okay. I like it when my students have a good handwriting. How about Sulekha?"
" Done."

Faaaaaaaaaaast forward to 1981
Trivandrum, Kerala.
A run-of-the-mill marathon debate in a middle-class household.

Dad: " ...... Okay, we have run through the list of past presidents of my party, leaders of the national movement and we have yet to arrive at a feasible name for our firstborn agreed to by both parties, viz Myself and my honourable wife".
Mom: " {Ithiyan still is in the vakil/parliamentarian mode..... Sighhh, what am I going to do with him?!} I don't think a name like Pattabhi Sitaramayya or Khudiram Bose or Kamalapathi Tripadi or Gopal Krishna Gokhale or Jawaharlal Nehru would suit my little angel! He ain't a Gultu or Bong or Gosayin or Pandit for one thing..."
Dad: "Well, we can snip the regional sounding last names and use..."
Mom: "No! Nyet! Nahin! Illa! Nein! I execute my veto power in this matter"
Me: Goooo goooo gaaaaa daddaaa gaaa Ghaaanabbdu gapppakaaaa mubbbbbwwwaaaaa chhhoowwmmmma. Nennnnnissssan Gupppaaaaattaaa Gooo Mmmmmwwwaaaaa nennieee jmmmpaa gaaaaaa? {Translation: "Hey, scroll back. I kinda like the Khan Abdul Gaffer Khan name..... sure will impress the lay-dees. Kinda rolls on the tounge too! And Nellie Sen Gupta sounds exotic, but is Nellie a girl's name? "}
Dad: "Hullo...... what's this? My son''s started to talk already?!"
Mom: "Nope. I guess he's hungry AGAIN. He's always charming and articulate when he's hungry. Quite some avataram we got as our firstbon! Here's your bottle son." (tries to put the formula filled feeding-bottle in my mouth)
Me: (Furiously writhing my limbs and spitting out the bottle's teat) {Translation: "I shall NOT let my opinion be stifled by these acts of incompetence and official high-handedness! This is communication breakdown at it's most terrible form! I demand an audience RIGHT NOW...."}
Mom: (shaking her head) "Oh right, now YOU give me attitude! "
Dad: "Coming back to the discussion at hand, I now propose to name him after a favourite folk hero of mine...... the true King's Commander-in-Chiet in our epic Marthandavarma."
Mom: "Hey, that's a good one..... but didn't he act totally fruitcake for half the course of the epic?"

They both look at my extremely pissed self performing crazy callisthenics on the mattress and then at each other....

Dad: "Well.....?"
Mom: "Touche. {Sighs} At least that's also the name of the presiding deity of this city..... so Ananthapadmanabhan it is! Let my little cherub grow up to be a total badass or a God like his namesakes and rule the desert sands to the polar ice-caps one day. Amen, Inshallah and Swaha!"
Me: {Translation:"Uh ohhhhh..."}
Dad: "The surname as per our understanding recorded in 1981-03-29 18:30 Minute #26 would be Karthikeyan-Sulekha. Motion is hereby declared passed with no dissent. All rise."
Me: {Translation:"Oh CRAP! This name is long-ass GAY!"}


These anecdotes are just ejjambles of what happens 24/7 in our little corner of the globe. Naming your offspring gives the parents this total Godlike power. A power probably they (well at least the dad in most cases) last tasted when momma-poppa dumped the pics of a few dozen members-of-the-opposite-gender-of-marriagable-age and asked him/her to choose any one as the spouse. It's the poor kids who are often hapless prey to the vagaries of their parent's beliefs/personal history/fundaes/pet peeves/pop culture. Sure, it's the right of the parents to name their kids with whatever that comes to their minds, but the kids gotta grow up in this cruel, hostile world na? Especially guys whose names are a factor when it comes to social life..... i.e gals. Don't believe me? Well..... take a look at this link!

Personally, I myself has never truly 400% reconciled with my long name...... I was the butt of jokes and prey of spelling/pronounciation challenged humans for as long as I remember. Late Fr Pulickal fired the first shot and started calling me "Puppy".... a butchery of a few syllables of my first name. Though he bestowed me that name with affection, the creatures I was saddled with in school had a field time with my new name. Even today, much to my consternation, the Loyola guys call me Puppy. Now what do you expect will happen if one of those guys descend down on you addressing you as "Puppyyyyyyyyyyy" while you are intently trying to impress the local beauty-queen? Darn..... those searing, raw wounds of youth! Leave alone things like these, I got into trouble with the INS when I went to do my MS in Amreeika Bahadur..... my 18 alphabet first name exceeded the fields alloted to the first names in the INS system and according to them I hadn't arrived in the US! It took me a month and half a dozen visits to the authorities to sort this out..... I HAD to pull that off so that some trigger happy cop/Feeb doesn't pop a cap in me when I fail to provide positive identification at some seedy airport. Fellow Mallus could pronounce my phull name, albeit with some effort..... but no such luck with the other Desis and the Goras and Chinese and all. Desis cut it down to Anand (which I always preferred) but the non-desis butchered even that simple name. Finally, I was forced to cut my name short to "Andy" (for non-desi use only) till my Mallu pals found out. They promptly made that phonetic stress at the end and converted it to "Andeee" which of course is the Mallu slang for the family jewels. I finally settled on a universal moniker, Anand K. The K part is cool, right? Like Tommy Lee Jones in MIB and something like Franz Kafka's characters in The Castle and The Trial.
PS: It's not that I have a BIG problem with my real name, but I prefer a bit shorter and simpler name.....

Now naming conventions are totally hilarious/lovable (depending on the way you see it) when it comes to Punjabis. There's that famous joke of a Sardarji jawan who insisted that his CO named his children with authentic Fauji names whenever he recieved a stork delivery. Soon, he had two sons who were duly named "Karnail Singh" (Punjabification of Colonel) and "Jarnail Singh" (ditto with General). His next child happened to be a girl and this put the CO in a fix..... but he solved it soon by naming the girl "Armoured Kaur"!
Maybe it's the natural heartiness and joviality of the Punjabis that lead them to this "nomenclature standard"..... at least in most cases it's limited to pet names. I remember a pal telling me of a visit to a Punjabi home and the lady calls out "Oye Lovely, idharrrr aaaaa" and he was expecting a lovely Punjabi lass to glide into the room. What came into the room was a 6'7", 250 pound fully bearded young Sardarji dude going "Maaaaaaaaaaaaaa....." in true Dharmendra accent and metre. I sure would like to *appreciate* why some are given names like Ladoo Singh, Fullpower Singh, Dollar Singh and his sister Penny Kaur etc etc...... and I am saying this with no malice! Really vunderful, no? ;)

PS: There's a urban legend on these lines which explains why we named our new all terrain light armoured vehicle "Tuffy"...... the serving Army chief was a Sardarji you see! Tuffy..... cho chweet name na? Imagine it striking terror in the hearts of Pakis or Chaptas!
Chew on this scene; "Oye Abu Hamza, Tuffy inbound at 2 o' clock! Bhaago.... let's get the hell out of here!" :D

PPS: BTW, Another EME vehicle was named "Hunky" about the same time! ;)

So, what's the point of this rant?
Well, let me make this a formal request to please take a moment and consider your child's "future" in this cruel world before you give him/her an outlandish name. MISA Yadav might make a good political statement for Lalloo Prasad Yadav but what does the name boil down to? Maintenance of Internal Security Act! I wonder if she ever took up this issue with the Lion of Bihar. Similarly, hardcore commies in Kannur name their kid Khruschev..... only to get snide casteist barbs like "Krush-Chovan" from his friends. (For the uninitiated, Chovan is a sometimes denigrating term used at Ezhavas of Kerala). Friends, Parents to be, sometimes portmanteaus of your names might not be a very good idea.... sometimes it does work like the case of a fellow blogger (now who could that be? :) ), but you arrive at very strange/exotic names in most cases!

My funda is that the name should fit your vision for your child (in this light names like Stalin or Lincoln or Ananthapadmanabhan are OK), mix with the normal naming "standards" of the society and the name should *mean* something! It should fit into what you actually are, like your religious, community and larger linguistic identities ( in this light even names like Nanjunda Swamy are fine..... no matter what that internet meme I linked to says). But it shouldn't go to the degree that it's DELIBERATELY over the top or wannabe cute/cool or outlandish so that "it stands out" or shows how cool and smart and terndy the parents are. IMO, this smacks of showboy attitude/narcissism rather than any true feeling for your child. What really prompted me to make this post was the snippet I just read that our old friend "Doctor" Arindam Chaudhary of IIPM has named his kid Che Kabir.... so that "he would be a revolutionary like Che but peaceful and spiritual like Kabir". Maybe it's just me.... but HOW ON FR1GGIN' EARTH WOULD ONE MIX CHE AND KABIR ??!!! It would be like say, taking the most sanctified 6th Pativratha Devi Shrimati Sushma Swaraj and the amazing Mary Carey in the same breath! Jeez..... I sincerely hope this is not another manifestation of the his uber-showman character.

Okay, I've been on the high horse, on the soapbox for quite a while with something that's none of my business..... and even apparently contradicting myself sometimes. Still, thought I should pen a few random thoughts on this thingie.
Yeah what? What would I name *my* kids if and when I have 'em critters? Well, I've answered it in an earlier tag; being the staunch "Kangressi" and an "a$$-wipe of the establishment" (as some of my "revolutionary" friends of mine have accused me) I am, I think I'm gonna name my firstborn Indira or Rajiv (depending on gender, of course). Yeah, the now much maligned leaders of old.... 'coz for all their faults they have done really great things for the nation. Things that casual observers and hyperventilating "brave new Indians" miss...... but we wouldn't be right here right now in one piece if it weren't for some of their correct decisions at critical junctures!
But then I have to get the permission of my wud-be Home Minister/Supreme HQ/High Command in that expedition, right? What if she turns out to be from the fr1ggin' RJD or the Likud Party or somethin?


PS: The anecdotes and the persons mentioned in this post are purely partly phictional. Any resemblances or even explicit identifications by the author himself is purely Maya.

Notice: No animals were harmed in the making of this post, save 11 fat mosquitoes and one supersonic fly which at various points of time in the past hour tried to take advantage of my train of thoughts.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I've been tagged again.... this time by Silverine. Now I wanted to do another topic this time but this tag's quite different and it's doing the rounds in blogosphere. Guess I shall do it when it's still fresh and hot.

1. Most Desired Celebrity

This is Enya, birthname Eithnee Ni Bhraonain . THE Queen of New Age and Celtic Music.... my fave genres. Classic tall, emerald eyed, true-blood Irish beauty, not like those ever-drunk Anglo-Saxon pretenders who later infested the Emerald Isle. As I mentioned in an earlier post, she was my first crush...... her silken voice, the ambience and her looks (plus that beautiful Orinoco Flow video I first saw her in) just bowled me over way back in 1993. She ain't drop dead gorgeous and right now she has visibly aged a bit, but her voice and the whole Celtic thing sure compensates it hundred-fold! (Yeah, I got a thing for girls who can sing)
BTW, she has 20 years on me, she's richer by about 200 million dollars, she's jealously guards her privacy and lives an almost secluded life in Mandarlay Castle..... Still, hope springs eternal. Since my "awakening" other celebrities have come and gone out of my lecherous "span of attention", viz. Urmila Matondkar, Sharon Stone (the full version, not the abomination with Alexis's head on :P ), Aishwarya Rai, Winona Ryder, Preeti Jhangiani, Udita Goswami etc etc right upto Angelina Jolie now...... but this Irish lady has always held a special place (say about 143 cubic centimetre in volume :P) in my heart.
So I guess she's the one who fits this "most desired celebrity" bill. :)
Love You, Eithnee.

2. Want to do this one day

Now we are talking! If there's anything better than Carmaggedon with a monster truck (which I will call Christine after Stephen King's demonic Thunderbird '68), it's a murderous cross country spree with a fully armed Main Battle Tank with 1500HP engine, 125mm smoothbore autoloader cannon, 25 mm machine-cannon, 2 co-axial 7.62mm MMGs, Phosphorous smoke grenades and full electronic warfare array. I'm going to call her Gogo after that kick-ass Japanese chick from Kill Bill. Quake in your boots mere mortals....... Gogo and I are coming.

3. Want to visit this place

The Moon. And beyond.
One day....... one day.

4. Random Favorite

Don't ask me!

OK OK..... I'll tell ya. First of all this ain't a gag. Honest!
This freak incident occured in the greatest, purest, fairest, tightest, most enlightened country in the world, Pakistan. A prisoner in one of their jails complained to the resident Doc that he has "ishtomak trauwble"...... the Doc takes an X-ray and finds this. The guy says he has no idea how it got inside his nether cavity.
Yeah right! Check out the popular patriotic Desi fora like BRF, Frontier India etc, they are going gaga at this episode. We are officially entering this into Ripley's Believe It Or Not and The Jerry Springer Show. :D

5. I was tagged by

It's not every day you meet a dudette who has a zany sense of humor plus an engaging writing style. In all my blog-trawls in desi blogosphere I have found only those three crazy females from Sepia Mutiny, Aashraya(Crystal Blur) and zis very Silverine who fits the bill.
So..... here's lookin' at you, Silverine! May your tribe increase.
PS: I will have my revenge-i-tag soon, Madamji. :P

6. Who's being tagged next.

Hmmmm....... I'm a Johnny-Come-Lately in this particular tag, most of my pals have already been tagged. So I'm leaving this one open.
Interested folks, knock yourselves out....

Rice and Rum for 2008.

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