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.


At 11:34 AM, Blogger Kurur said...

hi anand,

ananthapadmanabhan, even though as long as the trans-siberian railway line, is a wonderful name considering the other extreme of nomenclature prevalent in kerala - in which someone's name is the convergence of the easiest two syllables that come to the parents' mind. The ignominy of being called Titty or Shabby is worse than being affectionately nicknamed "Puppy"! Fr. Pulikkal was the master of nicknames. He always had a standard "wonderful" nickname for anyone named Sandeep. I dont need to explain! :-)

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Jiby said...

lol...good one man!!!

dont u remember pulickal's pappanabho payaru kallan song!!! annan and i was talking of how when puli approached us we wud sit in silent dread wondering wht nickname he wuz abt to give us.
and of course how much i laughed abt the problem u gave the INS and a ur phone calls to customer service and having to spell out ur name!

its funny...first time i talked with our usc giby, he said his parents were also named gracy and baby and thats how we both got our names!!!

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Nikhil Narayanan said...

result vanna dey

At 9:07 AM, Blogger silverine said...

he he that was funny!!

Our traditional Indian names are good and this talk about a name being gay etc. is an American outlook. I even hate the term 'nerd'. Sometime back we didn't have to worry about what we are named or what we wore, but now everything seems to be defined by American conventions. I think you have a lovely name :)

That link was a Sidin classic (May 2004).

At 9:26 AM, Blogger >|' ; '| said...

Puppy K, the mater of arcane art of naming....!!!

anand k...lacks that oomph that puppy k exudes ;)


At 2:10 PM, Blogger Anand K said...

@ Sandeep: Hi boss..... nice to see another Loyolite out here! :) I must say you have a cool blog.... Loved the Mallu post especially!

Come to think of it, we did have a Shabi (some wiseass seniors called him Shabby in first year of NCC)..... too bad we didn't have a Titty! ;)

Yeah, Fr Pulickal was the master of nicknames.... miss him whenever we go back to visit school. But thank God we had DP (Deepa Pillai) Ma'am to fill the void.... she was after your time, right?

@ Jiby: Forget *that* song..... do you remember Pardeep singing a parody of that [i]Neelavenalil[/i] song in my "honor"? And then "goody-shoes" Ammavan tattling to Sara Ma'am who promptly hauled Pradeep next class? :D

You should remember that phone thingie.... I maxed out your phone card didn't I?! Ahhh.... that was my first high point in the US! Guess I know why Cartman (from South Park) takes on his friends all the time...

@ Nikhil: Hallonskaaram!
No baas, result no coming. I am the waiting onlee.... :)

@ Silverine:
Grrrr..... you sound like my Mom now! :P

Got p1ssed at the sheer length of my name when I got to UKG... I remember teachers pulling me up all through KG and Class I for making a spelling mistake right at the very beginning of my answer papers or HW books, my full name! Sighhhh.... have to live with it, eh?

BTW, Sidin was the creator? OMG! I didn't know that... first read it in a e-mail fwd last year. Assumed it would be one of those mysterious wisecracks who created these masterpieces but are condemned to remain unknown

@ Poison:
Puppy K exudes oomph?!!! My friend, you have to learn a LOT about women! :P

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Pinkbury said...

C'mon now tell me whose istory is it?? Love the mallu flavor!!

At 7:43 PM, Blogger silverine said...

Gosh, it must have been painful to remember such a long name before even mastering ABCD!!! :))

At 1:02 AM, Blogger Maya Cassis said...

hil hil hilaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarious my mate!

At 2:49 PM, Blogger quills said... are the funniest guy on blogosphere. :)) And as an animal lover I am glad to see that no animals were hurt during the making. Mosquitoes,now that is a different story and they are my foes from long back and I applaud your courage to stay put and pen these thoughts of yours, even while at the mercy of not one but 11. :)

And regarding the subject matter of this post, thank God you don't have names like Humble, Shitty, etc etc,,hope I am not offending anyone here.

Great writing as always!

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Anand K said...

@ Pink: It's my story! It's your story! It's OUR story!

@ Silverine: Yes, Mein Frau... yes! Sniff, sighhhhh..... Those trials and tribulations have turned me into this schizophrenic sociopath you now know.

@ Maya: Danx boss! :)

@ Quills: {In my best Darth Vader voice} "Ananthapadmanabhan? That name has no meaning for me now, Master Quills." :p

You are right, thank God I wasn't hoisted with one of those classics! I once met a Desi gal (a Bong) who's name is Lubyanka! Imagine it.... someone named after the most notorious prison in the world(and HQ of the KGB to boot). Apparently her dad, one of those Bong commies, had heard this name from somewhere and he thought it was something exotic like Olga or Yekaterina. Lubyanka's actually that city square's name, but still.... :D

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Suji said...

Great post! Incidently i get my name from the first syllabals of my parents name, but thankfully i like it. :)

Thanks for dropping by my blog and thanks for the wonderful insights and information abt tea.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger starry nights said...

nice interesting post.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Anand K said...

@ Suji: Thanks Suji.
That apprently ordinary sketch of tea pot was somehow too appealing to let go without that little thesis of mine. ;)

@ Starry Nights: Welcome to my blog, Lalitha. And thanx. :)

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Papan!! did u forget the name....papa..papanabha...its goes...pine......kannnaaa.....that was awesome ......i loved

--thx--tharun :)!!

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Jasmine said...

Hmmm well as a Punjabi, this is not authentic at all. I have yet to hear anyone called "Fullpower Singh" or "Dollar Singh"...this is the first time I am hearing this.

My name is Jasmine, abbreviated to "Jassu". And my mom's is Manmohan, abb. to "Mohini"...nothing crazy. I feel your post is more about stereotypes than reality. Sardar jokes are basically blonde jokes or regular jokes replaced with 'sardar', without any resemblance to sardars you will find in a real family. I feel your 'fat sardar' in the Lovely story was also a stereotype...generally Punjab has the lowest starvation index in India so I can believe they are generally well-fed and can lead to such stereotypes, where majority of states have a larger proportion of poverty and malnourished people.

Yes, names like "Sunny" or "Rocky" or "Paul" are common in Punjab...I know so many Satinders who go by Sunny. I personally don't like the Westerization of names, but that is the reality. There are a few "Loveleens" although I never heard of a Lovely.

Names like Jarnail and Karnail are very common in Punjab, because generally Punjabis regard Army service very highly. It is a fact that Punjab is very much linked to the Army. The name 'sardar' was also given to them for this leaders in the National Force.

Anyways, interesting piece :)


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