Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Whats in a Name anyway!

Or so I thought when I was subjected to the various mispronunciations of my name. From Gautam to Gowtham to Guatam and last but not the least Gothaam - yes where Batman lives !!! Generally Bengali names tend to be literary to the power of infinity and hence are that much more susceptible to mispronunciations. Take my wife's name for instance: Samapti. Literally it means - 'The End'!

First I had thought that this was a result of my father-in-law's wicked sense of humour. But later was informed  by a common friend (on seeing the bewildered look on my face) that Samapti (pronounced as Shaw-maap-tee in Bengali) was the name of a short-story penned by Tagore and it meant "The Conclusion". My father-in-law, a die-hard fan of Tagore, named his daughter after the popular short-story that was later adopted in Satyajit Ray's Teen Kanya. I thank my stars that he was not much of a sports buff given the penchant of Bongs for football. Incidentally Footballers around the world have had unusual names, some to the extent of hovering around obscenities :
  • Paraguay veteran Francisco Arce
  • Former England international Segar Bastard
  • Czech defender Milan Fukal.. to name a few.

The nick names in common Bengali households also are equally creative. Phuchkey, Peethey, Dushtu, Tubul, Golu, Gogol.. and so on. These names, strangely do not have any link with the real names of their possessors, but to a great extent describe the physical or behavioural attributes of them when they were kids. For instance, a chubby looking boy will always be vulnerable to be branded with a name like 'Golu', which will stick to him even when he grows up to be a strapping young lad with six packs that can give King Khan a run for his money.

I, as a child was assaulted by similar attempts to disparage my reputation when my grandmother decided to call me Buro (meaning Old Man). Her reason was simple - I was born without any hair on my head and looked old enough already, for her at least. Somehow that name didn't stick for too long, but then the second assault came from my aunt, who gave me another equally humiliating nick name - Piklu. A harmless sounding name you might think, am I out of my mind to object to that? But when I imagine children calling me Piklu Uncle or an older me being addressed as Piklu Dadu by my grandchildren, well it gives me the jitters. What did I do that I was subjected to such ignominious names? Finally, my mother came to my rescue, and gave me my final nick name - Bapi. Incidentally this name also means Dad in Bengali. So now even my kid chooses to calls me by my nick name, but she is merely calling me Daddy!

This reminds me of my erstwhile colleague who had a high sounding mythological name - Atharvan. For those who are not well versed with our mythological figures, Atharvan was the name of the vedic sage who had authored the Atharvaveda. Imagine his plight when one fine day an overseas client called up at our office and asked 'Hello, may I talk with Mr. Other One ?"