Long names, IIT days
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Well, yes, as long as you have a name like William, but, dear Mr Shakespeare, if you were me, I bet you a thousand roses, you wouldn’t have come up with this quote.
Let me explain. The name was given to me at birth- rajeshree later got changed due to some sort of naga dosha with naga tribes explaining how the child would be unlucky if nag was not incorporated into the name … had to get converted into a nagrajeshree. As if the original wasn’t complicated enough. And my sister, who was luckier in the name section, didn’t do so well otherwise as she was dunked in oil for 9 days before my dad got to see her. What’s amazing is how, my double educated parents, Dad, with a super Ph.D. from MIT & Caltech and my mum, even though one of the first woman engineers in India, were the most gullible and submissive folks in the face of such strong beliefs. Parental pressure must be! So much so that I got the cobra (nag) name and my sis, a bit luckier, got the oil treatment. (Well, she must be luckier as the oil got washed away but the name stuck to me, forever, and will do so even in my grave, unless if I do something prompt, I suppose).
And so, here I am, after a few decades of life, with a long name glued to me, much like a leech, needing a rather complicated operation to get rid off. It is not the nth time that I have thought about changing the name, as have several of my not so lucky brethren with long names I am sure. Although I have coined several nicknames (aina, anita, etc, etc.) to deal with this, I never got around to actually changing it. Just the thought of the multiple certificates, licences, what have you and the effort needed to change all these, kind of sends me into a tizzy. Which is why I am still here with the same name.. even though I must have mulled over the thought, at least, a million times. The amount of effort that’s gone into thinking about it, I could have been sailing away with not just a new name, but also a new nose, lips, face, body, and many other body parts by now, had I put thoughts into action. But glory is to procrastinators, being part of that category of peoples, here I am, good or me, still with the same long name.
And thus, I seriously sympathise and empathise completely with those poor souls (rich in the name though) who occasionally, and also frequently come from the south of this country, and, therefore, have to live with the legacy of longish names.
Firstly there is the mother, grandmother, presiding deity, father, grandfather and to top it all the village name to complete the naming ceremony. So that a little girl, who happens to be my relative ( see it runs in the family) has the name of Parvati Venkata Nag Vijaya Ramya Ritupuli*, Ganapuli*. The Rich little thing, she only has to call herself G.P.V.N.V.R.Ritupuli, it’s a different matter that we call her ‘ balli* ‘ anyway. And the connection? Still figuring that one out.So what’s the issue – you may ask?
It does come up in many ways, for e.g. with a name like Adhikamasam Garudadhipati Pusharinini Triyambakeshwarulu (a sample only), the name automatically gets associated with a heavy image, the longer the heavier. Some of these names run so long that you need to be a marathoner, or you would be panting and puffing by the time you have reached the end if your physical form is anything less than that.
Also, some mundane issues do crop up, for e.g when you need an email id, it starts getting very confusing to the poor western souls (so poor in the naming department as their names can only get longer with the additions of junior or senior or similar). Since they and, therefore, the systems designed by them can only think in those binary terms (first name, last name), they reach some kind of an impasse. Being an auditor, it is interesting to see findings related to names and lack of email IDs. Months sometimes pass before email Ids can be assigned to these souls by administrators sitting in the western hemisphere since it takes them so long to decipher the strings that make up the names.
And the same issue arises while searching for such fellows on the mail systems since they are designed to go by the last name first and the first name last and in this case, you really can’t make out what comes when. Essentially, if searching for an R.G.S.T.Amalanaka Kiruvanti, you have to scroll through many permutations before you can hit on the right one.
Not all is gloomy, though. The good part is, some folks actually envy us, souls. In college, and I stayed in a girls hostel called Kailash at IIT Delhi where any sort of males, except the mess staff, were not allowed in. And so there was a complex system of announcing girls names on the Public Address system so that they could come out and meet their male and therefore forbidden visitors. We had a lady Radha who (who)manned the PA system day and night. Her job? Very simple.. stop all males or look-alikes at the gate and take the names of the females they wanted to meet. Then come to the mike and shout out in a booming tone the name of the girl (not having used a mike before, she often forgot its purpose, and sometimes even shouted to add a double impact ). So the days and nights were filled with announcements for Multiple Anitas, Lekhas, Sunitas etc, and only one Nagrajshree. Lucky me…
Sounds too simple, isn’t it? This led to envy on the part of some plan Vanitas, Sunitas, Kavitha and Papayas (sorry – meant Papiyas), who actually thought that having a complex name like mine would be a blessing as they wouldn’t be addressed as Sunita B- 14 or Sunita b-11 anymore. ( b- 14 and b- 11 being their room nos were appended to their plain names to make them unique). It became a bit more complex when the room occupancy, in the last year of my IIT life, had to be doubled, so that 2 Sunitas could potentially be sharing a room. And that led to a lot of chaos, as you can imagine, on the PA system with both Sunitas of b- 14 marching to greet their welcome (male) visitors at the gate. Who said life was simple anyway?
Dear Sunita*, if you are reading this, I would still be happy to exchange my name for yours , and not just that, but our bodies too, as I have recently seen you in a swimsuit on FB and wow! 4 decades did show up few tiers in my case , but your svelte curves took my breath away! Let’s not procrastinate anymore, my dear plane Sunita* friend!
A sincere plea to all my fellow countrymen, because of what I’ve been through. Call your babies whatever you want at home (naughty baingan and into the tube are personal favorites), but please .. don’t saddle your little ones with such heavyweight names.
May I also recommend that new parents borrow a leaf from the far eastern friends who seem to have no issues at all when it comes to names. All names must end in an m or ann. So simple isn’t it? I met, in quick succession, bam’s, popcorns’, Tim tams’, even yum yum. Being a parent, why didn’t this strike me earlier, so easy to take up the letters and just switch them around, instead of struggling with the multiple versions of gods, first letter, astrology and all that, honestly, in comparison, this method seems to be very clever indeed.
So the next time when called to attend a naming ceremony, I shall not go there just with a gift ( booties and the like) but a long list of names drawn up from some plain Janes, Tim yum, etc.
Parents, please dwell on this blog – I know you want your babies to gain weight now, to look cuter and cuddlier, but think about it, they won’t stay cute and cuddly forever. And about 4 decades later, the added weight of a heavyweight name may be too much to bear, along with the corpulence that the decades bring. Maybe I can even post the names on this page next time if it makes life easier.