Friday, April 25, 2014



"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet."
                                                            ‘Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet’

Yes, I said to myself, after all I’d still be bald and bearded whatever my name. I thought a name like ‘Vicky Donor’ sounded good as long as the others did not know what you were donating (I had just finished watching the movie on TV). One of course never gets to choose his name. Midway through, if you feel dissatisfied with your name, you will have to undergo the hassle of going through a number of formalities to change it and ultimately announcing to the world that you are so and so and henceforth will be so and so. Imagine the troubles you have to undergo to have your new name incorporated in the passport, ration card etc. As it is you have had enough problems obtaining those in your old and original name. So why all the trouble, let it stay and learn to live with it till the end of your days. Imagine yourself starting all over again with your girlfriend or your wife, whichever the case may be or your friends for that matter.

It all started one day when I was filling up the application form for the GRE exam after graduation, the spaces allotted for filling in the name was not enough to accommodate mine. When I received the admit card I found a truncated version of my name – Gopalsam S Subramanian. It sounded good I thought, like all those NRI’s, the only difference was I was trying to go there and not returning. I have always found it difficult to fill in those various application forms, whether it be for passport, ration card, aadhar card etc. I have been confused when they require your first name, middle name and your last name. I wondered whether my name should be the first name or the last name, there being no confusion regarding the middle one as it has to stay put where it is. You see we South Indians incorporate our entire address in our names, it makes it easier for you to be traced in case you are lost – the village name followed by the father’s name and then your name in that order, so you see where the confusion arises. So ultimately you can guess what my name is in the passport. Last time I went to the US, I got used to being addressed as Mr. Gopalasamudram, which is my village name, of course it was shortened to Gopalsam as mentioned in my GRE application form, may be they had an inkling that I shall be coming over there one day. I am sure they did for I found that there was a placard with my name on it when I landed in Saint Louis and it read ‘Mr. Gopalsam’.

But one gets used to various pet names as they call it during one’s life, a sign of endearment. The only problem is you end up feeling like a pet yourself. I do not know how they (the pets) feel being called Jimmy, Tommy etc. I remember when I was in school our neighbours had two dogs named- Caesar and Brutus. I always waited for the day when Caesar would be done in by Brutus. I did like and continue to like some of the names I have been called by (by the way that does not include the number of times I have been called names). One name that still stands out is the name given to me by my seniors in IIT KGP during the course of ragging – ‘Submarine’ and that stuck on till I was there, though I never did go underwater.

I could have dropped my village name and made it simple like they do nowadays – just your given name and your father’s name, but I have a problem as my father’s name is also same as mine and please don’t ask me why, for it will require more space here to explain and you will lose patience. For all you know I could end up being called ‘Subramanian squared’. I wouldn’t mind though.

There are any number of Shahs, Patels, Subramanians, or Smiths for that matter, but we have still managed to exist as ourselves. I thought that it is really not fair cribbing whether you have one, two or even three names. Remember the Lord Vishnu he has a thousand names or more but he does not complain.

I like it whether you call me Subramanian, Subbu, GS or Gopalsam or Submarine for nothing can take away the fact that I shall still be bald and bearded. After all ‘What’s in a name’!


Ravi Easwaran said...

Coming along very nicely Somerset. Come to think of It Somerset submarine is a catchy monicker.

Svaathi said...

Whats in a name??? I have given several explanations on why I am spelled "Svaathi"- of course I just put the blame on You.

I loved the post.

Varsha Nagpal said...

A name is quite important in life. There was a saying in Hindi, "Aankh se andhe naam Nayansukh," We have very funny names also, where some women are named after mithais, like Rabdi, Imarti, Then there is Mun Mun, Tun Tun, The worst name I came across is Nirasha. There was a messenger in my Branch who had named his daughter Nirasha, as he was wanting a son but he only had daughters. Actually there is a lot in a name.

Anonymous said...

I have often felt that we should have numeric identity rather than names! It will give us all a similar identity without any markers of religion, caste, gender etc!!

- Kishor Kulkarni

Suprabhat Ganguly said...

A good one.

Ram said...

Nice one GS. Apparently, the Brits found out that the naming culture (Village, Father, Self) ensured almost negligible duplication!!! Generally, the first born had to be named after the patriarchal Granpa! The second one, the matriarchal Granpa! There is also a system of The name coming as Granpa, Pa & self.
Perhaps, a nice way of remembering ones' lineage (at least a couple of generations!!!)