What’s in your name? What’s in your namam?

R. Ramaswamy Iyengar in a letter to the editor of Praja Vani:

“Some 58 years ago, N. Keshava Iyengar was the mayor of the Bangalore City Corporation. A staunch Congressman and Nehruvian, he was a firm believer in secularism.

“Some citizens needled him: “Sir, you follow secular principles. How come you still retain the ‘Iyengar‘ in your name?”

“Finding merit in the citizens’ argument, the mayor dropped his surname and soon came to be known as N. Keshava.

“The reason I bring this up is because so many of our secular titans continue to retain surnames that denote the name of their communities and sects. For example, H.D. Deve Gowda who heads the Janata Dal (Secular). Doesn’t this run counter to their secular credentials?”


The late economist and Member of Parliament Prof K. Venkatagiri Gowda would angrily telephone editors and reporters if he was referred to as Prof Gowda. “My name is Venkatagiri, not Gowda,” he would holler.

Lalu Prasad Yadav has long become Lalu Prasad, but Mulayam Singh Yadav continues to be MSY.

So, should Mani Shankar drop the Aiyar from his name? Does “former prime minister H.D. Deve” have the same ring as “former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda?” Would B.K.S. Iyengar have been as famous as just “B.K.S.”, or K. Pattabhi Jois as K. Pattabhi?