VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Many Indian kids, after they grow up, have trouble with long, tongue twisting names. Luckily we have nicknames to rescue us. But sometimes nicknames too become just as bad, especially when they have double meanings like say ‘Dicka uncle.’
Even shortening Indian names can some-times be dicey with Pooja lovingly becoming Poo.
Unfortunately, when it comes to nicknames, generally English names are used. And they are used to the point one is left wondering if it is really true. It is said that there is a couple named Happy and Gay! I guess they’ll be naming their kid ‘Glee.’ But by far, if you are a native of Mysore you will love the names adopted by some of our local “heroes” — people who put either their profession before their name or the name of an animal.
There is ‘Tiger’ Ramesh. I am waiting for a day to meet him so I can have the pleasure of being amused by introducing myself to him as, “Hi, I am ‘Panther’ Muthanna.” Wonder if he too will be amused and may be feel an immediate sense of feline bonding.
Then there is ‘Cat’ Balu, no not because he is ‘cool cat’ or light-footed, but apparently because he has green eyes.
Then there is the famous ‘Choori Loki’ (Dagger Lokesh). How he got this threatening name is an interesting story. When in college, all of us had heard of this guy. He supposedly was a rowdy and everyone was wary of him. After all, if he has ‘Choori’ as his first name, he must be a dangerous man. But years later we heard the origin of his name.
It seems Lokesh used to hang around with rowdy-type characters all the time but was never himself one. One day there was a clash between the boys he hung out with and another group. Lokesh was caught in the crossfire and one of the rowdies knifed him in his buttocks. He was rushed with a bleeding bum to the hospital.
Soon, he became the ‘butt’ of ‘buttock jokes’ and his friends named him ‘Choori Loki.’ And no one bothered to ask why he was named ‘Choori’, instead they simply assumed he was the perpetrator of pain and not the victim. Choori Loki too noticed the newfound respect that he commanded and kept mum about his story.
There are numerous such names from ‘Chirathe’ (leopard) Manju to ‘Kardi’ (bear) Balu. All nicknames created in their younger days have now become their unofficially-official names. In fact they believe their name helps increase their recall value.
Some of them are in politics and when their real names are published, they call the office the next day and request that their “business” name be used.
Even our Kannada film stars have interesting prefix to their names. There is the ‘Rebel Star’ Ambarish, ‘Golden Star’ Ganesh, ‘Challenging Star’ Darshan and ‘Power Star’ Puneeth Rajkumar. We love prefixes. Yes, indeed, you may have worked hard for Dr. prefix, but the above prefixes are a lot more “cooler” and unique.
In Mysore, it’s common for people to use a person’s profession as prefix to their name.
The popular example would be our “Snake” Shyam, the man who has been catching snakes in houses for free and doing Mysoreans a great service. His real name is Mirle Subbarao Balasubramanium! Call him this and he himself will not respond. But “Snake” Shyam, everyone knows and he willingly responds.
Another example is our former ex-Mayor Sandesh Swamy. His real name is Sithapura Satish. Satish became Sandesh Swamy as the Hotel Sandesh The Prince is owned by his family and Swamy is his nickname. In fact, his older brother, who is an MLC, is addressed popularly as Sandesh Nagaraj, his real name is Sithapur Nagaraj.
So may be some people may call me ‘Writer Muthanna.’ But that’s not too bad compared to a piles doctor — ‘Dr Bum Ramesh.’
To add to this, some people are given their physical attribute as prefix before their name such as ‘Dhadiya’ Lokesh (Giant Lokesh) or ‘Kari’ Nagesh (Dark Nagesh). It may sound quite derogatory but it’s just a name created for recognisability.
Once they are recognised, they want luck to be an add-on. So, many politicians now have begun changing the spelling of their names to change their luck.
In Mysore, the first popular name change story was that of the Chamaraja Constituency MLA late Harsha Kumar Gowda. It is said that when he was initially just Harsha Kumar, he contested for MLA election twice and lost. Then he was advised to add ‘Gowda’ for luck. It worked and he won the third time.
More than numerology, may be the ‘Gowda’ add-on helped affirm his allegiance to a community and get him the votes because after the first term, this name change strategy never worked because another man with the ‘Gowda’ suffix came into the fray—H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda—who has won from Chamaraja constituency ever since.
Luckily nobody advised Harsha Kumar Gowda to add another ‘Gowda’ to his name making him double-Gowda.
The other famous name change was that of our District In-charge Minister who became S.A. Ramdas, he found it unlucky being just an A. Ramdas. Then our former Chief Minister became B.S. Yeddyurappa from B.S. Yediyurappa, our MP Vishwanath became Adagur H. Vishwanath from being just H. Vishwanath.
Well, how much does this work?
It’s going well for Ramdas, it’s going great for Vishwanath but what about Yeddy? Some numerologists may defend it saying that if not for the spelling change, Yeddyurappa would still be in jail. So we wonder if he should go for another spelling change to reclaim his CM chair or else he may just disappear into political oblivion as “Yeddyyarappa (Who’s Yeddy)?”
The same trend exists among ordinary citizens of India. May be numerology is a science. May be it is not. But while everyone is changing their names, while all our politicians are busy changing the spelling of their names to get ahead in life, has anyone thought of our motherland?
Ever since independence, we have had too much trouble; we have been “forever a developing” nation but never getting to be “developed” one. May be this streak of dosha (bad luck) can be ended with the name change or a spelling change. It’s surprising that while all governments are busy changing their States’ names, and our leaders changing their names for better forunes, no on has bothered about a name change or at least a spelling change for our nation.
May be if we change the spelling of India to Endia or Indiya, this nation’s fortunes could change.
What an idea, Sirji?
No… it’s just numerology.
(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of the evening daily Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)
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