Whats in a name

to me
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet. Who said that ? One Mr. Shakeappaiyyer in Romeo and Juliet. Will Iyyer still smell as sweet as Shakespeare ? Hello, Mr William Shakespeare, I am asking you, can you hear me ? Everybody is touchy about their name, why not. The other night I sent a mail expressing my gratefulness. I woke up in the middle of my sleep, hey, did I spell the names right ? Checked up and found them misspelt.  They must have thought I am calling them names. I sent my apologies.

Long ago I had sent a mail to one Mr Nair. I addressed it as Dear Mr Nai, missed the r. Nai in some south indian languages means dog. Dog may be Mr Nair’ favourite animal but he would not like to be called one.

In our country we may have any number of ID cards, may be as many as the number  of alphabets in your name, ration, voter, PAN, passport, school, service, medical, adhaar, credit, debit and many more to come. If I ask, is your name spelt the right way in all your cards, a million hands will go up and say no. Some of the offices think, this is how your name should be and you do not know!!. A menon will be corrected as menan,  Indu as Hindu,  Pia as Priya, a Rajeesh as Rajishe, a banashankari as bhayankari and so on. 
While traveling, I generally introduce myself as raj or rajan to my co-passengers if we get engaged in conversation. Many of them looks uncomfortable with the simplicity of the name. They will cross examine you (just short of third degree) until they extract your full name. They want to deduce a lot of information like region, religion, caste, sub caste, nature (oh, he is a Gowda or Reddy or Nair or Yadav – you get stamped as a saint or crook). Good, I do not reveal my full name, it does reveal a lot.
Forgetting names is another bug in our lives. If you are sixty plus and you forget someones, you panic, is it alzheimers ?
This problem is there at every age. If you have not interacted with some one for a long time, their face and name goes into the back burner and subsequently burn out. And if our interaction was memorable, that depends on how you felt, the experience would keep the name fresh in your memory.
A good way to have a rapport with someone is to utter the others name during conversation. Good  raj, good of you to have called Raj (i did not call, you called), raj ,you know what raj the other day raj I was at home, around 9ish the bell rang. You know what Raj ,you wont believe this raj, I opened the door raj and guess what raj who is standing there raj…and the dialogue went on when every alternate word became raj. If you ask me what do I remember of the conversation, just a single word and thats my name-raj.!! 
That is  misuse of the name. 
I am sure all of you will have some story with names, please share.
Meanwhile, remember a Tim wont like to be called as Tom as much as a Mr. Tucker by some other name.
Remember to take care of the names.



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Grateful for the love and respect received so far. Inspire, motivate and enable anybody to achieve their limitless limits-that is my goal for the rest of my life. Worked in MECON, Mphasis, Cofounder KelpHR, kelphr.com

Categories Uncategorized32 Comments

32 thoughts on “Whats in a name”

  1. Oh indeed a name is very very important to a person…. establishes his/ her identity…. I probably have atleast 10 different ways in which I get called…and it amuses me no end… I probably don’t like only 1 way of spelling my name which is “Laxmi” aaarrrrghhhh!!! I cringe… but never really thought…. whats in a name…. but at the same time everything is in the name….. possessive huh???

    1. Names are and have always been important, especially among we Indians. There are people who are particular not only about the way the name is spelt but also want them to be prefixed invariably with a Mr. or Sri. Names like Meenakshi Sundaram, Malar, etc pose a problem as to their gender. I can recall quite a lot of anecdontes on the confusion this caused apart from the embarrassment to a few. We can see Gheewala having an industry in wastes and Amir being a roadside mechanism surviving on daily earnings. Some people not only have long names but also prefer to have their signatures done fully – eg., I know one Hariharasubramanian who signs with his full name even now and he signs not less than 40 to 50 cheques daily (No short signatures please). Anyway, life has its peculiarities and we move with all. Nice article.

      1. People with long names are problem for others when they have to write about them and to get their spelling right. The names you have mentioned are people who are not living up to their names :-). Good one.

    2. Parents spends months to find suitable name, but later a sandhya is called Sandy, jaithirth jerry, and so on.If your name is Lakshmi then others should take care to spell your name right when the are mentionining you.

  2. You have invoked some very bitter memories of how my name was pronounced during my school days when I was in Delhi. There were days when I really hated my own name, but not anymore now. Hardly anyone could correctly pronounce “Parthasarathy”. Some teachers called me “Purusharthy”, some called me “Barsathi” and some even called me “Paratha”. But the best happened very recently, one of the call center calls from a lady from north called me and addressed me as “Mr. Pretha Sarthy”. I suppose while I am still alive I would not be happy being called as a “Pretha” which means ghost.

    1. Lakshmi and Partha are affected by others. I see in Tamil Nadu, people are doing similar things after spending lot of money to satisfy numerologists. The result is Ramesh changes to Ramish and Murugan to Murugen. The gazette that carries the name changes are voluminous like books!

      There is a new new source added to these name changers. My smart phone changes Menon to Lemon, Rajan to Raman and Kannan to Lankan!

      So, Rajan if you been addressed by me in any SMS or email, pardon me. It was not my intention. I am carefully correcting it when concious. 🙂

      1. When we use the T9 dictionary the default may be different and it goes off distorted. As long people understand its about me I don’t mind being called a rose.

  3. I always believed that my name is not really mine. Given by parents generally and they could have selected another one, if they wanted. Nicknames are given by friends, and enemies alike, again not me. Of course, I am aware of pen-names which are made in a process similar to login id’s by yourself. Of course, you might get offended (and amused at the same time) when somebody mis-spells the name; thus Nair could be become Nai (Barber for somebody from north, or dog for down-south). I have also wondered what all could happen if i forget my name one day. Nothing much really, as there would be so many who would remember, at least the pet name. Much worse, if I forget the login name!

    1. Here the issue is spelling somebody’s name correctly, which sometimes can get the other person in trouble, especially in a important document. The Nai factor is north is a good observation, oops I could have been in more trouble.

  4. “nai” may mean a dog in South India.
    In the north it means a barber.
    Look out before you mis-pell this popular Malayalee surname again!

    Your blog post brings back old memories.
    The North Indians would never get my name right.
    They broke the Gopalkrishna in my full name (Gopalkrishna Vishwwanath) into Gopal and Krishna.
    The Bengalis would never call me Vishwanath but Bishwanath.
    I thought the rossogollas they eat prevent them from pronouncing V correctly.
    But how come they are able to pronounce the V correctly the second time inside the name.
    To be consistent they should be calling me BishBanath but they don’t.

    I have been called V, Vee, Vichu, Vishu, Vish, GV, GVjee, Vishwanathjee, Nathan, Vishwanath, Vishwanathan and also also Kashi Vishwanathan.

    When I related this to an American friend, he said never mind all these names, What does your wife call you?
    I had to tell him that it depended on whether she was in love with me or mad at me at that particular time.
    The first was too embarrassing to disclose. The second just had to be censored.

    Keep writing and do write more often.
    G Vishwanath

    1. Yes Mr Biswanath, you have a point, why aren’t you called Bishbanath. Once I tried to send a phonogram (telegram days) to a Mr V.V. Choudhury. i told him V V Choudhury and he repeated bhi. bhi. choudhury. I told him V for varanasi. he said yes bhi for bharanasi. I think it went in search of BB choudhury.

  5. I have more things to add, NAME: a nomenclature to be recognized as some one. Its good to have a name, and a meaningful one too, Some break this up and figures what the Sanskrit meaning of each name is. Nowadays, many names or so modern, I feel it hard to spell it or even pronounce it.
    I would wish to recall one incident which happened in MECON-Bangalore years back.
    The story goes like this: One messenger was recruited in 1980’s and it happened to be the third day of his service, when he was given overtime to clean tables, fans ensuing some kind of drill the administration had. He was called up exactly at closing time and was asked to stay back and finish the job…. This guy went to the Personnel Officer’s desk and started to dial up a number from the phone. The PO was shocked to see this and he quietly went out and asked some one, who this person was (remember it is the 3rd day). No one actually guessed what his name was.

    Well, an enquiry was done the next day and the supervisor (incharge) called out this guy; Hey you come here”. This messenger got angry and bursted out. but he went to the officers and explained that he had to make a call to his wife, who would be waiting for his return home. and that’s it. he boldly said, don’t ever call a person Aye You, and sort like that, if you do not know the name, then call them humbly. and so on.
    There are so many things that we can learn from the younger generations. Mind you this messenger finally went on to become the Vice-President of the UNion. (You ALL must have guessed who the person he is- BY NOW)

    1. never mind what name you put, later they get it shortened to names like Sandy, paddy, lux and so on. Whatever it may be, it is a good habit to spell their name correctly when ever we are mentioning them in our mail, report or ay document. A vijayasarathy is generally called as either vijay or sarathy for convenience. And the meaning changes completely. Parthasarathy, meaning krishna as Partha becomes Arjuna.

  6. Interesting article .

    Couple of anecdotes

    1. When my full name Vishnampet Venkatraman Sethuraman was entered in the immigration form, the Officer joked : Is it your name or address !

    2. My good friend C.K. Lakshmi Narayanan got admission letter from a U.S. Graduate School,as follows:
    ” Dear Mr.Coimbatore ,We are pleased to offer admission for graduate study. ” ( referring to his first name ).

    1. Thanks Sethu for sharing these anecdotes. Hilarious. If i remember, C.K. Lakshmi Naraynan, CK was coimbatore krishnamurthy. Thats some name.

  7. You write well and I have bookmarked your blog. But in the press of things I wonder when will I have the time to leisurely read through your posts. It is life’s conundrum: so much to do and so little time (including only one lifetime) in which to do it. We are forced to drop many a good options.

    1. Thank you, Dr. Your compliment is very encouraging. When you do no get feedbacks, you are not sure whether people are liking or tolerating. I shall pick one post at a time (the ones that will be of your interest) and send it to you every week. You may require 5 minutes to read them.

  8. Rajan,

    Nice blog. They often turn my last name into Khandahar (to rhyme with
    Kandahar) because of the Afghanistan war. Interestingly, I was first
    called Raj by a friend when I was in high school, and I wasn’t much
    sure if I cared too much for it. He used it because of Raj Kapoor. Now
    I find that I had to shorten my name for others to Raj, and they think
    it is short for Roger 🙂

    Love you guy.

    Raj / Rajen / Khande / KarKhande / Bal / Khandekar 🙂


    1. Thank you Munda Jaideo Awasthi. How did you feel when Munna became Munda ? My purpose of this post is to let people know the importance of getting the name right

  9. I feel there is one fact regarding one’s name- that you live upto the expectations of your name.I am not poking fun , i remember an incident which happened years ago.my cousin who was a medico in the Trivandrum medical college eagerly waited the arrival of their classmate named Swarna’ they were expecting a girl with very fair complexion and to their utter disappointment she was extremely dark and not at all good looking. . Dont you think parents should be a little bit discreet as well as considerate while naming their darling offsprings? Just so that their children wont be embarassed at some point in their lives?

    1. For every parent their child is Swarna, thangam, thangakudam. Kakkaku than kunju ponkunju. The outlook has to change that only fair is beautiful. For an African, they work to shine their complexion. In this case, Swarna was not embarrassed,she may not have even known that our cousin was disappointed. Nalinakshi may be cock eyed, Swarna may be dark, neel may be fair and so on. Never be prejudiced by a name, in our country we draw lot of inferences by the name like Reddy, Nair, john, Gowda, Ahmed. Most of the time we end up saying so and so is not what I thought, very nice person. Thank you for the response. It helps to think because you quoted a real life incident. Discussion is open, you can add more to this. Looking forward

      1. Swarnam definitely felt bad about her name.That’s why I brought this issue up. There is a saying in malayalam-Kaakkake thankunju ponkunju. True,for every parent her offspring is the most cherished and beautiful.But that does not make us forget the issue which i brought up.Black is also lovely and BEAUTY LIES IN THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER. Only thing is each parent should have the common sense to look ahead,if the name given to his or her child will land him or her in a situation which will make him or her embittered or embarassed- thus aggravating her inferiority complex which the child may have.Personally speaking, I feel in the long run of your life all these- beauty,fame, riches fade into insignificance beside a character adorned with truth,compassion ,humility and so on. But,to reach that stage ,we have to fathom the real meaning of life-which i feel no young child will be capable of, especially considering the present world we live in- which is all colours and glory with reality sprinkled here and there.

  10. very true and interesting it is abt the name issue….example.. ganpathrai if mis pronounced can turn out be disastrous and can climax in a fight even…so what i do is i always make sure i get the name right by asking a few couple of times and at times evn the spelling to not mispell or mispronounce it to which the person in concern at times have become itirritated …but knowingly or unknowingly i do insist to get it right…. as said in the the malayalam movie PRANJIETTAN…” peril enthu irikyunnu?? oru peril aanu njan irinnu poyathu….aripranji yenna peril” ….that scene is hillarious….. the problem with we people are when we hear a name v try to match it to the persons character or looks mostly (for example …a girl named sundari is not actually good looking …v do feel a bit uncomfortable to use that name on her….) or the person by nature or character or may be how smart he or she is……sometimes the name would be a complete opposite of what the person is…..example a guy near my dads house in alleppey who is a complete drunkard and when reaches home u get to hear all sorts of screaming and yelling frm the house and is being called by the name “VYAASA”…jus imagine….the fate of those people around have to call him vyaasa….but again whts in a name….it jus a name …..

  11. Call him Vayasa. I know somebody here has named her son, socrates and he would not clear 10th standard and am not sure about the academics of Socrates. In India, naming is serious business. The debate can go on and on, how ever what we have to understand is its the way human mind thinks differently. Every body has his own reasons and perceptions, leave it, nothing right or wrong. The only thing, we can take care, is to spell someone’s name correctly.

  12. Great exchanges Rajan (n all others)..

    I just read this now, Thanks Rajan you sent the link..

    I am a strong believer of freedom n I do give freedom to others almost always (at least I believe so)..

    So I decided NOT TO NAME MY SON, hoping he should have freedom to “name-himself” whenever n whatever of his choice..

    And so I pet-named him DASH, to be filled-up by him later..

    We managed an year+ without a name but then the Birth Certificate issue happened n so the freedom factor came back hitting at my head..

    I named him ADARSH (jumbled from my mother’s name SHARADA n wow I succeeded in getting a male name (?) jumbled from a female one)..

    My bro Viswanath n our friend Vishwanath both get mad if the ‘H’ enters or exits their respective names, so much they love their respective spellings.. (though in regional language both write ditto)..

    I travelled once in train with the name HAIR KUMAR, having failed to notice Steve had auto corrected HARI to HAIR.. (conductor was so sleepy he didn’t find anything amiss)

    My friend Radhakrishnan was addressed in his office as RADHA n he successfully steered them all to call him RK..

    What is in a name……?
    Lots n Lots of Efforts……

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