It is sometimes funny how the simple name of a person metamorphosizes into a hundred different avatars just based on the person trying to pronounce it. The sounds in the names might get beaten black and blue depending on the nasal capabilities of the pronouncer.
Let us take my name for example. DEEPAK. A simple and harmless name with just two noticeable sounds. But the pity is that one of these sounds should closely rhyme with an extra-vulgar super-insultive English word that is often represented by special characters in its written form. So, some cruel callers of my name might choose to call me DEE-%$^#.
Then comes the infamous Tamil teacher at school who prefers to bite hard on the first syllable in the name till it is on fire. The second syllable is, however, monetarily so much valuable. This makes my name THEE-BUCK.
There are more people belonging to the Tamil diaspora who will not be too keen on passing the BUCK so easily. Definitely this sound has to be localized considerably, as in, THEE-BUCKKU – in a coveted Tamil style, or its shortened form – THEE-BU.
Miles away, the English-speaking phoren people, with little or no knowledge of the minute intricacies of the multitude of Indian languages, render new dimensions to the name, munching and punching it into newer shapes, so that my name becomes D’PACK. A better shape would have been a six-pack.
I consider myself enormously blessed and gifted to not have a name as dangerous and diabolic as my brother’s. He is called KIRAN. This name is tossed and torpedoed much violently than a frog on the frying pan. He starts from KI-RAIN and KI-REEN and gets upgraded to KI-ROON and KI-RAN.
If simple names dance with so much glee on our twisty tongues, you can easily make up your mind about the big list of complicated and outlandish names.
The government decided to include the citizen’s father’s name in the electoral ID card, so that people can be more profusely identified, like, M.Kumaran, son of Mahalakshmanan. An unfortunate citizen’s father’s name happened to be ‘Kadarkarai’ (Seashore in Tamil). The hyper-educated officials of the Election commission decided to print his father’s name in the card, in letter as well as in spirit. The result – his father’s name was printed as “The Beach”. May be they found he was a Son of the Soil.
The ancient Tamil kingdom should have been a land of extraordinary scholars and exemplary tonguesmen. How else can you justify the common man pronouncing extra-terrestrial names like Peruncheralirumborai and Thirikoodarasappakavirayar! I believe special tuitions were given for pronouncing these names right. The current Tamils are no less in giving names as long as the Beach-Tambaram railway line. Balasudenthirarajan and Ramanujarajendran are not historical, but very much contemporary names walking around us.
A person I remotely remember from my childhood had the name “Soodi Kodutha Sudarkodi” – a name actually given to Aandaal – the Meera Bai of the South. For non-Tamil readers, I would like to point out with a slight smirk that this is similar to naming a child – ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge’.
The home minister of India Mr.Chidambaram bears the name of a town in Tamilnadu. However, he is not alone in this feat. Town names such as Madurai, Palani, Tirupathi, Tirumalai, and Kaasi commonly acquire special status as the first names of people.
The Members of the Mallu-land like to KISS… (Keep it simple, stupid!). Rarely would we have come across Mallus with names exceeding two syllables. Biju, Ciju, Ribu, Tanu, Jiby, Simi, Rinu… the list is endless. Of course, Beenamol and Kunjumon have to be interspersed in between these in order to give us the option of breaking the monotony with a smile. Over the years our minds have been rutted to nail names such as George and Mathew directly into the coconut trees of the Mallu-land.
Even the simple names of the Mallus have beware-of-names type of surnames. There is a rumor that certain Mallu surnames are usually generated by writing a random syllable generator in Perl, with only two constraints. (1) It should be a mix-up of syllables, rendering any kind of attempt to remember by a member of the human race, impossible, and, (2) It should end with ‘-il’. Thazhathidathil, Thevaruparampil, Puthenuvetil are some samples. Let us not get started with Prasadaramanakooti!
Funny customs in some families could lead to non-funny situations. For example, I had a friend in school. His family has a strange custom of rotating only 2 names for all male members of the family. He was named after his grandfather, as, ‘Chinnasami’. His brother was named after his own father, as, ‘Chellasami’. So, his brother becomes Chellasami, son of Chellasami, and brother of Chinnasami, also grandson of Chinnasami. I used to find it embarrassing to call his name standing outside his home.
Much ado has been made about the older names. Tuning our focus to modern names, most parents nowadays like to create names for their kids, with combos which have never been used, ever. May be it is their effort to make their kids outstanding by making their names standing out. A person I know has named his kids Migal, Kayal and Iyal. (It is up to the Tamil scholars among my readers to dig into the etymology of these names).
Sanskrit names uncommon in the South like Dhruvesh, Hritesh and Saharshita are among those being commonly conferred nowadays on kids in Chennai. I am sure, when these kids grow up, they will have much more complaints than I had, to write about the way their names are handled by the name-starved public!