Columns

What’s in a name? Plenty!

R. C. Rajamani | Updated on March 25, 2013 Published on March 25, 2013

Admirers aplenty for Gandhiji



“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet” said the Bard.

It may be true of a flower. But what about human beings? Famous names inspire and move men and women. A tongue-in-cheek news feature about “Stalin and Napoleon” being in the government at the Centre till the DMK decided to quit UPA-2 sent me back half-a-century, down memory lane. When I was in school during the early 1960s in the port town of Tuticorin, there was a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi with me in Class Six, or the First Form as it used to be called those days. We were all amused by his unusually long name. In the class everyone knew who Gandhiji was, even if they didn’t know his full name. My classmate’s father was a freedom fighter and was inspired by the Mahatma and hence his son’s name.

My Maths teacher during SSLC was Ignatius. Though a Hindu (a Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai), he was given the name of a Christian saint by his father, who was inspired by his European teacher of the same name.

Bose and Nehru too

Later, when I entered college, there was Subash Chandra Bose who taught Physics. When US President John F. Kennedy and Pandit Nehru died within six months of each other in November 1963 and May 1964, two book-shops sprang up with the names Kennedy Book Centre and Nehru Book Store and sold text-books as well as fiction. The shops were a big hit with students and the intelligentsia.

The DMK government had one Nehru in the cabinet. Now it struck me that Tamils, particularly, have a penchant for naming their children after the celebrated in history.

However, they often choose the surname, without realising it is not the actual name of the leader they admire. So it was rarely Jawaharlal but always Nehru.

This makes me wonder at times if future historians or social scientists would not be confused about how a Gujarati Gandhi or a Kashmiri Nehru or even a French Napoleon or a Russian Stalin ever came to settle in Tamil Nadu. Could they have been related to the original Gandhi or Nehru or Napoleon or Stalin? When I began my career with a newspaper in Bombay during the 1970s, I came to know about ‘Stalin’ Srinivasan, an eminent journalist with the Free Press Journal, the newspaper founded by the celebrated S. Sadanand. Needless to say, this “Stalin” was, again, a Tamil. He got the Russian dictator’s name as a prefix for sporting a moustache just like Stalin’s!

Bold choice

Some parents have a penchant for naming their children after not so favourably received names as well. I used to tease my media colleague Aurangzeb for bearing a name that is normally associated with antagonism to the liberal values of art and music.

What really took my breath away, though, was the name ‘Ravanan’. This was the name of a Tamil Nadu government PRO based in New Delhi.

It was 2006 and the just elected Chief Minister of the State, M. Karunanidhi, was on a visit to the capital. After his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he was to meet the press the following day, and the exact time was not fixed yet. The Chief Minister, with his entourage, including the PRO, sped off to Tamil Nadu House to rest.

“Ravanan Sir, if you get to know the timing, please call me on my mobile,” I told him, shouting out my number as the vehicles moved past a long line of newsmen.

“Sir, I don’t have a mobile,” Ravanan replied, making me wonder if, going by his name, he should not be having ten mobiles!

(The writer is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist)

Published on March 25, 2013

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Related

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.