random thoughts · story

Dont call me names – By G Rangaswamy Iyer

Multiple Personality Disorder or Split personality is typically associated with a medical disorder. But let me throw light on somebody I know, who is not sure if his condition should be considered as a curious case of personality disorder. I would like to name his condition something but hasn’t Mr. Hilaa Bhaala expressed doubt on what is there in a name. Hilaa Bhaala, by the way, is a popular Hindi name, which co-incidentally translates to Shake Spear in English! What is there in a name??!! A lot!!, I must say and to drill my point into the cerebral depths of the readers of this post, let me explain using the example of my very dear friend, Rangaswamy. Rangaswamy was all of 3 years old, when he got enrolled into a school. The admission office had a mean looking clerk whose spectacles perennially lived on the edge of his nose. The ill tempered man raised his eyes and demanded to know the full name of Master Rangaswamy. The name is Iyer, G Rangaswamy Iyer, his father, Mr. Ganesh announced. The loud and clear message delivered through his authoritative voice, sent tremors through the files in the cabinets of that unkempt, ‘opposite of paperless’ office. The clerk angrily noted down the infant’s name. Being in Bengal, an Iyer classification of homo sapien had not been exposed to the clerk, and he never bothered to see through his glasses anyway. (Remember, the location of his specs? That ensured that the documents showing Rangaswamy’s name, specs and his eyes were not in a straight line). Thus, the name, G Renga Swamy Iyer went down as the official name. Note the convenient use of ‘e’ instead of ‘a’, what is in a vowel, eh? Anyway, in Bengal, Rangaswamy is pronounced as Rongoswomy. Think of it, Rungaswuamiee and Rangaswamy cleary show that all vowels are the same. Hence, proved, QED!

Several years went by and the unsuspecting Rangaswamy slept, snored, studied and kept moving up the ranks in his school. About 12-13 years later, he was declared fit enough to be sent to the Secondary Board Exam battleground, certified to use his ‘mightier than sword’ weapon to scribble answers to the question arrows hurled at him. Just before the exam day, the admit card he received shocked him. He saw his name typed as G Renga Swamy Iyengar. How could he become an Iyengar all of a sudden? A Vaishnavite?! After all these years of intense loyalty to Shiva’s school of thought, is this how he had to be rewarded? He rushed to the authorities and with just one day to go for the exam, nervously spent 4 hours to correct the Iyengar to Iyer and Renga Swamy to Rangaswamy. Triumphantly, he waited for the revised admit card, but to his dismay, found that the name still had a few errors. G Renga Swamy Iyer was not G Rangaswamy Iyer. He resumed his struggle movement with the typist babu. But the babu behind the type writer raised his hand, shook it vigorously as if to wake his watch up from slumber, and eyed it for a while. Some mental calculations ran through the baboo’s head, post which, he got up, looked at Rangas, and announced that he would leave for the day. 2 pm and office time is over?? R protested, but rules were rules. Moreover, Babumoshai, consoled and assured R to go back home, study well and correct the name when the mark sheet arrived after the exams. Seeing no progress, R relented and to cut a long story short, the name stuck for his 10th and 12th records. Being a persistent and cunning manipulator, Ringuswemy successfully changed the record books with the help of some kind hearted understanding officials at IIT to show G Rengaswamy Iyer in his engineering degree certificate. He heaved a mighty sigh of relief when the evolutionary struggle reached a successful crescendo at IIM, when the name finally shone like diamonds on his MBA degree as G Rangaswamy Iyer. The joy was shortlived because his driver license and passport names were different. The passport officer insisted that he put down the expansion of the initial G. Thus, he became Ganesh Rengaswamy Iyer. The ‘e’ came back to haunt him as more documents had ‘e’ than ‘a’. When he proudly cat walked down the streets of the ES of Umareka, he began to be called as Ganesh, his father’s name. Also, note that the Iyers were a very creative family. Every eldest male child of alternate generations had the same name – what an innovative algorithm, I say?! G Rengaswamy Iyer, R Ganesh Iyer, G Rengaswamy Iyer, R Ganesh Iyer …. ad infinitum. Not even the I, II, III or the Senior, Junior suffixes that could have added an element of uniqueness were considered because all names were equal, you see.
The immigration officials, SSN office, Indian PAN card authorities, work organizations where Rangaswamy is or has been employed; all have different versions of his name. Try telling him, what is there in a name? A rich heritage, a long history and above all a fundamental question that keeps waking him up every night: Who am I? Can he answer the basic question, ‘what is your name?’ without that familiar lump in his throat?
Thank god he didnt write the dialogues for Agneepath. Otherwise Big B would have had to say:
Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, baap ka naam, Dinanath Vijay Chauhan, dadaji ka naam, Vijay Deena Noth Choohaa(n), pardada ka naam …
What a coincidence that his friend, yours truly’s name is Raman Rengarajan Iyengar, err R Rangarajan Iyengar.

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4 thoughts on “Dont call me names – By G Rangaswamy Iyer

  1. Hilarious!! Good good, the trouble you have to go through!
    I face a similar trouble in terms of pronounciation… I’m either “Rachana” or “Arkaana”, usually Archie… Seldom Archana!

  2. I have the same problem with my last name
    Venkatesh
    Venkates
    Venkates
    Venktesh

    I have all versions ;))

    Ranga: But after marriage, you can afford to change your name Veena X, no? I didnt know you too had similar naming problems, though 🙂

  3. That one was very good, Rongada 🙂
    I face it all the time- Not only with my fname, Venkatesh (as already articulated by another reader above), but more importantly, the lname, Barat. Especially in our land, people presume it’s a clerk’s mistake, and keep liberally injecting h’s in it (contrary to your story, the clerks did a good job with my name so far, it’s the more learned ones that presume and make mistakes)

    Venkat: Welcome to the Blog, Dada.
    It does take a while to figure that there is no ‘h’ in your last name. Only after you pointed it out, I got it.

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