On a fateful night in the abnormally long winter of the year 1985, Appukuttan Nair was born, heralded by thunder from the heavens and the screeching of a dozen hyenas.
His mother had had a childhood crush called Appu, who had plucked tasty raw mangoes for her from the highest branches of the tree by the schoolyard, and to whom she had promised remembrance through her son’s name. His (Appukuttan’s, not Appu’s) father was affectionately called Kuttan by his (Appukuttan’s father’s, not Appukuttan’s) mother when he was a little boy, and the devoted man wanted his (tread carefully here – Appukuttan’s father’s, not Appukuttan’s nor Appu’s) child to have the same name. Thus, after a heated discussion spanning twelve nights and twelve days and several broken plates, the couple decided on the name Appukuttan. Little did they know of The Curse then.
Appukuttan was very proud of his name during his formative years. He was roll number 2 in the class, which brought him several benefits. When the class teacher of class 5-B, in a fit of irritation at the gang of naughty kids at the back, asked the students to sit according to their roll numbers, Appukuttan ended up being preceded by Aparna and followed by Asha and Asin. The rest of the year was spent in a happy haze of pen-fighting and playing ‘Flames’ with the 3 girls in the first bench. Appu was one happy Kuttan.
And The Curse was still quite dormant.
Summers went by and Appukuttan turned out like any true-blue Mallu should – he grew tall, grew a paunch and grew a gruesome moustache. His loving parents and the understanding society bestowed upon him tremendous freedom and opportunity to choose his field of education, a choice between Engineering and Medicine. After having chosen Engineering due to his fear of blood, and having chosen an engineering college in Cochin due to the male : female ratio of 1 : 1 in that blessed institution, Appukuttan shifted base from his small town to the city of Mosquitoes, Manholes and the Marine Drive.
On his first day in the college, he was ruthlessly ragged by the senior boys due to his moustache. They had him pull at the magnificent specimen with as much force as he could muster, to prove that it wasn’t a fake. By then, an enterprising senior had pasted a white label marked ‘Veerappan’, on the backside of his white shirt. But the worst was to follow. The emotionally repressed senior girls caught hold of him, and mocked his name in so cruel a manner that Appukuttan had to bite back tears with much effort. He couldn’t believe how twisted these girls were, but he had started to believe in The Curse, from that very instant. He also missed the sweet, smiling Asin, always ready for a Name-Place-Animal-Thing game and constantly giggling over his many unfunny jokes.
Appu was mercifully asked to return to his seat when the seniors pried a prettier pie to prey on, out of her hidey-hole. But gone were the days of Aparna, Asha and Asin. His new neighbours were Jijo, Lijo and Bijo. As Appu sat wondering how the combined length of their names was less than the length of his, (stop counting you nerds, I exaggerated!), the seniors had caught hold of Jijo. While a shaking Jijo confessed that his mom Jincy and dad Joseph had literally carved his name out of their two names, Appukuttan thought of The Curse again. Lijo’s mommy and daddy turned out to be Linda and Joseph (no, a different one), while Bijo’s turned out to be Beeranikka and Josephine (Ha, a clever inter-religious twist!)
Assignment deadlines flew by, special supplementary exams crawled by, and Appukuttan trudged his way through college. When he found ‘A.Nair’ listed in the merit list for admission to a prestigious post-graduate institution, his joy knew no bounds – Even though his close relatives expressed surprise and shock that he was going all the way to Lucknow to study a 2-year course which awarded a post-graduate diploma and not even an MBA. “Why son, didn’t you get admission in Kerala for anything? Why go all the way to North India for just a diploma?” was the query which rang through Appu’s family circles those days, but he kept his focus on the 3 letters I, another I and an M which preceded the diploma.
Within a week of his new life in Lucknow, Appukuttan’s name had been pronounced in 42 different ways, ranging from the absurd to the lovable. The smiling Surd next seat called him Attacuppa Nair, blissfully unaware of his mistake. The weirdly accented professor called him Atacama Nair, the lady in the accounts department called him Atopical Nair and the obnoxious fatso in the class called him Abe Kutte Nair. He thought of his mom, and of his dad, and of The Curse he bore.
A curse is eternal, and the cursed is doomed eternal, but Love conquers all. And so it was, in the Summer of ’09, when the birds were singing and life was surging, that Appukuttan Nair met the lady of his dreams (as in, his soulmate). It happened after he took up his first job with an American company in Texas, and she was a fellow fresh graduate with a diploma of her own.
Her mane was so fragrant,
Her name was elegant,
Her man was so gallant.
Eventually Vyjayanti Agrahara Ramanujam fell for Appukuttan’s charms and the two became lovers, never to be separated.
If the Ahujas and the Aroras in India couldn’t pronounce his name, what chance did Appukuttan have with the Texans! So as they always do, they abbreviated and called him Aku Nair. Perfectly acceptable, and even a bit cute, thought Appukuttan. Until he heard what they called his soulmate, his sweet Vyjayanti, in a raucous office gathering, one Friday evening. Vy…..Ag…..Ra. Yes, fate had played a cruel joke on him again. Appukuttan knew that moment, with Vyjayanti crying on his shoulders and the big, burly Texans going blue in the face biting back their mirth, that The Curse had no escape from.
He lifted her face, gazed into those deep, dark, overflowing pools, and whispered, “No child of mine shall be cursed with a name. Nameless shall she be, until she chooses her name.”