Tag Archives: Name


Albert Einstein. Oprah Winfrey. Teddy Roosevelt. Veerapandiya Kattabomman. Nelson Mandela. Mammootty.

What is common to all these luminaries, apart from the obvious fact that they were all incredibly successful in their respective fields?

The answer I’m looking for is not a trivial one like, “Ooh, all of them have been suspected to be members of the Priory of Sion!”. They probably are, so what?

Nor do I want you to do a classic quizzer style, “Basically the funda is.. When Albert Einstein’s funeral happened in Cologne, in what happens to be the tallest cathedral in Europe, a little birdie, incidentally called Oprah, dropped a seed on the priest’s head, which caused a rose velt in the shape of South Africa, which inspired Mandela’s struggles and incidentally, Mammootty is slated to play Mandela in a forthcoming movie. As for Kattabomman, haha hoho, the connect is obvious, isn’t it?”

Yes, I know people who talk like that.

But I’m looking for something far simpler. What jumps out as you peruse the names of these great people?

The simple fact that their names are all reasonably unique!

Let us do an experiment now – think of any random 5 people whom you consider great. Yes, I know that you have thought of Sachin Tendulkar, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, William Shakespeare and Rajnikanth.

Quickly analyzing these people,

1. Sachin Tendulkar – Clearly not a common surname. The only other Marathi Tendulkars I know are Vijay Tendulkar, the late playwright and Ajit Tendulkar, who happens to be Sachin’s brother. And of course we all know Dr. Anjali Tendulkar, Sara Tendulkar and Arjun Tendulkar.

Even though Indian couples went on a rampant mission from late-90s to about 2010 to name their kid Sachin, they could obviously not change the surname to Tendulkar.

2. Mother Teresa – Critics of my theory might have been waiting for this one with ammunition. “There are so many Teresas in this world!”, yes I can hear you shout, critic. “Dude, have you forgotten St. Teresas?”, that was a Mallu critic from Cochin, referring to the hallowed college in the city only for girls.

But give me the benefit of doubt, critics. This person Mother Teresa, great though she may be, had been carrying out her impressive work under a false name. One does not know why she did that, but Bengali pronunciation of her real name might or might not have been involved.

Agnes Gonaxha Bojaxhiu. That was her real name.

Now tell me how many Bojaxhius live down your block.

3. Mahatma Gandhi – One must immediately remove the Nehru-kid and her descendants from the picture as they clearly stole the surname. If you are a Nehru, you are a Nehru. You can’t decide to change your name to Gandhi overnight. Hell, should Ashish Nehra change his name to Ashish Gandhu overnight?

In any case, there exists several assorted descendants of Mohandas Karamchand, including Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Arun Gandhi and so on. There used to be a cricketer called Devang Gandhi, who was mostly crap.

But as can clearly be seen, not many Gujaratis are Gandhis. Not even a Gandhi-Patel hyphenated surname pops up into memory. This is a telling blow as the X-Patel hyphenated surname is getting particularly common in Gujarat (Modi-Patel, Shah-Patel etc..) and fittingly enough, most of them are Ex-Pats also. But no, no Gandhi-Patel.

4. William Shakespeare – While writing ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with much ado and what not, the great man slipped in these lines..

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

..And then immediately signed the whole thing with his own very unique name. This remains one of the world’s earliest known instances of effective irony and possibly even megalomaniac dark humour.

Shakespeare, photographed immediately after someone drove a spaceship through his neck

5. Rajnikanth – And finally, we come to the greatest of them all. What caused an ordinary bus conductor, Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, to become an extraordinary being of mostly human looks, Rajnikanth? We don’t know, but rest assured that it is a very unique name. The last known Rajnikanth (of the human variety) in Tamil Nadu was forced to change his name by a mob of angry Rajnikanth fans, and given to Karnataka in exchange of three 1 litre bottles of Cauvery water.

One can keep repeating this experiment several times, but it would almost always throw up the same result – if a fellow is famous enough to be referred to as a ‘great’, it is likely that he has a rare given name or surname. Shah Rukh, Sreesanth, Roger Federer, Diego Armando Maradona, Lionel Messi, J.R.R. Tolkien, Justin Bieber..

If anyone mentions Sir Alex Ferguson, I will look at them in a very pointed manner. Yes, this can also be an exceptionally good ‘Greatness Test’. If your name ain’t rare, you ain’t so great, Fergie.

So naturally, the question now is – if your name happens to be something extremely ordinary, like Rahul Sharma, or Rajat Gupta (infamy does not count), or S. Praveen Kumar, what are the odds that you would end up being great?

Unfortunately as it stands, next to none.

But as is the case for every disease, there is a cure, which might turn out to be reasonably effective or not. You can choose to change part of your name.

This has been done to great success by several people with fairly ordinary names, who had recognized the futility of having ordinary names quite early on in their career. Two prime examples remain Ramdev and Ravi Shankar.

Baba Ramdev was a masterful twist, as we see the fellow’s legacy being built these days. Ravi Shankar went an extra step, adding a Sri Sri to reiterate his greatness. Sri Ravi Shankar somehow sounds nothing more than an ordinary Ravi Shankar being referred to with a modicum of respect or in his wedding invitation.

A very important thing to note at this point would be the sheer ineffectiveness of a mere spelling change. The people of the Bollywood have tried this and needless to say, such experiments have ended in abject failure. We still don’t care two hoots about Viveik Oberoi.

So I’ll wrap up by wishing you ordinary name-carriers the very best in changing your name and thus taking a real step towards your goal of greatness.



The Life and Times of Appukuttan Nair

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.”