What is in a Name?
by Nuggehalli Pankaja
Names are something precious. It is names which give you identity, names which survive long after you cease to be. How eagerly even toddlers respond to their names! To them, it is something special! As such, how would you react if your name is misspelt, mislaid or confused with that of others?
Surnames were not in vogue in our days. Only the family initials affixed to the names of that family’s members. And when the boys grew up, identity of cast like ‘Iyengar, Iyer, Naidu, Shastri, Bhatt,etc. As such, I remember my protest at my Convent, when asked by the Nuns, to affix a surname.
“Why Pankaja Iyengar or Pankaja Tirupati? For me, a girl?” I had ranted. “My people will make fun of me”
And the ragging at home! By the boy-cousins galore!
But some Indian students had taken to surname proudly, and strutted about like Knights newly invested with titles. By the time I too became accustomed to it, the inevitable marriage took place. I was expected to drop the precious surname and take up my husband’s initials, along with the identity of their family tree.
“You no longer belong to our Tirupati”-Amma informed me solemnly. “You belong to their Nuggehalli now; You can’t even go to our Tirupati
henceforth unless you carry my Gantu, (some cloth tied in a small bundle) or that of any other Tirupati – belongers, yes, even if unknown; Otherwise, the God will be angry”
How unfair! A girl to lose her identity with the advent of some stranger!
“No surnames, please,” instructed that stranger- my husband, “It looks so funny! Just my family initial-‘A mere N will do”
Well, that was better than changing one’s name completely, isn’t it? Many In-laws give an entirely new name to the newcomer once she crosses their threshold! It is like shedding one’s personality wholly!
But when I began to strike an identity of my own in Kannada by scribbling off and on, my husband developed other thoughts.
“How about affixing my name also?" He suggested(mildly enough), As your surname? Nowadays everybody does. . . . . ."
"No baba,no!” I was up in arms- "Your dear relatives may then say that you are writing for me! And you will just smile and smile, smile. . . . . . .”
He smiled now, as at a pleasant thought, added- “I get you paper,refill,post the covers even at midnight, post your scripts like an errand-boy,and keep mum when they come back."
“I pay for them.” I showed him my literary account-book. “Every paisa! And I lend you money- in notes.”
"I return it with interest; you are a BORN SHYLOCK!” He retorted.
“What’s in a name?" I sidetracked, trying to quote Shakespeare- “That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet”
“It is difficult to talk to you pandits. . . you people quote at every turn . . . fables, riddles, and sayings, right from Shakespeare to Bernadshaw.” He declared, before walking away from the room.
For a time everything went smoothly. I was becoming known. Suddenly a galaxy of Pankajas appeared on the horizon making my head reel. Of course, they had different initials; Still,there was utter confusion !
The invitations of one would go to another, while assignments and magazines were delivered wrongly; Even money orders went on a merry-go-round! Postmen were at their wit’s end. “But I am special!”-I affirmed to the ‘I told you so’ look of the husband.-“Am I not ‘SEPOY RAMU PANKAJA?’ Nobody can take away that title.”
But one day - Oh No. What a printing mistake !The novel of mine ‘Barale innu. . . Yamune?’
on which the film ‘SepoyRamu' was
based, had been attributed to one of the other Pankajas! That was the limit!
Yesterday I had a simple ‘Namakarana ceremony’ before our Tribe God- The Typewriter. Now, will you please inform me if more Nuggehalli Pankajas spring up, scribbling stories? *******