My name is quite a complicated one.. unless you are from Tamilnadu or may be, Kerala, it is hard to pronounce my name correctly. My nickname is Raju and I asked my father one day why I cant keep that name for school. He said that, according to the Brahmin tradition, it should be a God’s name, and since we are Vaishnavites, it has to be one of Vishnu’s. In school, my friends started calling me “Padhu”, which became “Pathu” (ten)! Cant expect anything better from a small town like Rameswaram, you see..
Other names I used to be called with love by friends are “Kokku” and even “Nindraseer Nedumaran” (thanks to my height).
Moved to Madurai when I was 12. In the school where I studied 8th, one friend got the name “ottagam” for me.. Where is ottagam found? Thus, the name became “Paalaivanam”. Didn’t like it one bit, sounded very dry.. but I didn’t have much choice for the few months. In the subsequent school, mostly I was “padhu”. I indeed used to write with a “bhan” ending but the data entry operator of my SSLC took away the ‘h’, so I had to sacrifice it.. (Name in Class 10 certificate is the most important, u seee.. ) never got it back.. For the first time, had another guy in my class with the name “Ananthapadmanabhan”.. Luckily no confusion.
Then to college. “Padhu” or “Padma” for few months (since ours was a Boys’ college). Then got this name “sithappa”, which stuck throughout.. That is a name given to some unique person in the college, I was told.. (Remember the ‘sithappa’ in Azhagiya Theeye). I was fun-loving, studious, jack-of-all kinda person so may be that’s the reason I got it.
Didn’t realize the seriousness of the problem with my original name until I moved out of the state when I came to IISc, Bangalore. All those who came across my name on my first days in IISc gave a broad smile. I didn’t know why. I roamed around the campus and found a bungalow where someone with exactly my name lived. (First I thought, what, have they allocated this bungalow to me, rather than the host? Cha cha.. cant be.. ) Fortunately or otherwise, the director of the institute had exactly my name (without ‘h’) !! And he was a biochemist ( I was in the physical chemistry then). Some letters of mine used to go to him (one even my train ticket, which I got a few hours before the office closed on the day of my travel). And some of his ‘general’ letters used to come to me. Whenever I saw him face-to-face, I would think “is he gonna ask me something about our similarity?” I don’t know whether he still knows about me.
He was called ‘GP’ by one and all in the campus, so my first-day friend, whose father was a faculty there so he knew the significance of my name, immediately christened me as ‘GP’. Thanks to him, for simplifying the perennial problem, but also little bit complicating it. Ever since, I am ‘GP’ to all the people and stuck to it. Once when I sent a telegram to my research supervisor about extension of my leave, he later said he wondered “Why the director has to apologize to me for coming late by two days?”. LOL….
Realized the ‘real’ situation when I visited Europe for a conference few years back. The people in the travel committee, etc. had to chop/kill and chew my name as they wished. They said “u have some uncomfortable extra syllables all along ur name” !! There I met my current research advisor and he started calling me “Padma”. Some Indians who heard so gave a ‘top-to-bottom’ look at me !!
Then came to US last year and while saved myself by telling everyone in the department to call me as “GP”, it became hard with so many people with whom contacts had to be made by phone/person. After the initial nervous moments due to not having a surname, which made my last name and first name get swapped, I decided to tell those people to call me “Guru” (which is exactly how my father is called by his relatives and friends). Not bad, since the Americans are familiar with that name and also they would be calling me as Guru.. (hehehe). It got to such a level that, when there was a visitor to our group, I introduced myself to her as “Guru” and my boss was surprised.. He was like “what did u say? What was it?”. :-)
Whatever it is, somehow I am bored of the name GP. Every restroom has got the handwipe paper from Georgia-Pacific, with an emblem ‘GP’, so sick of it!! I miss the name Raju so much, so decided to request all you blogger friends to address me as RAJU from now on. That’s the take-home message after reading such a long post. Thanks in advance!!