Saturday, 17 August 2013

What's in a name?

Now, it could be misconstrued. But to make it clear, I am fond of my name the way our PM is fond of his silence. Or the way CSK is proud of RP Singh.

Mallikarjuna Kalika. Yes, yes, I know it took you more than one attempt to get it right.
No, I don’t get pissed. I have seen first timers produce variants such as Mallik Arjun, or Mallik, or something as far-fetched and off the mark as the Telugu old-timer Nagarjuna.

Even when available in the written format, people generally have trouble trying to make sense of what it is supposed to sound like, the same people who proudly cry aloud ‘Schwarzenegger’ in an apparent attempt to display their contemporary outlook, but start peeing their pants when trying to articulate ‘Mallikarjuna’.

The list includes friends, best friends, even teachers, and often the name gets reduced to ‘Arjun’, or the more infamous, though misleading, ‘Mallika’. Even the religiously inclined fail to recall any such name ever catching their fancy, though they readily blurt out the name of the actor who plays lord Shiva in a popular TV series.

(SnakesFear agrees)

I have been known as ‘Mallika’ for the entirety of my life. Through school, and now in college too. Well, pronouncing Mallikarjuna takes about a millisecond more than Mallika, but for the ease of speech, and the entailing prospect of ridiculing somebody, Mallika beats Mallikarjuna hands down.

Being called Mallika, I have had my share of awkward situations.

You walk into a room where your name somehow manages to precede you, and people are half expecting a lady to walk in. Or the Maths teacher in high school, who took an eternity staring at my name in the attendance sheet, but finally managed the same old ‘Mallika’ albeit with some ingenuity. ‘Kalika or Sherawat?’ had the entire class in splits. I managed a sheepish smile, as if I was caught stealing something. Or masturbating.

Now picture this. You walk into the college auditorium, and your roommate calls out to you. The entire class turns to have a look at you, considering how girls are venerated in colleges, especially engineering colleges. You walk in with amused people laughing, while you try and get to your seat as furtively as possible. Just like Lindsay getting into rehab, trying to shoo off all the media frenzy.

However, even after all that, I can’t deny the fact that such a name sticks with people. They might not get hold of, say, a Ramesh in the first encounter, but they tend to get used to Mallika faster, especially when it’s a male they are trying to refer to.

Also, there is the perennial question on whether I am a south Indian. Admitted that South Indian names are difficult to get hold of, and seem like complete addresses in themselves. Mine is no different. In fact, I have been asked of this so many times now that putting up a disclaimer in the about section of my facebook and google+ profiles might not be that bad an idea after all.

I don’t have a tanned complexion. Neither is my spoken Hindi tinctured with shades of South Indian accent that Deepika so endearingly put on display in Chennai Express. No, my Hindi is not Bokwas at all. As a matter of fact, I like to believe that my Hindi is as good, if not better, as that of many of my North Indian friends.

But, here too, my name weaves its magic, and people form their own assumptions. Until they hear me produce expletives at breakneck speed in both Oriya and Hindi, something South Indians generally have difficulty doing, which settles the matter conclusively.


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