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Apr 22, 2019

What's in a Name? – Part 1

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By Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi [ Published Date: December 3, 2010 ]

I was reminiscing over the past. Suddenly I was reminded of the Sixties when my brother declared that our parents have not given us the right name. He went on to the extent that we must approach a Notary Public and change our names filing an affidavit costing 5 Rupees.

I was shocked to hear that. For a moment, I too was confused and thought, my name is not right. It has a girl's name to begin with and her husband's name to end with! Then I told him, sky is not going to fall on our heads and let's keep our cool and watch other names and what they mean, or how people act.

I started observing life from then on. Not that accumulating 5 Rupees was a big issue. There were our classmates who used to demand even 10 Rupees for a Time Table from their unassuming Land Lord fathers those days! Those Land Lords proudly used to say – "My son is studying in the best school that is Besant Basic School. Time Table costs only Rs. 10/-. I heard that other schools charge even more in high season!"

Rukku(Name was Rukmini) was my nanny and she was very fond of me. With affection, she used to call me ‘Ajju'. Since I was too small to understand what it meant, I never cried or raised an alarm about it. My mother used to say, "Rukku carried you all around and thus you became dark skinned!" Whatever the reason for my skin tone may be, I am happy that my pet name or my skin tone has not hampered my activities even after 52 summers!

Annu and Devu were two good friends of mine from the neighbourhood, both belonging to dalit family. They were strong, friendly and affectionate. I even tried toasted dry bangude with ganji at their home after a tiring game of Kutti Donne. I was branded at home for eating at their home, but I had no regrets. Annu and Devu had great names and were proud that they convinced a boy with better name, from a so called higher family with their hospitality.

Hospitality! Yes. That makes us forget the shortcomings within one's name. Some of our friends used to eat at Akkammakka's Mess near Roopavani Talkies those days. They used to explain how heaps of hot steaming boiled rice were flooded with the thin aromatic fish curry and how tasty the fried sardines used to be. Somanath, a classmate of mine used to powder the outer part surrounding his mouth and nose to overcome the smell of fish after he ate at home in the afternoon. I used to ask him whether he felt guilty that his name resembled Lord Shiva's. He used to smile and say, "God created us and he also created fish for us to eat. We should not disturb others with the smell that they don't accept. Our name however, will be accepted by all as time comes and when people get used to it!" Somanath is working as a successful corporate executive today.

One of my brothers' classmates was Benaka. Benaka is another name for Lord Ganesha but it was so funny those days. Benaka also looked skinny and funny with big ears and a long beaky nose! Whatever, he used to beat us all when we used to play ‘Mara Manga' in our compound! Benaka was the true hero when it came to that game those days!

Seetharama was another boy in the neighbourhood. His grand mother Koosu and his mother Jalaja used to work for our neighbours, while Seetharama used to play with us. He was a strong boy. He knew quite a few acrobatics and his style of rolling sideways on his two hands and legs like a wheel was inimitable! He also was good at making ‘Girgitlis', fan like toys with waste paper and sticks. His expertise at Lagori, Kutti Donne and Bachche were too good. His father was a driver in Bombay and Seetharama gave me the first Fruitex toffee that his father had brought from Bombay! Seetharama has a big house of his own and has successfully married all his three daughters to well placed boys today.

We had a domestic servant Mechu. Mechu was a very strong woman, looking ferocious but was very mild natured. She served us for only 3 years, but since last 30 years she had come to see my mother during Dasara when we normally give away charities to needy ones by way of cash or in kind. No news from her since last 6 years. No idea about her whereabouts.

Kumara was adept at knocking down tamarind and raw mangoes with his left hand aim. His brother Narasimha was not only a good climber on the tile roof, but also a Chess player par excellence! Dingy was a music buff and he introduced us to many western groups like the Beatles and Dawn. Kumara Bhatta has a farm near Konaje and Narasimha is well placed in a Government of India Undertaking.

My classmate Mohana was speech impaired, but he had a sharp memory and perfect left hand aim too! No matter how irritated he may get when children made fun of him, he was always friendly with me, for I used to give him a piece of jaggery whenever I met him!

Vishnudasa was a good cricket player and also was good at romancing and dancing. He made us jealous with his long list of Christian girl friends with whom he used to dance during Christmas and Roce parties! Today, I heard he is working in the Middle East.

Then there was Mingili, who worked for an Ice Cream outlet. Mingili was a dark and short plump chap without a smile on his face. They were selling Ice Candy, cool drinks and local Ice Cream those days, and Mingili was an expert in dispensing them accurately and report perfectly to the owners across the street!

My father had his own choices when it came to mangoes. When the season was on, he used to but them by the bushels from Fakir Byari. He used to get the best Mundappa, Pairi, Kadri, Kalappadi, Kaatu Mangoes and ‘Kempu Size' that had dark green skin and red pulp, tasting almost like Alphonso. We have relished that variety at least for 10 years. Then one day, Fakir Byari announced that ‘Kempu Size' is no more available, as the last surviving tree was chopped down by the owner to develop his property!

Long live Fakir Byari's soul and his clan for giving us a chance to relish the rarest breed of mangoes in our life!

Jabbar had his Ambassador Taxi parked outside Government Women's High School near Car Street bus stop. My father used to engage his taxi to go long distance, for Jabbar was the best behaved, and the safest driver then. I remember going to Madikeri, Mysore and Bangalore by his car. He used to wear clean white shirt and Pyjama, treat us with affection and was well converse with our Konkani.

Thimma was handling Bullock Cart in a firewood depot nearby. He used to get us raw Horse Gram and we used to cook that to extract the soup and return the cooked gram to feed the bullocks. Thimma also used to help us replace the broken tiles on the 30 feet high roof of our house, though he had confessed a couple of times about vertigo!

Sankappa had a tragic life. He was serving for the military as jawan, and they say, an empty shell hit his head after which he became insane. He was wearing Khaaki shorts and vest, eating groundnuts with skin and showing his monkey like teeth in ecstasy as he relished them! At times he used to go berserk and shout swearwords, threaten kids with stones, but he had never harmed anyone as far as I know! My father used to employ him to empty the cesspool around a coconut tree once a way and it was fun watching him carry two zinc bucketfuls all the way and empty them at the other three coconut trees opposite, in a distance. After the hard work, he used to gobble up heaps of boiled rice and daalithove. My mother was considerate enough to prepare rice with one Seru (Almost half a Kilo) rice for him!

Eka was a sporty chap mostly cycling around. He even came second when he rode his bicycle all the way to Bombay. He was the one who used to catch pigeons from our attic and ask me to get frog legs from Zoology Lab in St Aloysius College after dissection. Under the ‘Bellada Kodu' tree, he used to roast the frog legs and eat them with salt and pepper!

Drawing Master (Actually his name is Vasudeva Shenoy) was in his sixties when I saw him first. He had a small shop selling general items and Fire Crackers during Deepavali and Tulasi Pooja. He used to get a buns and coffee every evening from Rama Restaurant in Kodialbail and eat it behind the showcase in his shop. He had no teeth and we used to have lots of fun watching him chew that buns and wash it down with coffee!

He had special affection for me. The reason is simple. My father asked me to get Number10 Cigarette from him and he gave Gold Flake by mistake. The price difference was more than double. My father scolded me and sent me back to return that packet to him. I apologetically returned it and confessed that I did not see what the brand was. He was all praises for me, and he used to give me double sweet during Angadi Pooje, and also Vimto to drink. To all other boys, he used to offer goli soda.

Vamayya with limp right arm used to draw my father's attention. My father used to employ him on daily wages. I was charged with the responsibility to supervise his work many a times. Vamayya with his left hand, used to spend his own sweet time applying cement to broken cracks in the walls or sealing the granite slabs on the leech pit after the cesspool was emptied. Watching him work for half a day without any avail, I used to snatch the taapi and finish the job within 30 minutes! Yet, Vamayya never got scolded by my father, nor did he get paid less for the job I did for him!

There were many more like Gibba, Seelu, Nobby, Appy, Venu, Sheve and Kasi who mattered most to me when we were young. They all showed their presence and we felt complete in their presence!

Finally, in this part, I'd not feel complete if I don't pay my tribute to a great soul popularly known as Nemanna. Nemanna, a bachelor Jain related to our neighbors, stayed behind our house in a room. He used to come to our house daily and discuss about politics, sports, food and culture. He used to amuse us with popular Christian folk songs like "Yo re Baltho…haad re koitho…katthar kuvale…!" He also relished Kantola podis and he was the first one to say, kantola was known as ‘Madagila Kayi'. Kaat Peere they call it in local dialect. Never heard the name like he said but recently I found out that ‘Madagila' is also a name for that! Nemanna passed away much before we left that house in Ballal Bagh area.

Today, it is still a mystery for me about a few of them and their whereabouts. There are many more people with more interesting names who happened in my life, about whom I shall mention in the next part. Even today I wonder why we keep worrying about names. It is the fame that makes the name lively. For me, all the names that I have mentioned so far have been equally important, for my life would be incomplete without them. Rather, my name would be nowhere without mentioning theirs here today!

Disclaimer: This article is aimed at good hearted Mangaloreans without malice. All the names mentioned in this article are real. The author to the best of his knowledge has narrated the true story. If anyone differs from this partly or fully, they are welcome to bring the same to the notice of the author through this website with adequate proof.


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Archana Prabhu, India :
Uncommon names are great conversation starters .What a great article Raj maam.Really loved reading this..
Akshatha, India :
Nice Article..
Idalia, Bahamas :
Okay I'm convinced. Let's put it to action.
Vighnesh, India :
This is a good example for us to remember our childhood days. Lot of sentiment within, simple words and your sharp memory makes this outstanding. Shenoy maam, like your recipes your stories are homely and captivating. I am waiting for the next part eagerly.
Ashwin, Australia :
You brought back the memory of good old days Rajanikanth. I also loved those days in Ballalbagh and all those good friends.

Thank you.
Richie Bendore, Qatar:
Well written memories of innocent childhood. Gone are those days when children mixed and lived without the poison of religion, cast and creed. Your write up reminded me of my own school days in Padua high school.
Prakash Kamath, India :
Yes, I just went back to those nostalgic old days when I was in the midst of people like, Thimpa (our short name for Thimmappa), bayyu, devku, shitu, satti, janna, devappa, nagamma, jaya, venkappa, gannu, hari, guru, nannu etc, etc.

Some of them are just lost in efflux of time. Some of them shifted due to development all around. Even now, when I visit Managlore I try to retrace them and fail. They gave perspective to me and my name when I was growing with them.
rangini, Bermuda :
Such a nice article.
Drona, India :
It is each one's way of expressing freedom of expression.-Mr Shenoy

With freedom comes the responsibility. To protect the interests of the people concerned. I suppose you have looked at that angle. Disclaimer may give you a false sense of security. Any damage is already done and can not be undone by any amount of apology later on. You would realize that I was pointing to the avoidable usage of real names of characters. Rukku for example may have been Akku. Devy may have been Vedu so on and so forth. A writer will do well to use the imagination. It is not showing a documentary.
Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi, India :
It is easy to fall into the trap of flattery of people who may have a laugh at the expenses of your characters and ultimately your own expense. - Mr. Drona
There is a disclaimer at the end of the story in spite of which you raised alarm. My explanations are not understood by you Mr. Drona. That is maybe because you want to prove yourself right and that you want to give a message that using real names in true stories is wrong. If some character within the article is offended, that person may bring it to my notice. I am strong enough to face the consequences.

We can always agree to disagree on many things Mr. Drona. That doesn't mean either of us is right or wrong. It is each one's way of expressing freedom of expression.
Drona, India :
sensing danger in every move of life. -Mr Shenoy

Sensing danger? To whom? The poor characters depicted in the write up without their knowledge even? We are talking about the characters in the write up. We are not discussing the writer or the critic. That is what I had pointed out as irrelevant in your previous response. One step is better than no progress at all by the way. It takes efforts in one's life to achieve progress. It does not come without any effort.

Now the question of top most position. It depends on the context in which you are saying this. If you are working in an institution where you are the chief of operations or CEO, that is the top most position for that institution. It is different from being a clerical officer or a senior clerical officer. President of a country is generally considered as the top most position. You can not say that it is nothing compared to the position of president another country. After all, you can not be the president of all the countries!

I have noted your inability to accept healthy criticism which was aimed at improvement in what you are doing. Perhaps you are accustomed to listening to mere praises which may or may not mean any thing. Your improvement comes when you are able to accept criticism and work on improving looking at another point of view. It is easy to fall into the trap of flattery of people who may have a laugh at the expenses of your characters and ultimately your own expense. Think about it.
Anand Dsilva, UAE:
Nice article. Fun reading. There were really nice characters in the olden days that are almost extinct today.
Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi, India :
I do not think this statement bears any connection even remotely to what we were discussing here - Drona Ji Thinks so
Mr. Drona,

I don't want to elaborate on that. Every individual has certain degree of fear within, especially when he goes one step up in life, not necessarily the top most position! That degree of fear is the most among them who think others are waiting to defame them or take advantage of them.

It is not so.

It was just an example of comparing how insecure one may feel, sensing danger in every move of life. There comes the comparison with animals in zoo.

Thanks for the kind response, Mr. Drona.
I take your response as "Best Complaints" :-D
Drona, India :
Those living in self designed asylum never understand the value of living life liberally. They are slaves to the system, behaving like zoo animals.They also don't allow others to enjoy life the way they want.
-Mr Shenoy

I do not think this statement bears any connection even remotely to what we were discussing here. Good luck Mr Shenoy.
Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi, India :
One has even become a big executive. Will he be happy to be reminded about how he tried to masquerade the smell of fish? - Mr. Drona with further apprehensions about one of my childhood my classmates
I have met Somanath recently, and the first thing I asked him was about our school times. He was extremely happy to discuss that! We laughed our heads off, discussing silly things about Vanamahotsava at Besant School, the drama we participated in when I was in 3rd standard, and about our common friends. Later he and I exchanged views about our present status.

I have also talked to many other childhood friends, and the first thing that we start our conversation is from those good old days with our crazy adventures! All of us use nick names to remember others. We all feel happy that way.

Those living in self designed asylum never understand the value of living life liberally. They are slaves to the system, behaving like zoo animals.They also don't allow others to enjoy life the way they want.

That's all Mr. Drona.
Chris Rego, UAE:
Well written, Raj.
Drona, India :
BTW Mr. Drona, I had read similar thoughts on one of my earliest humour articles here. -Mr Shenoy

So the style remains unchanged then.I was only concerned about the real characters as you have claimed. Some of them have moved on in their lives as you have claimed. One has even become a big executive. Will he be happy to be reminded about how he tried to masquerade the smell of fish? Childhood memories matter to those who are intimately associated with that person. To the rest, it is some easy reading material at some one else's cost be it Kakke or Rukku.
Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi, India :
BTW Mr. Drona, I had read similar thoughts on one of my earliest humour articles here. Some Shenoy had commented that it is better to avoid real names in my articles. By any chance is he related to you?

By using fictitious names, reality can't be changed or challenged, as you indirectly agreed in your remark.

'Fame' follows name mostly for celebrities, for they act most of the times and are not real. For down to earth persons serving the humanity with genuine approach without any mask or fear, fame is within their deeds.
Nicknet, USA :
Enjoyed reading this witty excerpt from your childhood Rajanikant. Noticed you did not end up changing the name, after all! Name is but, an ID for our souls in this particular life. Pet names or nick names only indicate affection. Lack of formal education, folklore, etc. can mean one gets named 'Kakke'. Unfortunately children can be cruel to other children in any part of the globe for the one named Kakke or any other name to that matter, to get teased!
Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi, India :
The danger of using true names in a write up is that the people mentioned can take offense if they happen to read it. The families of those departed can take offense. - Mr. Drona's observation.
Thank you for your candid thoughts and suggestions sir.

I have added a disclaimer at the end of my article just for this purpose.

I have also taken care not to offend anyone by revealing other truths that I know about them.

This may or may not be the first step to my autobiography.
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