They say people from West Bengal have a chip on their shoulders. Who wouldn’t? Imagine laboring through life, tough enough as it were, with a name gifted indulgently to you by a fond uncle or a loving grandma when you were little. Too little to protest.
Cut to the present. Imagine the horrors of having that name discovered, being ridiculed by the world at large. From anonymity to the centre of attention, except none of it is good. The name that you spent your whole lifetime trying to hide. How does it feel Potla? Or should I call you Habool or Phoolkumar? Or are you a hulk of a man who goes by the name of Chhotu or an obese, middle aged woman called Flopsy?
My pet name, or as Bengalis would have it, daak naam, was recently revealed to the world thanks to a tip off by a friendly relative on a social media site. I don’t think she meant any harm but I have been struggling with the jibes ever since, silently seething. Why did my supposedly loving parents allow this to happen to their daughter? I haven’t a clue. And no, it doesn’t help that it is a one-of-a-kind name and that you cannot claim mistaken identity.
Still, I guess it could have been worse. I could have been named after a cat. Or a dog.
During a visit to her sister-in-law’s place once, my grandmother discovered, much to her horror, that one of the many cats in the household had been named after her. Throughout her visit, she heard her sister-in-law (the matriarch of the family) screeching out at regular intervals: “Penky, stop jumping on the table!” “Penky get off the bed!” “Penky don’t you dare touch the milk!” You can imagine my grandmother’s state the whole time. She had been sitting in one corner of the room, drinking a cup of tea, rather quietly as this particular relative was not a favourite. I realise now that the feeling was probably mutual!
Each time, her name was yelled out, my grandma would jump out of her skin. She didn’t know why she was being admonished for the things she was NOT doing till her sister-in-law slyly introduced her to her namesake. A scruffy looking cat. Grandmother was humiliated to say the least! Secretly though, I thought it was hilarious and the perfect revenge!
Another time, my father was invited to a colleague’s son’s rice ceremony. On reaching the venue, he found the house teeming with guests, most of whom he obviously didn’t know. So he chose to park himself in a spot away from the crowds, next to the golden-brown dog tied to a charpoy with a chain. After a while, he heard the host, his colleague, shouting out loudly for a “Goldie? Goldie, where are you? Come here at once. Goldie?????”
My father helpfully offered: “Goldie is here, next to me, tied to the bed.”
The host came over to where my father was sitting, eyeing him rather coldly. “That’s not Goldie, that’s Jimmy. Goldie is my son, he’s crawled off somewhere and we can’t see him!”
Do you blame my father? I would have made the same mistake.
How was anyone to know that Goldie was not the dog.
Incidentally, Goldie is now a middle-aged, pot-bellied man, working as a manager in a bank. Good thing, he’s not on social media though.
Disclaimer: Any similarity to unfortunate pet names of persons living or dead is purely coincidental!