O my name!
What is it? Shoe what? Could you please come again Mr Shoe…
No problem sir, you can call me Super Tech
Hey …that sounds so cool…So you are Super Tech for us here in XYZ.
In the professional world, that was my first attempt in twisting my name for the benefit of my clients. I became Super Tech for my American and English speaking European clients; much later, when I came back from France and was given charge for France and Francophone countries, I became Sous Pratique for them. Never mind that it meant someone who was kind of deranged? Jesus do I even disagree; the other day I saw myself kissing my plate because I could have my meal on it! Even now, I sometimes kiss my pair of sneakers after coming from long walks! But that's how I am!
And those childhood scribbles on the walls? Did they ever show any sign of being ‘normal’; my mom, while cleaning the walls had just one word as a refrain, obnoxious! And she was creative enough to stress her syllables that could mean as someone who is perpetually or incorrigibly obnoxious! These premonitions were stark and vivid in me since childhood, and I am quite composed with my state of insanity; so coming back to the main stroy of Super Tech or Sous Pratique now - that was how I was known to ‘them’; the names became so popular that I even heard discussions on whether the two were one and the same; I was flattered, but deep inside, somewhere I was also reminded of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde too. But in my case it would be Dr Jekyll and Dr Jekyll, wouldn’t it? Enough! Enough of basking in self glory!
Let me now bring out one of the most embarrassing moments concerning my name; I went to Delhi to deliver a training on 'cultural sensitisation', and had two juniors with me. As was the norm, one was not supposed to talk too much with the juniors, maintain a distance, have different rooms; I never gave a damn to all these, never, ever, and I had one room booked for three, with one extra bed. One of the juniors brought me the first bill from the reception and was laughing his lungs out. Now laughing being infectious, we two also started laughing without knowing what the reason was; sometimes it does happen, doesn’t it? But when he pointed out the typo in my name I was shocked; instead of a ‘t’, it became a ‘d’; and because those juniors were so close to me, they were asking me, is it?
I was furious, and thought, for the first time, of my mistake; maybe I should have booked a different room, and maybe what they say about maintaining hierarchical difference was true; I hated them at the moment. I took the bill and went straight to the reception, was about to storm at the receptionist but couldn’t say a word because there was a lady sitting there. When I went back into the room, I saw the disobedient grins on their faces. How irreverent I thought, they never call me sir, they hug me instead of showing respect. Wait I will see them at their next appraisal I thought! Next morning, when I saw a different receptionist; I explained, and we three left for our first day. The second day’s bill was even more shocking; supra became super; luckily the bill was with me this time; I sat with a different receptionist and saw to it that my name was correctly spelt once and for all, but will I ever forget this worst moment ever in my life I wonder! Never mind, I became my ordinary self with my juniors again, as it were.
Names at different places
In Hyderabad, I was referred to as Supratika; however much I tried to make them stop at the /k/ sound, it became /ka/ changing my gender; later on I thought of it as a compliment; didn’t resist anymore because it was pointless. In Kerala, I was called Suprakrishna, I still fail to understand the logic, but when someone called me as Muthukrishna there, I thought I have to accept anything that came with my name, it’s good as long as they are calling me something.
The origin of the sin
My mom first named me as Pratik, then she added the ‘Su’ to mean a good symbol; later she was happy to discover that Supratik is also one of the elephants of Indra, the God of rain; she always wanted me to be fat, don’t know why; much later, when I shared with her different versions of my name, she thought she could have called me Pratik, or Gaurav (that was the first option, to rhyme with my elder bother’s name, Sourav). But what is done cannot be undone, besides, having your name changed is quite an ordeal and could land you up in even more trouble. I have grown up being in soup with my name; literally, because for most of my friends, I was soup; I was also called tick by many of my colleagues; one of my bosses would call me tic tic tic thrice. My non-bong friends would make fun of me by making the ‘su’ sound like a ‘shoe’ and pronounce it as ‘shoeproteeek’! They knew very well that for Bongs, it is pedestrian to pronounce /s/, so for all /s/, it is cultured to say /sh/!
When I hug my friends now, I distinctly remember how I hated them during our cricket-football days. Most of our friends remember those frustrating days of hatred and animosity, which mostly centered around distorting names, with love and affection. Those who still do not know, Bongs have two names, one exclusively for the families and relatives and the other for the outside or for the professional world. And in Bengali, it is called ‘daaknaam’ which loosely translates into pet name, pet meaning ‘daak’ or ‘posha’, hence pet. I was named as Anto, as a short form of Antony; again it was my mom’s imaginative mind that tried to trap the glory of a film, a super hit one called Antony Firangi where our all time favourite Uttam Kumar played the role of Antony. Just as my bhalonaam (or good name, you get to hear this literally translated into English quite often, like what is your good name sir?!), my daaknaam (pet name) too went through many versions, of agony and discomposure; Tanto, Santo, Langto (in Bengali it means naked), Sando banyan, Aunty (this seemed like Supratika or Supreeti, much to my chagrin as a child) and a whole range of them; until much later I decided to give a meaning to it; I changed the spelling of my name as Unto, which means a preposition ‘next to’ or ‘toward’; I like the way it is enunciated in English by also maintaining the same momentum in Bengali too! I perhaps meant I could be next to or toward most anything? Nah!! But chalo thik hai.
What is (not) in a name
With time, with all the versions of my name I have come to realize the flexibility my name has; therefore, despite the vexations and mild irritations at times, I have come to terms with it; I have started loving it since a long time; from food to mood, my name, what does it not have in it I wonder! But I am what I am.