What’s In A Name?

A lot it appears. I have just been guided to a really “interesting” piece of news.

I shall refrain from commenting on the story itself but, shall share with you two stories from my past.

When we were in Bangalore before we moved to Pune, we had a German Shepard cross male dog. As a pup he was given to Ranjan by his friends who were our neighbours. They gave the pup to him on condition that he would not change its name. It was named Subramaniam, a tongue twister for most of my readers, but quite common in the South of India. It is the name of a popular Tamil Deity and many males are named after that deity. It was however the first time that we had come across a dog named so. I invited the young lads over to find out why they named the dog so. The boys were running a chummery while studying in Bangalore. All of them were from the heart of Kerala Syrian Christian community, Kottayam. They were Syrian Christians. They had decided to name the pup Subramaniam because, they found that all Hindus named their dogs with Christian names, like Jimmy, Tommy, Johny, etc and they decided to return the compliment.

Seeing how keen Ranjan was to keep the dog, I agreed not to change the name and we took charge of the pup. We shifted residence shortly to a larger bungalow and for the next three and odd years that we were there, Subramaniam was with us and very much a part of the family.

The only problem with the name was that too many important people in our lives were named Subramaniam. To start with, my paternal uncle who was living in Bangalore at that time was so named as was my immediate boss where I worked. Two other very close friends were also so named and it was difficult to maintain the relationships with the house pet named Subramaniam. Eventually, they all accepted the situation considering the background to the name, but for tactful handling of the situtation whenever one of them came home, we called him Doggy, which he quite cheerfully accepted.

We had to find a home for Subramaniam before we left Bangalore with another colleague, as for the first few months of our stay in Pune, we were uncertain about the kind of accommodation that we would secure for ourselves.

The next story is about the time when I was living in Tirupur. For most of the time, I was alone there. My brother Arvind decided that what I needed for company was a dog and sent a fully grown two year old one from Chennai. The problem was Arvind did not know the name of the dog and left it to me to name him. Remembering the past name fiasco, I decided to name him with a Hindu name and called him Pandu. This is a name of a famous King of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharatha as well as the short form for Pandurang, a name for Lord Krishna.

When my mother came to visit a few weeks later, she was aghast at the name and insisted that I change it. For a while I seriously contemplated renaming the dog with another name rhyming with the former, but considering my mother’s sensibilities refrained and renamed him Dondu. Dondu is a common Marathi name meaning a piece of stone. A male child born to a couple after many infantile deaths or miscarriages, is called by this name to signify his in-consequence, lest evil eyes are cast on the child. Superstition or not, the fact that so many Dondus exist, is testimony to the fact that it works!

The problem with that name however was that I was living in deep Tamil Nadu where the name meant nothing. For all those inquisitive types wanting to know the meaning of the name, I simply said that it was English “Don’t Do”.

See what I mean? There is a lot to a name. Even for a dog.

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