Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Naming No Names...

The gentleman in charge of us copywriters – otherwise known as Momo's dad, since I knew his son much before I met the father – just told me a funny story about mixed up names. His wife apparently called a neighbour by a name other than the one his (the neighbour's) parents had bestowed on him. The funny part was, she did this consistently for a really long time. The practice eventually culminated in an argument between Momo's parents, and the neighbour was called in to state his correct name once and for all – and Momo's mum was embarassed to find she had been slightly off-target after all.

In the Vizag colony where I grew up there used to be a guy who would do the odd chore for the residents in return for small bits of money. To my utter incredulity Baba announced to all and sundry that his name was Raj Kapoor. He called him that, loudly, and up and down the colony. On Sunday mornings, when this chap would wash the family car, it was common to hear Baba bellowing “Raj Kapoor!” to remind him to use this duster and not that or some such thing.

It wasn't as weird as it might sound. In a place obsessed with its movie stars, you hear of people being named after them all the time. And besides, everybody else called him Raj Kapoor too, so obviously my father couldn't have been pulling my leg.

A whole year later I asked the guy, “How come your parents called you after a Hindi film star and not a Telugu one?”

He grinned sheepishly and said, “My name is actually Ganapathi...”

Then why – what – who--?” I spluttered.

Well,” said he, “Your father called me Raj Kapoor and everybody else seemed to think that was my name as well, so I gave up telling them anything else.”

My father, in his way, is something of a player.

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