Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Animal Farmers

Darwin got it right. And women will vouch for it. Men are nothing more than glorified beasts. Because come hell or high water: we still hog like a pig, drink like a fish, multiply like rabbits, rat on each other, chicken-out under pressure, shed crocodile tears, parrot hackneyed lines, come up with hare-brained ideas, implement them with the stubbornness of a mule and get results that smell like a skunk!

The savage streak sums up the quintessence of man. That’s why the wise old Chinese chose 12 animals as their zodiac signs. Even the kings of the ancient times always had a marked preference for animals as their royal insignia. In Mahabharata, Duryodhana is said to have used a Cobra as his war flag. Likewise, the Cholas are famed for their Tiger symbol while the Pandians had a fetish for the Fish.

Some royal types took this brute fixation to the next logical step by appropriating an evocative cognomen. Eleventh century English Emperor Richard I booked his ticket to immortality by picking the name ‘Richard the Lionheart’. Cut to the year 1699. Guru Gobind fashioned a whole warrior-like Khalsa by making it mandatory for male followers of Sikhism to embed the surname ‘Singh’.

Over the years, the animal instinct has only become more explicit. Now celebrities have proudly started wearing their nicknames like a military decoration. The late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi used his childhood sobriquet ‘Tiger’ as his calling card to roar his way into our national consciousness. Tiger Woods (born Eldrick Tont Woods) is a recent example of this name machoisation.

The recent trend to blend zoonyms (animal names) with human names is bound to catch on given our penchant for appearing manlier than we are. When Steven Demtre Georgiou was looking for a catchy stage name, he picked Cat Stevens. When Chris Carter was creating the character of a ‘smart FBI agent’ for X-Files, he settled for Fox Mulder.

Who knows, the success of zoonym-tinged names might embolden many more fathers to experiment with Hinglish creations as bizarre as Jaguar Jaishankar, Panther Parameswaran, Deer Damodaran, and Akash Cobra!