Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 11 of Twenty Eleven

Rag picking is the second noblest activity after enema administration. It’s an immaculately sattvic way to end a debauched year.

Or so I consoled myself when I set out to rummage through the good, bad, and downright ugly names, littered all over the web. My aim was to fish out a fistful of pearls from a sea of rubbish. I am glad to report that I’ve unearthed some gems. Allow me the pleasure of sharing the booty with you.

Best Band Name: In a landscape filled with wannabe names that assault your senses (Samples: Supersonic Piss, Vomit Erection, Lecherous Gaze and Cocaine Moustache), only one band struck a chord. That’s the Canada-based metal quintet, ‘A Sight for Sewn Eyes’. Given their marked preference for live gigs, the name is an intriguingly apt and evocative choice.

Best Album Name: My vote goes to Coldplay’s ‘Mylo Xyloto’ for its quirky musicality. Best Named Song:Before you go WTF, lemme assure you it’s not Dhanush’s WTK. That privilege shall be accorded to Irshad Kamil for creating the anthemic awesomeness - ‘Sadda Haq’.

Best Book Title: There were two serious contenders – Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (Kyu is Japanese for 9) and ‘Horoscopes for the Dead’ by Billy Collins. 1Q94 is fascinating and threatens to stick in your mind. But it doesn’t pique you as much as the multi layered Horoscopes. To me, that was the clincher.

Best Named English movie: The nominees were: ‘From Prada to Nada’, ‘Gnomeo & Juliet’, ‘Judy Moody & the Not Bummer Summer’ and ‘A Good Old Fashioned Orgy’. I couldn’t resist the story telling charm of the orgasmic one. Best Named Hindi film: It was a three-way tie between ‘The Dirty Picture’, ‘No One Killed Jessica’ and ‘Ra.One’. But I’ll stick my neck out for Jessica. Best Named Tamil flick: ‘Mankatha’ dhaan!

Best Celebrity Baby Name: A little birdie tells me it’s Ethan Hawke’s ‘Indiana’. Best Named App: iThink iLuv iPad’s ‘SIRI’. Best Named Software: Android’s lickable, likable, lovable ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’. And finally, the Best Named Party: Well, Silvio Berlusconi’s ‘Bunga Bunga’ has to take the cake for its sheer kinkiness!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solpa Yeddy, Solpa Gowda.

Sometime in the late seventies, when Indira Gandhi had pressed the ‘Emergency’ button, she air dashed to Chennai with our acting president Basappa Danappa Jatti. A mischievous Tamil tabloid put out an almost blasphemous headline to commemorate the event: Indira Gandhi Jatti Udan Vandaar! All of Madras was in splits as jatti meant underwear in the local lingo. And the line could be interpreted as ‘Indira Arrives In Her Undies!’

Some might find this distasteful. But I found it amusing. In a funny sort of way, the anecdote piqued my curiosity to learn more about Kannadiga names. So when I got down to researching the subject, I discovered that large sections of Karnataka use the PFN template for naming their children - P standing for Personal Name, F for Father’s and N for Native place. By this logic Jatti must be an ancestral town and not some local inner wear, made in Tirupur.

I also noticed that in a few cases the PFN formula might get flipped and become NFP. Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa is an exemplification of this format. As in, Bookanakare is the native place, Siddalingappa - his dad’s, and Yeddyurappa is his given name, which in turn, is a nod to a temple deity in Yadiyur, a town in Tumkur. Somanahalli Malliah Krishna (SM Krishna) is yet another NFP beneficiary.

But ‘What about Gowda?’ you may ask. Well, like many surnames in this part of the country, it has a fairly rural ancestry. Gowda is said to have been derived from the archaic Dravidian word Kavundan (meaning: village head). Incidentally, the Tamil Gounder has the same root.

If we turn our gaze to some other popular surnames, lots of insights can be gleaned. Hegde (head of fort), Baliga (soldier with spear), Shenoy (captain), Nayak (commander) and Havaldar (Sergeant) owe their origins to medieval military terms. While Kamath (works on soil), Bhatt (priest), Shroff (money changer), Javali (clothes dealer), and Shetty (Chettiar or Seth) typify the occupation of the tribes. And the very Coorgi Ponappa (gold), Cariappa (black), Nanjappa (wetland), Nagappa (snake) and Chinnappa (small) feel fairly descriptive in nature. Wonder, how they got their Nameappa!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Small Town Psyche

Wear your Kafka cap for a fleeting second. Metamorphosize into that little ant crawling up that speck of saccharine on that teensy piece of cake lying carelessly on the floor, just behind that forgotten dustbin, positioned near that dark brown door next to your kitchen sink. And ask yourself one question: would anyone, I mean ANYONE, even care about your existence?

Well, that’s the story of the small town in this cold, callous world. Most of them are condemned to lead a lifetime of anonymity in distant nooks and crannies untouched by the whimsical rays of limelight. Quite naturally, small towners, as a species, somehow always have this inner mojo to ‘get noticed’. The accent, the kooky dress sense, distinctive guffaws and an appetite for setting inane records are offshoots of this desire for undue attention.

Thankfully, several itsy-bitsy settlements in America have figured out an effortless way of getting the recognition they crave for – just choose an unusual name!

Here are some stellar examples: Ding Dong, a community in Bell County, Texas, got its 5 minutes of fame when Ripley’s Believe it or Not featured the township for its oddly amusing name. Boring in Oregon was originally named after William H. Boring, an early resident. But when the city signs started appearing on the highway as ‘Boring Oregon City’ it evoked a national chuckle. There’s been no turning back, ever since.

The level of interest garnered by weirdly named towns has inspired many more to join the bandwagon. So for every Why in Arizona, there’s a Whynot in North Carolina. For every Hooker in Arkansas, there’s a Dickey, waiting somewhere in Maine. And for every Gravity in Iowa, there’s a certain Uncertain lurking in the horizon, in Texas!

Although city slickers might feel a tinge of cringe while picking such names, small towners don’t seem to share this sense of shame. Otherwise why on earth would two precincts (one in Wisconsin and the other in Illinois) proudly call themselves Embarrass? May be there’s a lesson here for our Jhumritalayas. May be it’s time for villages to rechristen themselves as Narak, Badnaam or something edgier?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How Iyerland Became Ireland.

Never underestimate the Tamilian. He may constitute just 1% of the world population but his influence is all pervasive. That may seem like the typical chest-puffing ‘Tamizhan da!’ bluster from a T-Rajendhar cult movie but the fact remains that the kaapi-drinking, quarter-cutting, thayir saadam man has done a lot more for the spread of the human race than he’s given credit for.

Ireland, for instance, owes its Celtic culture to the Druids or Dravids who carried the R1b gene (a sibling of the dominant R1a gene that permeates Tam Brams, Kallars and Mudaliars) from South Asia to the Irish highlands via Central Asia. There’s enough linguistic evidence to back this claim. Here’s proof:

Kerry is a surname that means dark. Doesn’t it sound like the Tamil word ‘kari’ (black)? Kevin (beautiful) is a twin of Cavin (the Cavin in Cavin Kare) – which, by the way, is sentamizh for grace and beauty. Ian or Eoin (god) seems like a close cousin of our very own Ayan (god). Abban is synonymous with Appan (father). And Patrick (noble) has this ring of being learned enough to read a ‘pattrikkai’!

It’s not just the names. Even the words seem to have the same roots. Mala in both languages mean ‘hill’. Faiche (stretch of grass) resembles pachai. Mac (son) is derived from Makan. ‘Oi’ will pass off as an expression of endearment in Dublin as well as Dindigul.

What’s eerily similar is the Irish naming custom: the first son is always named after the father’s father; the second son after mother’s father; and the daughters are named after the mothers. Tam Brams follow an identical tradition! If you thought the parallels stops there, then just go and google about the many stone henges and cairn circles that have been discovered in Tiruvannamalai & Tiruttani.

Given all of these coincidences, you’d think our archaeologists are busy burrowing deep into the earth to ferret out more evidence in support of this theory. Sadly, they aren’t. May be someone needs to goad them to probe further. Else, the Murugans of Tiruvellikeni will never get to find their historical connect with the Morgans of Kilkenny.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Beti B Naming Contest

They say over 30,000 girl babies are born, every day, in India. If you do the math you’ll discover that nearly 480,000 girls have been hand-delivered by the Stork Exchange ever since that epochal moment, when you first heard about the birth of Beti B, and this very second when you’re reading my mundane words. That’s about 4 times the lexicon size of Hindi! So we’re in a sticky situation here - of having more babies than names.

Given this name famine, parents are under immense pressure to come up with something unique and creative. Perhaps this was the trigger for Abhishek Bachchan’s now-famous tweet requesting his fans to post their suggestions for the new born.

The ad man inside me feels, that Junior Bachchan, missed a trick by not announcing a ‘Naam Aapka, Beti Mera’ contest. He could have easily tied up with Idea for this and done a 360 degree advertising campaign to generate names via SMS. All the submitted names could have been uploaded onto and several media partners could have been roped in to prune down this massive database into a manageable Top 10 through a viewer poll. And then the final announcement could have been made on ‘Ash you like it’ - an hour-long reality show televised nationally. Alas, what an opportunity lost!

Anyways, coming back to Beti B. A little birdie tells us that the Rais and the Bachchans prefer a name starting with ‘A’. That rules out Kolaveri - a killer choice by any standards!

Let’s look at some other possibilities: Abhiwarya is an enticing option considering it fuses the best of dad and mom. Anamika (nameless one) might make a lot of sense as Jaya Bahaduri once essayed the eponymous role in a Bollywood movie starring the unforgettable Sanjeev Kumar. Amita (limitless) is interesting as Amita Bachchan sounds every inch like Big B. Ashi (miracle) will make a great fit as that was Aishwarya’s name in Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya. Aaina, Avatara, Antaratica or anything else might sound equally good. But the key question is: will the Guru say, ‘Lock kiya jaai’?