Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Name Oscars

BEST BOOK TITLE: Worst.Person.Ever
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane
The Day The Crayon Quit
12th Of Never
At Night We Walk In Circles

John Dies At The End
Now You See Me
A Good Day To Die Hard
Blue Is The Warmest Colour

What The Fish
Sooper Se Ooper
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola
Phata Poster Nikla Hero

Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru
Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya
Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam
Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga
Madha Yaanai Kootam

BEST NEW BAND NAME: Diarrhea Planet
The Underachievers
Diarrhea Planet
Young Scooter
Whales In Cubicles
Post War Glamour Girls

BEST ALBUM NAME: 21st Century Loser
Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner's Daughter
Bye-Bye Borderline
Pedestrian Verse
21st Century Loser
Twelve Reasons To Die

Yoga from Lenovo Ideapad
Oddka Vodka
Pebble Watch
Dead Crow Beer
Stingray from Maruti Suzuki

Milan (Shakira's)
North West (Kanye West's)
Bear (Kate Winslet's)
Klay (Wayne Rooney's)
Autumn (Jennifer Love Hewitt's)

Best Names of 2013

Mediocrity is easily the most infectious disease in the world. The reason no one talks about it is because it’s so commonplace that our eyes and ears stopped taking note long, long ago. Which is why the mind sends 99.99% of the things it sees into the recycle bin folder and stores only the truly remarkable.

Names are no different. Much of what is created is muck. A select few, however, shimmer through like a distant star in an ocean of darkness. We’ve got to celebrate the brilliant ones or else, we’ll be encircled by a sea of ordinariness.

Douglas Coupland’s satirical novel ‘Worst.Person.Ever’ is a twinkling example of genius nomenclature. The title will beguile you into reading the book whether you’re in a bordello, bathroom, or bookstore. I can’t think of any other tome with an equally arresting name.

Among Hollywood movies, three titles caught my fancy: ‘Sharknado’, ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ and ‘John Dies at the End’. While I liked the fresh bite of the shark flick, I loved the audacity of the deliberate ploy to reveal the plot with ‘John Dies’. Why would they do that? The itch to solve the puzzle would make anyone take the DVD home. And that’s what great film titles do.

The mesmeric cadence of ‘Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola’ and the overt projection of cheeky protagonists with ‘Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga’ also appealed to my senses.

Relatively speaking, bands didn’t have such a good year. I had to really dive deep to fish out a few pearls from among the new kids on the block. ‘Diarrhea Planet’, the Nashville-based rock and roll band that dreams of being the worst group ever, won the sweepstakes for the most oustanding name by besting the proudly uncool hip-hop duo ‘The Underachievers’.

The celeb baby name of the year, in my book, is Shakira’s ‘Milan’. Her nod to the Italian fashion capital sounds way hipper than Kim Kardashian’s baffling choice, ‘North West’.

And finally, ‘The Brand of 2013’ is, without a peg of doubt: ‘Oddka Vodka’, the spirited drink from Wyborowa Company in bizarre flavours such as Caramel Popcorn, Fresh Cut Grass, Apple Pie and even Electricity! With a name like Oddka, your year is bound to end on a guaranteed high, doncha’ think?

A more detailed list of nominees here

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jeez, look at those brands!

If a self-styled Hindu fundamentalist like Praveen Togadia were called on a quiz show and asked to name four brands funded by the Vatican, his fertile mind is likely to spout: Christian Dior, Cross, Virgin and Old Monk. Such is the profound knowledge of the saffron conspiracy theorist that he might even assume Nazareth and Judas Priest to be bands peddling Gospel music!

Jokes apart, are there brands that milk the religious equity of Christian icons? Oh yeah, there are plenty. But the funny thing is none of these have any connection whatsoever with the church.

‘Jesus Jeans’ is a stellar example. Made in Italy, since 1971, the denim brand raised the hackles of the clergy by channeling the divine carpenter for selling its wares. Ostensibly inspired by the rock opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, Jesus Jeans pushed the limits of provocation by featuring the generous rear of a woman wearing denim shorts with a strategically placed headline that read: “He who loves me follows me”. With time, the brand-named-after-the-lord somehow managed a trademark in the USA. And now, it’s busy issuing notices to anyone who uses the good shepherd’s name to sell anything. Can you beat that?

Then there’s JCLU (Jesus Christ Loves You), a women’s t-shirt brand that proudly plugs lines like: ‘PTL (Praise The Lord)’, ‘Keep Calm & Pray On’ and ‘Jesus is my saviour, not my religion’.

If others were blissfully spinning a yarn around Christ, sandwich chain Pret A Manager went a step ahead and put out tomato crisps under the ‘Virgin Mary’ label. Their logic being: if Bloody Mary were okay, so was Virgin Mary. Unfortunately for them, the religious lobby raised hell and Pret A Manager had to find a thick shroud to bury the crunchy Virgin Mary.

Despite the protests, many companies still continue to exploit biblical iconography thanks to the ready-made recognition enjoyed among 2.2 billion Christians. Perhaps that’s why, you have a Taiwanese E-commerce chain calling itself ‘Buyble’, a European food and beer chain opting for ‘Holy Grail Pub’, a German start-up choosing ‘Amen’ as its name, a New Zealand shirt brand picking ‘3 Wise Men’ and a cheese grater giving itself the cheesy moniker ‘Cheesus Christ’. One wonders how these brands will fare on Judgement Day.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Burden of Taint

Let’s start with a thought experiment. You’re a young, eligible lady. You’ve got two job offers. The job description is more or less the same. The pay packet is almost identical. You hear that your boss in Company X is going to be Tarun Tejpal. And in Company Y, it’s Alexander Wilberforce. Which offer are you likely to take up?

Your answer is a no-brainer. 11 out of 10 people would pick Alexander Wilberforce over Tarun Tejpal because somehow being stuck in a lift with Mr. A sounds so much safer than hanging out with Mr. T.

You may not change your mind even if you were told that this Tarun Tejpal is no way related to that Tarun Tejpal. The ‘why take a chance?’ mindset is at play here. It’s the same stupid mindset that makes many Americans suspect all men with turbans!

Another little game. You flip for a stranger. She’s good looking, smart, witty and is everything you imagined. You don’t care about her religion, caste, language or nationality. You just feel like going across and proposing to her. Just when you’re about to go down on your knees, she tells you that her name is Shakeela. Would the name affect your decision or would you still be head over heels?

To many South Indians, Shakeela is a B-grade actress best remembered for movies you can’t watch with your family. Marrying a Shakeela would mean opening yourself to taunts from everyone. The last thing you want from your friends is Shakeela DVDs as your wedding gift. So what would you do?

Bold men would just brush aside the jibes and get on with life. But not all of us are bold. In a conservative society, names develop their own reputations. And namesakes have to live with those reputations, whether they like it or not.

The Aarushis of the world will have to bear with jerks who keep recounting the murder of Aarushi Talwar. Your friendly neighbourhood Smitha has to put up with the ‘Silk’ Smitha nickname all her life. Every Nathuram will have to live with the ghost of Nathuram Godse. There’s no escape for Sheelas from ‘Sheela ki jawani’. The only way out is to either change your setting or name.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Home Tweet Home

Twitter is no level playing field. There’s an invisible poverty line that runs through the cacophonous pyramid of the twitterverse. Those below the line are tagged as ‘low life’ while the rest, walk with the swagger of the blue-blooded. ‘Low life’ are by definition, social lepers like me, with less than 200 followers in their kitty.

To escape the label, you either need to create fake accounts and follow your good self or implore your fourth grade classmate’s third rate friend’s second cousin’s first love to do you a resounding favour. Since both the options look ridiculous, a simpler way out is to have a hypnotic twitter handle.

Karachi-born entrepreneur Abu Ibrahim Muhammad Aly Balagamwala may not exactly tickle your fancy but his twitter avatar @discomaulvi kind of intrigues you into shedding your pouch of Pakistani prejudices and adding him to the list of people you’d like to know.

Sarah Ruth Lucy may not mean much to you. She’s a renowned journalist in Silicon Valley running the technology news site PandoDaily. Nothing may interest a stranger about her. But when you notice her twitter handle @sarahcuda, things change. Her word play catches your eye and you feel like adding her to your social circle.

Sonal Dabral is a mini-legend in advertising circles in India. But not many outside the profession may have heard of him. He spent much of his early years in Agra. His twitter identity @agracadabra is a tribute to his hometown. The magical fusion of his surname with the city he loves, evokes an instant empathy.

Gauri Kamath is an avid healthcare blogger. Like all of us, she could have used her personal name as her handle but instead she opted for the charming @apothecurry. The Indian ‘curry’ spin to the archaic word for a pharmacist certainly makes her more eligible for attracting followers than us low life.

When Mira Nair becomes @MiraPagliNair you expect to discover her crazy side. When tennis ace Djokovic chooses @djokernole, he becomes more likeable for laughing at himself. So to sum up: if you want to reveal your character with 140 characters, you could make a start by having a twitter handle that’s too hot to handle.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

On a historical track.

The good citizens of Bangalore were zapped out of their wits when they made the rude discovery that their city railway station had been rechristened into ‘Krantiveera Sangoli Rayanna’ railway station. The historically challenged went: ‘Krantiveera, who?’ The socially hyperactive ranted that the name was way too uncool. They would have perhaps preferred Deepika Padukone Junction or Rahul Dravid Pavilion!

The fact is, Sangolli Rayana, has done far more for posterity than Deepika or Jammie. An 18th century warlord, he was one of the first southerners to take on the might of the British even before the First War of Independence.

That’s why, in my book, the renaming gesture is highly laudable. The trend of celebrating people who created history started in the 1950s when Nasser labelled the Cairo Railway Station as Ramases Station (after King Ramases II, the greatest pharaoh of Egypt). In our country, Kolkata took the lead by naming several metro stations after Bengali heroes like actor Uttam Kumar, painter Jatin Das, poet Nazrul Islam, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the revolutionary Khudiram Bose.

In times when public memory is really short, the idea of immortalizing national icons seems irresistible. Had Maharashtra not named the Kurla station as Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, I am not sure how many people would care to remember him. At least this way there’s a remote chance of someone googling the old man’s name while surfing possibly on a Shatabdi Express.

To Maharashtra also goes the credit of keeping the hallowed names of Chhatrapati Shivaji (Victoria Terminus in Mumbai) and Chattrapati Shaju Maharaj (Kolhapur station) alive. Bihar is another state that remembers its illustrious sons through railway stations. Passengers to Aurangabad will recollect Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Bihar’s first deputy chief minister and visitors to Patna cannot forget that the city’s main terminal is dedicated to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of the Republic of India.

Goa holds the credit of naming a station after traveler Vasco da Gama. While Delhi has the only one named after a Sufi saint – Hazrat Nizamuddin. Thankfully, the Gandhi family hasn’t yet woken up to the possibilities offered by central stations. Else they would have hitched their dynasty wagon to that branding possibility long, long ago.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Sixty Fifth Square

There are not too many people who respect chess players. Consider this: after the fourth move on a chess board, more than 288 billion positions are possible. That’s as many as the total number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy! For a mind to see through these many permutations and combinations, you either need to be Vishy Anand or Magnus Carlsen. So they deserve at least 22 yards of more adoration than your over hyped master blasters.

Now that we’ve drawn your attention to the duo battling for the FIDE world chess championship, it’s perhaps the right moment to reflect on what it takes to be the king of kings. It’s certainly not skill. Vishy and Magnus have oodles of it. It can’t be knowledge as both players have access to more information than Deep Blue or Deep Thought. Experience, obviously cannot be the telling difference, as Anand is learning it the hard way.

So what is the X-factor that decides who will wear the crown? I have a theory. I call it the 65th square. And it’s got a lot to do with the names of the players.

Allow me to amplify my thoughts. The chess world has always been dominated by people with names that have a direct link to the game. The champion from 1921 to 1927 was Jose Raul Capablanca. His Spanish name translates to ‘Powerful god with the white cape’. The key words of note are ‘white’ and ‘power’. Bobby Fischer (considered by many to be the greatest chess player) literally works out to ‘the fisherman who will shine’. His legendary track record of fame corroborates the name meaning.

Garry Kasparov decodes to ‘speared wiseman’. Veselin Topalov aka ‘cheerful rook’ has an even closer connection. Likewise Vladimir Kramnik is ‘the shopkeeper ruler’, Ruslan Ponomariov is ‘Lion of the Sea’, Rustam Kasimdhzanov is ‘generous warrior’, Alexander Khalifman is ‘the defender who leads’, Boris Gelfand is ‘fighter elephant’ and Vasily Ivanchuk, ‘the king who believes’!

Going by this, Viswanathan Anand (‘blissful lord of the universe’) holds a significant advantage over Magnus Carlsen (‘the great independent man’). Only time will tell if that's good enough to checkmate the Norwegian Harry Potter.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Politically Incorrect Indian

In kala namak country, where even money is segregated into black and white, it is but natural for armchair analysts to brand India as a racist state.

There is some superficial truth to the accusation. As a country we do seem to have a congenital fascination for the ‘Fair and Lovely’. The dark and not-so-handsome have to somehow justify their existence with the Mehmoodian ‘Hum kalein hain to kya dilwalein hain’ (I may be sooty, but my heart is a beauty) kind of warped logic.

To be fair, we as a culture, are equally nasty to anyone with a deviant physical trait. Aren’t you guilty of calling your generously endowed neighbourhood aunty, ‘moti’? In Tamil films, till recently, it was the norm to have lyrics that poked fun at corpulent heroines using euphemisms such as ‘bamblimas’ (derived from pamplemousse, the big fat grapefruit) and ‘gundu pooshnika’ (plump pumpkin).

Even at school, no one finds it inappropriate to label ‘that dark kid’ as ‘blackie’. Grownups at office think that it’s funny to lampoon a bald colleague as ‘taklu’. The list of insensitive and downright pejorative nicknames in circulation include langda (for the lame), soda buddi (for the spectacled), damaaram (for the hard of hearing), tube light (for the dim-witted), chotu (for the shortish types) and otra kutchi (for the thin and tall).

My surmise is that Indians were not always this offensive. Yes, they did name names that bordered on racism but it was never with an intent to run down the person. On the contrary, the idea was to identify a person using his or her most visible trait.

For example, ‘Krishna’ is a Sanskrit synonym for ‘black’. He was called so because of his melanin-rich skin tone. Goddess Kali had a similar shade, hence her name. Ditto with Shyama. Likewise Shweta and Shukla are names that cue ‘whiteness’ and Neelkant stands for ‘blue throat’. So, what began as an attribute descriptor degenerated over centuries into pseudo-expressions of scorn!

It’s time we put an end to the debased tradition of name-calling. Else we’ll all end up looking like the Ku Klux Klanners who couldn’t think beyond their white supremacist noses.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Bewakoof Brands

Gopi Ram used to run a small eatery in Giridih (now in Jharkhand), in the year when an unknown batsman named Sunil Gavaskar, made his test debut. The food was good but still, not many were trooping in to grab a bite. A worried Gopi channelled his inner Philip Kotler and announced a discount on all items on the menu.

The move had an unintended consequence. More people walked in and ate heartily but everyone called him a bewakoof (Hindi for fool) for pricing his food so low.

Peeved, Gopi decided to publicly chide himself, by rebranding his restaurant as the ‘Bewakoof Restaurant’. The bizarre new naming worked. Overnight, it became the go-to destination for honest food. Today, around 11 restaurants in Giridih, are raking in the moolah using the same trick!

If you really analyse, the success of Bewakoof lay not in its catchiness but in the act of self-deprecation. Several rock bands have been using this strategy for years. Before Kurt Cobain hit upon Nirvana, he ran a punk rock band called Faecal Matter. The idea behind the crappy name was to lower the bar of expectations. Just when you’d expect trash, they’d wow you with their songs.

Rap metal band Limp Bizkit took a similar approach. After wrestling with more honourable options like Blood Fart and Bitch Piglet, frontman Fred Durst chose Limp Bizkit as a pre-emptive strike on those who could label their numbers as ‘lame’.

The rewards reaped by the ones who belittle themselves has inspired a spate of names that reek of false modesty. David Bryne, Will Oldham and Michael Brunnock have just formed a rather offensive band called ‘The Pieces of Shit’. No matter how bad their creations, the critics would be at a severe loss for words while panning them. Then there is this Chicago-based theatre group, ‘Nothing Special Productions’. They focus on bringing new works and artistes to light. NSP makes you abandon your baggage of biases and forces you to see the plays with a totally open mind. The t-shirt brand ‘Ordinary Clothing’ exploits the same sympathy-for-the-underdog feeling. So the lesson to learn is: when beautiful doesn’t sell, brand it as ‘Ugly’.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Celebrating with a six.

If you were a luxury lifestyle tabloid would you even think of publishing a weekly column on names? Especially when you have other weighty choices like carrying eruditely written tattle on who is sleeping around with whom in the higher circles of excitement-starved Chennai!

Indulge from The New Indian Express, didn’t even hesitate for a moment, in deciding to run with Nama Sutra. On behalf of millions of my imaginative and imaginary readers I’d like to thank the lovely folks at Indulge for indulging us.

To commemorate the sixth anniversary of their Chennai edition, we shall raise a toast to six sparkling names birthed by the city in the last one year or so. In times like these, it’s best to sit back and enjoy the ingenuity of the immaculately engineered names.

‘Sumar Moonji Kumar’ is our first awardee. Vijay Sethupathi played that character in the just-released Tamil comedy ‘Idharkuthaane Aasaipattai Balakumara’. Sumar Moonji aka ‘Average Looker’ is not your usual lead character name. It’s quirky, in-your-face, very anti-hero and surprise, surprise, it creates instant viewer empathy for Vijay Sethupathi. To transplant a side-kick appellation to your trump card, requires audacity. And that chutzpah made us flip for it.

‘Kaapi Cheenu’ is another underdog we love. A home-grown play on ‘Capuccino’, the teensy little filter coffee kadai in Alwarpet also cleverly embeds the nickname of its founder Manu Srinivas.

‘Fishwaroopam’ is perhaps the best named pizza doing the rounds. Spawned during the Vishwaroopam controversy, the fish-laced pizza is a product of the much-adored Pizza Republic who to their credit have been consistently putting out tongue-in-cheek names including Vegabond, Mushmellow and Prawnography.

For giving wings to a raunchy Madras slang word, the drink ‘Jalabulajungs’ at Zha Cafe gets my vote for pushing the spiciness quotient up by a notch or two.

‘Acoustic Rascals’ is the one local band name that caught our fancy. It’s irreverent, intriguing and fits into the ‘rascala’ stereotype that many Northies carry in their head about Southies.

Among start-ups, ’85 AD’ is the one that gets our golden spoon. Simply because it offers the scope to tell a story that the company is a collective of 85 Architects and Designers. That’s it, guys. Time you cheered Indulge and the Super Six.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pun on a platter.

Pun is like pizza. The cheesier it gets, the yummier it appears for connoisseurs of bad taste. Long before us numbskulls could figure it out, some smart minds in the food industry decided to milk the possibilities of this idea.

Restaurants began to mushroom with seemingly dim-witted names. If a pizzeria tried ‘Basic Kneads’, a fish and chips store experimented with ‘Frying Nemo’. If a Thai eatery chose ‘Thai Tanic’, an Irish kebab chain floated ‘Abrakebabra’. If a Norwegian coffee shop flirted with ‘Coffee Annan’, a mom and pop beverage joint explored ‘Has Beans’. In short, pun inspired pun, and takeaways started courting fame by feeding off each other.

The proliferation of puntastic names was so rampant that at one point, food lover Ben Brusey was actually tempted to put out a book titled ‘Pu Pu Hot Pot: The World’s Best Restaurant Names’. His personal favourite was the rather obscenely named ‘Phat Phuc Noodle Bar’ near South Kensington. Apparently ‘Phat Phuc’ in Vietnamese means ‘Happy Buddha’. So much for your smutty thoughts!

The choicest sizzlers from his compilation include: ‘A Salt & Battery’ in New York, ‘The Meat’In Place’ in Kent, the hot dog outlet ‘Award Wieners in a Supporting Roll’, the Middle Eastern Toronto take-out ‘Syriandipity’, the French fry heaven ‘Lord of the Fries’, the bagel house ‘Lox, Stock & Bagel’, the clever cocktail bar ‘Tequila Mockingbird’, and the sandwich house ‘Pita Pan’.

Surprisingly many not-so-flattering puns made it to his list. Like the food & fuel station ‘Eat Here and Get Gas, the knuckleheaded ‘Nim Com Soup’, and the unappetising ‘Pee & Poo Steakhouse’. His logic: even a self-deprecatory name works, as customers get a hearty laugh without paying a penny.

I don’t buy the lousy name theory. Why would anyone invite ridicule by visiting ‘Pu Pu Hot Pot’ when all it does is to remind you of fecal matter? I’d rather pick the poetic ‘Earth, Wind & Flour’, the literary minded ‘Life of Pie’, the historically themed ‘Boston Sea Party, the geographically inclined ‘Maine-ly Lobsters’, the linguistic word play ‘Juan in a Million’ and a ‘Mrs Sippy’ that sounds like Mississippi. After all, a restaurant name should be sweet as honey rather than sour as vinegar.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Very Original Fakes

By now, everyone and their great grandchildren, would have heard of Ulhasnagar Sindhi Association. They were the Natwarlals behind the ingenious ‘Made in USA’ labels seen on many wannabe American accessories made in our country during the electric eighties.

Anyone who bought a watch, or a bag with that tag, knew it was an elaborate sham. But still the befooled masses played along because they found the charade as amusing as an ‘original’ Bappi Lahiri song!

Come to think of it, the ability to induce a smile is really the charm of a well-minted counterfeit. Since China abounds with knock-offs, it’s understandably the fountainhead of some cleverly named copycats. The rip-offs are often called Shanzhai brands - Shanzhai being an allusion to the mountain pirates who defy the rule of law.

There are two types of Shanzhai brands. The deliberately dyslexic and the creatively re-engineered. Nyke, Ribok, Odidas, Penasonic, Barby and Koka-Kola are examples of the former. Rural India is famous for this variety.

The second type is the stuff that mirth is made of. Here are some rib tickling samplers: Imagine naming your pizzeria as Pizza Huh. From far, it will resemble Pizza Hut and as you get closer, you’ll go huh! A friend of mine keeps bringing up the name P. Uma. Doesn’t that sound very South Indian? And yet, feels like Puma!

A.R. Mani the tailor is another name pregnant with possibilities. What if he stitches shirts and coats under his label…won’t it look like the long lost twin of Armani? When the Chinese wanted to clone Johnnie Walker Red Label, they hit upon, Johnnie Worker Red Labial. Wonder why the stress on red lips. Maybe it’s for cross dressers!

Talking of imitators, there are many more worth naming. Hike takes Nike to a new level. Samsing is a noteworthy reminder of Samsung. Ninetendo is a quantitative leap over Nintendo. S&M’s a sadomasochistic interpretation of M&M’s. Fony is a sincerely spurious take on Sony. And Dolce & Banana will leave you with peels of laughter vis-a-vis Dolce & Gabbana. So the bottom line is: If you can’t make it, fake it. But fake it in style.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bands With Balls.

Cricket has so much in common with music. It revolves around players who work up a sublime rhythm on different pitches for compiling that perfect score during sell-out tours with an assortment of swingers, bouncers, and sliders for company.

Which is probably why, more and more cricketers are notching up hits with a rocking band of their own. Brett Lee is the most visible face of the movement to mix Coldplay with Speedball.

He began his musical avatar with Six & Out, an Oz band with five first class cricketers in its line-up. Named after the gully cricket rule that declares a batsman out if the ball gets lost when it’s whacked for a maximum, Six & Out, went on to create gems like ‘Can’t Bowl, Can’t Throw’.

Brett, the vocalist and bass guitarist, later moved on to set up White Shoe Theory with songwriter Mick Vawdon. The name of course is whimsical and was born out of a Eureka moment when the two dudes discovered that everyone in their bar were wearing white shoes, except them.

English spinner Graeme Swann’s rock band should easily win the sweepstakes for the naughtiest name. Called Dr Comfort and the Lurid Revelation, it’s apparently a nod to Dr. Alex Comfort, the author of “The Joy of Sex” that was pithily summed up as the ‘Kama Sutra of the baby-boom generation’ by the New York Times.

Another musically inclined bowler Curtly Ambrose teamed up with his former captain Richie Richardson to form the Antiguan reggae band The Big Bad Dread and the Bald Head. For seekers of meaning, Dread is one who believes in Rastafarianism and a Baldhead is the term for a non-believer. When some band members left, bassist Curtly & rhythm guitarist Ritchie rechristened their act as ‘Spirited Band’.

Towel trickster and banned test match player Sreesanth is the pioneer of cricket bands in India. He formed the pop group S36 with six of his pals. The S refers to Sreesanth and 36, they say, is his lucky number. Considering he’s been unlucky to get caught, maybe he should rename his train-bogey-like S36 into the cheeky Caught & Bowled.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Filmy Ways to Count

Teaching a child to count is not exactly rocket science. But it’s even more complex - especially if your kid has the attention span of an excited mosquito. Thankfully there’s a fun way to do the job: just do it through movies.

Let me demonstrate how. Start with the one and only Salman Khan. Screen ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ at home. And tell your little one, Ek means ‘one’. If your boy has a more evolved taste, log onto YouTube and showcase the Pankaj Kapoor drama ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’. If he loves it, then make him eligible for the Amitabh comedy ‘Do Aur Do Paanch’. Remember to point out that the title defies all laws of algebra.

The triple dimensions of three can be dinned into his head with the Aamir starrer ‘3 Idiots’. Hugh Grant’s romantic comedy ‘Four Weddings and A Funeral’ is a deft means of seeding ‘4’ into his vocabulary. And Tamil actor Bharath’s new release ‘Aindhu Aindhu Aindhu’ should educate him about five.

Six is a cinch. Try Manoj Night Shyamalan’s ‘Sixth Sense’. An easy method to memorise seven is by disclosing to your son that ‘Saat Hindustani’ was Amitabh Bachchan’s debut film. The arachnid horror flick ‘Eight Legged Freaks’ is enough to tell all about number eight. Sivaji Ganesan’s 9-role act ‘Navratri’ should be a melodramatic reminder for the Hindi ‘nau’. And Kamal Hassan’s 10-role blockbuster ‘Dasavatharam’ will teach him a thing or two about being a jack of ten trades.

David Dhawan’s ‘Ek Aur Ek Gyarah’, Bruce Willis’ film ‘Twelve Monkeys’, the American slasher ‘Friday the 13th’ should get him up to speed on pre-teen numbers. If that whets his appetite, the Stephen King psychological thriller ‘1418’ and Robert DeNiro’s crime thriller ’15 minutes’ should initiate him into the teens.

Bharathiraja’s ‘Padhinaaru Vayadhinile’ that featured a 14-year old Sridevi playing a 16-year old Mayil is a good advertisement for the kind of mess, sweet sixteen could get him into. ’17 Again’, ‘Enakku 20, Unakku 18’ and ‘Unees Bees’ are films that can take him to the twenties. ’21 grams’, ’Catch-22’, ‘The Number 23’, ‘Iruvathi Naalu Mani Neram’, ‘25th Hour’ and ‘Special Chabees’ should round up the exercise. And if he asks you about zuk, there’s always ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Magic of Modi

In 12 dramatic years, a right wing introvert who was never known to be popular, has taken some giant saffron strides to emerge as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. Even his most ardent critics concede that his achievement is spectacular considering the odds he faced. A riot that nearly buried his career, a hostile national media that was baying for his blood, and his own double-faced party colleagues who were plotting his downfall, couldn’t stop the unstoppable Gujarat rath from reaching 11, Ashoka Road.

It is my view that Narendra Damodardas could never have squared the circle had it not been for his snappy surname. Let’s face it: without Modi, there’ll be no NaMo cult. The humble 2-syllable that means ‘owner of granary’, is the mystic element that makes Mr. White Beard magnetic.

Before you dismiss it as one more kooky theory from me, let me reveal the secret sauce that makes Modi so powerful. Modi, as per Chaldean numerology, corresponds to the number 7 which represents ‘masculine energy, quick wittedness, good fortune, ability to bear hardships, streak of independence and dangerous adversary’. All of which are traits displayed by the ‘Chhappan Chaathi’ man.

The significant thing to note is Narendra also adds up to 7. When combined, Narendra Modi works out to the name number 41 (25 + 16). Forty one, as anyone will tell you is a potent number borne by the likes of Napoleon, Fidel Castro, George Bush and MG Ramachandran. By a quirk of fate, if the man had been just ‘Narendra Damodardas’, his name number would have been 56 – not exactly associated with strong leadership!

That’s the difference ‘Modi’ brings to the table. If you study the fortunes of two other Modis, you’ll see the beauty of the surname. Take Lalit Modi, the once upon a time IPL supremo. Remember his meteoric rise? He used to lord over cricket by wielding unbridled power. Another benign dictator was Russi Mody of the Tatas. He used to run TISCO like he owns it. What gave them the bounce was the Modi tag. Unfortunately their name numbers don’t work out to 41. May be that’s why nobody knows their namo nishaan now.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Hindu plays it safe.

After agonising over the matter, till the eleventh hour, ‘The Hindu – India’s national newspaper’ seems to have decided it’s better to milk its existing equity rather than create a whole new native brand for the Tamil market.

The launch of ‘தி இந்து’ is a happy moment for Tamil Nadu but from a branding angle it’s rather unimaginative, limiting and utterly ambitionless.

The Suppans and Kuppans in the pattis and thottis of our state refer to the Hindu as the ‘Hindu paper’. Certainly not ‘Thee Indu’. Even ‘Tamil Hindu’ wouldn’t have been a bad idea. But ‘Thee Indu’ reeks of the transliteration mind-set that most North Indian brands have.

Let’s face it. ‘Thee Indu’ doesn’t sound like a patchai tamizhan brand. Neither does it sound too Peter-ish. The name falls between two stools and ends up looking like a Higgins Bhagavathar queuing up for a Dravidian fancy dress contest.

Thankfully for ‘Thee Indu’, it has an Asokan (an Ananda Vikatan veteran) helming it. That’s the silver lining really. Otherwise, the name gives an impression that ‘Thee Indu’ must be ‘The Hindu’ created with Google Tamil Translator.

My sympathies are with Asokan and team. Now they have the ‘left leaning, play it safe’ baggage of The Hindu to carry when they write with passion.

The only ones rejoicing must be competitors like Dina Thanthi, Dina Malar, Dinakaran and Dina Mani. Because they know in their heart of hearts that now they have nothing to fear. ‘Thee Indu’ is no competition.

It will remain a niche newspaper targeting Tamilians who vote for the Congress and BJP, and have Mani Ratnam, Crazy Mohan, Subramanian Swamy and other upper middle class Tamil icons as their idols. I am hoping they prove me wrong.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Secrets of Syria

The whole world is discussing, debating and dissecting Syria. The average Indian couldn’t care less. To him, Bashar al-Assad is as remote a name as the Brontosaurus. In his pecking order, the Sarin Gas would be twenty notches below the LPG Gas. You can’t blame him for his apathy as the only chemical weapon he knows is the Mortein insect repellent. If Syria had been a country that outsources nurses, cabbies or software engineers, perhaps he would have shown more interest.

One more reason for the apparent detachment could be the perceived lack of any geographic or historic links except for the odd Syrian Christian story. Perhaps things will change if we reveal the startling Indian roots of Syria.

First up, let’s examine the Arabic name for Syria. It’s Suriya. Does it light up the zero-watt bulb in your head? If it doesn’t, allow me to remind you that sun god is a recurring theme in the culture of Ancient Syria.

Now for the Mittanis. They were the imperial race that ruled Northern Syria around 1500 BC. Coincidentally they used to worship Indra, Varuna, Agni and Mitra. Their numerals included eka (one), pancha (five), sapta (seven) and nava (nine). Ashva was their word for horse, babhru for brown and parita for grey. All of these are almost identical with their Sanskrit equivalents. Among the famed Mittani kings were Kirta, Shuttarna, Parattarna and Tushrata. Doesn’t Tushrata sound like Dasharatha?

Let’s dig a little deeper. Euphrates is the largest river in Syria. The Hebrew name for it is Prat. The Arabic version is al-Furat. There’s a Sanskrit word called Suvrata. It means ‘fragrant plant’. Considering Euphrates flows through lands teeming with oaks, roses and pistachio, could it have been derived from Suvrata?

Even the lake names might give you a sense of déjà vu. In Golan Heights, near Mount Hermon, there’s a crater lake called Lake Ram (Dasharatha’s son?). Localites refer to it as Birket Ram. Bhrikta in Sanskrit is ‘roasted’ and that seems to makes sense given the volcanic nature of the terrain. There are many more dots waiting to be connected, if and only if, we make a little mind space for Damascus.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Symphony of Names

The other day I truly, madly, deeply wanted to find out why the guitar was called the ‘guitar’. Uncle Wikipedia gave me a rather unsatisfactory explanation that it may have originated from the Greek ‘Kithara’. A music buff named Paul Guy made me wonder if Sanskrit may have played a role here.

Because the Ektara is a one-stringed instrument. The Dotara has two strings. Tritara (or as the Persians say ‘Setar’) has three strings. By that logic, Chauthara must have been the one with 4-strings. The Italians might have interpreted it as Chittara. The Arabians may have made it Qithara and in Spanish it could have become Quittara - from where we get the original renaissance period 4-stringed Guitar!

Sanskrit also gave us Ghatam (meaning ‘pot’), Mridangam (‘clay body’ – those days it was made of hardened clay) and the Bansuri (‘bamboo melody’). Sanskrit’s country cousin Prakrit is said to have birthed Pakhawaj (‘side instrument’).

Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man owes the Arabs his name. They say Tambourine is derived from Tambur (‘drum’). Even Amir Khusro’s invention the Tabla (‘drum’) is Arabic in conception.

The violin family has an interesting story. The Roman goddess of joy is Vitula. Now Vitulare in Latin also means ‘to sing or to rejoice’. Vitula evolved into Fiddle (I sense a German angle as they have a habit of pronouncing ‘V’ as ‘F’) and it also spawned the Old French word ‘vielle’ which later became Viola. In the initial days, ‘Violone’ meant the big Viola, ‘Violine’ the smaller version and ‘Violonecello’ the intermediate size. With passage of time Vilonecello became ‘cello then the apostrophe was dropped. Today, there are just 3 sizes - Violin, Viola and Cello.

Let’s change our tune to the exotic. Morsing is from the Rajasthani Morchang. My surmise is that the instrument shape resembled a peacock’s mouth. That explains the Mor. ‘Chang’ could be onomatopoeic. Didgeridoo is also said to be mimicking the sound made by the instrument. Oboe is a French loan word from ‘haut buoy’ or ‘loud wood’. Ukelele is Hawaiian for ‘the gift that came from here’. And Trombone is Italian for ‘large trumpet’. With that we end our name orchestra.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Name Changers & Game Changers

Ace eye-candy Maria Sharapova proved last week that her marketing instincts are far more fetching than her sculpted legs. Her ‘Maria Sugarpova’ name-change stunt, to promote the ‘Sugarpova’ range of premium candies generated more heat than Usain Bolt’s thundering performance on the racetrack. Considering, she spent zero dollars on the PR blitz; it should easily rank as the Smashing Gimmick of the Year.

While a sweet name change helped Maria with her brand campaign, it earned Terri Illigan the much needed moolah to educate her children. Terri sold her name on eBay for $15,199. Internet casino bought it on the pre-condition that she should rename herself as Terri took the gamble and it was worth its weight in gold.

Monetary gain was again the motive for young Dan Milton to switch over to the rather clunky Facebookdotcom Forwardslash MountaindewUK. Apparently, he wanted to win the 5000-pound ‘super fan ambassador’ title from the ‘Do the dew’ drink. It is not known if his fuzzy exploits won him the fizzy jackpot.

Many others like George Garratt did it for their 3 nanoseconds of fame. By assuming the new name, ‘Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined’, George tried to stand out in his circle of nobodies. His superhero themed approach may have sent his stock soaring in Glastonbury, but everywhere else, he was seen as just another spooferman

Yahoo Serious, the Australian actor, was the one genuine guy who opted for a nomenclature makeover because he felt it was more intriguing than his bland birth name - Greg Pead. Even he couldn’t resist making a quick buck by suing ‘Yahoo!’ for trademark infringement. But unfortunately, Serious’ claim was not taken seriously by the courts.

At times, a quick name change is deployed to garner attention for a social cause. Karin Robertson’s transformation into ‘’ and Chris Garnett’s bold shift to ‘’ got enough mileage for PETA. May be there’s a lesson to be learnt here for activism in India. May be it’s time for some enterprising men and women to rename themselves as ‘’, ‘’, or ‘’!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Reincarnation of Sanskrit

If you were working the graveyard shift at the cemetery of languages, you’d notice that the ancient spirit of Sanskrit is doing celebratory cartwheels and back flips, these days. There’s a simple reason for it: the fossilized language is making a comeback of sorts in a totally new avatar in every nation other than India.

Surprised? I am not. Any language that has 96 words for love, 67 words for water and 15 words for gold must be a treasure trove for the true seekers of linguistic jollies, especially in the domain of branding. Which is perhaps why we are seeing a profusion of Sanskrit names for products ranging from low brow apps to high street couture.

Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana, James Cameron’s Avatar, the Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement, the Kama Sutra and the Yoga wave in the West, deserve equal credit for spreading the word about the possibilities of owning a profoundly meaningful and yet, distinctively different sound.

When Erica Falconeri, a big league international model, wanted to launch her own line of designer scarves, she chose ‘Ananda’ (bliss) as her moniker. When Beaver and Pam Theodosakis were fishing for an appropriate name for their yoga and climbing apparel, they hit upon ‘PrAna’ (life). Fashion designer Isse Miyake’s protégé Makiko Minagawa’s case is different. She wanted a rustic ‘global village’ kind of name for her rather diverse collection from here and there. She picked ‘Haat’ not just because it meant ‘village market’ but because it sounded like both ‘heart’ and ‘haath’ (Hindi for ‘hand’ - cueing handmade)!

Australian skin care company ‘Sodashi’ is about chemical-free products. So they picked a Sanskrit root word that stood for ‘Wholeness, purity and radiance’ and thus arrived at Sodashi. Aveda (all knowledge) is another natural cosmetic giant with an Indic origin.

Even techie companies haven’t been able to resist the charms of the Vedic language. For every ultrabook named ‘Lenovo Yoga’, there’s a web based app called ‘Asana’. For every telecom giant named ‘Avaya’ (perceptual judgment), there’s a big data player named Tumra (big). Sadly, back home in India, we’ve relegated Sanskrit to the status of a holy leper and have done everything in our powers to give her an undignified burial.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

On the Rahul Raj

As ‘Chennai Express’ shocks us all by zipping past the 100-crore barrier, I just learnt two things: a) You can do the lungi dance without wearing a lungi; and b) You can turn any dud into a blockbuster if you persuade SRK into playing the dimple-cheeked ‘Rahul’ all over again.

Such is the magic of the name. The previous two times, Shahrukh, donned the role of ‘Rahul’, he set the Ganga, Yamuna and Sutlej on fire by raking in 16.6 crores with Yes Boss and 42.3 crores with Dil Toh Pagal Hai. In today’s terms, that’s a whopping 250 crores of rokda. Now you know why stars fall over each other to appropriate the lucky name.

As per my estimates, there have been at least 22 Bollywood films in the last 23 years with Rahul as the lead protagonist. Everyone from Aamir, Salman, Saif, Hrithik, Sanjay, Abhishek to that chocolate boy Imran, they’ve all found some lame excuse to embrace it.

You’d be surprised to know that the actor who started the Rahulmania was none other than Rahul Roy. He kicked the box office butt as ‘Rahul Roy’ in the musical hit Aashiqui, way back in 1990.

Another character name that gives Rahul a run for his money is ‘Raj Malhotra’. 11 heroes have carried that business card in an assortment of flicks. While King Khan may have immortalised it in DDLJ, the credit for squatting on that franchise goes to Akshay Kumar. He’s played the Raj Malhotra card, an incredible 5 times. I think the Khiladiyon Ke Khiladi opted to repeat the suave Punjabi Raj act again and again as his real name is Rajiv Bhatia – Raj for short!

Surprisingly, no film before the nineties ever featured a hero named Rahul or Raj Malhotra. Even a Raj Kapoor preferred the Mononym ‘Raj’ or ‘Raju’ to a Raj Malhotra. ‘Vijay’ was the rage in the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties. Dev Anand was the first ever ‘Vijay’ on screen. Then came, Dilip Kumar. And then Guru Dutt in Pyaasa. Amitabh appropriated the ‘Angry Young Vijay’ a record 22 times. Jeetendra followed suit 17 times. Lesson: Rahul aur Raj nahi toh Vijay hi sahi.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Spello of Good Luck

In a nation where vegetable buffs are peddled on every street, mango sheikhs are served in cool bars, gopi manchurian is passed off as an uppetizer, green peace pulao is given the pride of place and everyone is happy munching on snakes and guzzling child beer, it is quite natural to blame the daily abuse of the English language on poverty and semi-literacy. I’d like to add one more culprit to the list of accused: Numerology.

Yes, the science of numbers deserves to be hauled up for converting us into a country of dyslexics. More specifically, the quack numerologists, who recommend committing typos in the name of good fortune, need to be subjected to a Spanish Inquisition of sorts.

Wondering why? Let’s examine the slippery premise of the snake oil salesmen parading as numerologists. They claim a ‘Singh Is King’ will be unsuccessful but a ‘Singh Is Kinng’ will be a blockbuster. ‘Hey Baby’ will be a flop, while ‘Heyy Babyy’ will be a moolah-raker. The apparent logic being, by adding an ‘N’ here and a ‘Y’ there, we are changing the planets that could influence the destiny of the name!

If we could just trick the evil planets into vamoosing from our lives by using the mere device of a few letters, then why on earth cannot we pull Ethiopia out of poverty by renaming it as ‘Ethiopiaaaaaah’? If numerologists knew the secret sauce to concoct billionaires, then why haven’t they tried it themselves?

The Dinesh Karthik case study is enough to silence the charlatans, once for all. Poor chap, when he began his cricketing career he was KKD Karthik. Someone whispered into his ear that if he wants greater glory he must become KD Karthik. Unfortunately nothing happened, so he chose Dinesh Karthik. Many years of struggle ensued forcing him to consider Dinesh Karthick. And then, Dinesh Kaarthick. Still Lady Luck eluded him. Frustrated, our man switched back to Dinesh Karthik. Six name changes later, DK is now a rock star. Hopefully the Ajay Devgns, Suniel Shettys, Kirron Khers, Tamannaahs, Shobhaa Des, Irrfans and other spell check defying names are listening.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Gender Benders

So authoress JK Rowling uses a male alias ‘Robert Galbraith’ for penning a detective novel (The Cuckoo’s Calling) and all hell breaks loose in the teeth-gnashing, chest-thumping, bra-burning world of feminists.

“Why do you need a masculine name when people like Agatha Christie have already broken the glass ceiling in the crime genre?” ask the women’s libbers. But what they don’t realise is Ms. Rowling wasn’t assuming a new identity to earn brownies from men. All she wanted want was to run far away from the Harry Potter baggage. And the farthest she could get, was by turning ‘he’.

Escape from an image trap is not the only reason for the quaint practice of gender crossovers in pseudonyms. Nelle Harper Lee opted for the manly Harper Lee when she wrote the masterpiece ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because she was scared that people will mispronounce her first name as ‘Nelly’ instead of ‘Nell’.

Yes, the Bronte sisters published their classics in the guise of the Bell brothers to avoid male condescension, but many others such as George Sand voluntarily chose a virile moniker as they felt like one of the boys.

Another telling aspect that might surprise feminists is that there are quite a few respectable men who’ve written books under the garb of a woman. The big daddy of them all was Benjamin Franklin aka ‘the bloke on the 100 dollar bill’. When his brother refused to publish his pieces in a newspaper, Benjamin wrote some mystery letters to the editor under the pseudonym ‘Mrs. Silent Dogood’. The epistles were so good that they had to carry it!

Likewise, when Frank L. Baum (the chap behind ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’) wanted to publish his kiddie tales, he chose ‘Laura Bancroft’ as the fairer sex was supposedly best at narrating stories to children.

Female nom de plumes find currency even back home. The famed Tamil detective novelist ‘Subha’ is actually the literary mask of two guys - Suresh and Balakrishnan! ‘Charu Nivedita’ (real name: Arivazhagan), ‘Pushpa Thangadurai’ (Sri Venugopal) and ‘Sujatha’ (S. Rangarajan) are a few more popular examples. Just goes to show that artistry knows no gender.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Titter Proof Titles

Critics are easily the most unloved sub-species among Homo sapiens. Artist Man Ray once expressed his deepest feelings for them with an epic statement: All critics should be assassinated. Most Bollywood film makers would secretly concur with Man Ray’s assessment as they've been victims themselves of poison arrows from the rather mean quiver of the nasty critic.

Of late, the barbs have been getting crisper, sharper and snarkier thanks largely to the 140-character attention span of the connected cosmos. It all began with RGV’s ill fated ‘Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag’. Every reviewer worth his ink jumped into the bitching fest. The most pungent of them all came from Raja Sen who dubbed it ‘Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aargh!’ Then the wannabes rushed in with ‘Ram Gopal Varma Ki Daag’ and the tweets got regressively more below-the-belt.

Ironically, Raja Sen got a taste of his own medicine, when a two-bit reviewer labelled his script ‘Go Goa Gone’ as ‘Go Goa Gonorrhoea’! As a namer, I am of the view that a lot of these malicious wisecracks can be done away with, if one just picks a title with very little spoofability.

When you choose a catchy ‘Fukrey’, it might get you a few extra eyeballs but you run the risk of being rubbished as ‘What the Fukrey’ by some critic, venting his spleen. When ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ was released recently, Shobha De, the queen of cattiness, finished her soaked-in-the-acid review with a punch line that read ‘Bhaag Audience Bhaag’! Such tarty verdicts can derail any film from reaching its blockbuster destination.

The only way to protect your movie from the vultures of twitter is to make it titter-proof. Always think of negative words, idioms and expressions associated with the title. If you’ve picked ‘Policegiri’ expect a ‘watching the film is like a jail sentence’. If you’ve chosen ‘Air Force One’, you’re asking for ‘Air Farce One’. ‘A Dark Knight’ can be laughed at by making it ‘A Dork Knight’. Remember, cunning wordsmiths can turn even a harmless ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ into ‘Harry Plodder and the Lamest of Sequels’. So to escape scathing reviews, give the punster no scope for word play.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Court Jesters

Tennis players are the real rock stars of sport. They wear provocative wigs on stage - remember Agassi’s peroxide mullet? They use cuss words on prime time - remember John McEnroe’s infamous tantrums? They have wham-bam-thank-you-ma’m kinda romps outside marriage - remember Becker’s 5-second quickie? They dress up rather fashionably while at work - remember Bethanie-Mattek Sands’ Lady Gaga style attire? They even evoke extreme attention from fans – remember how Monica Seles was stabbed by Steffi’s fan?

There’s one more reason why the sport controlled by ATP, is eminently likeable: you’re likely to spot the funniest names in this ball game.

Take Jim Courier. In a parallel universe, he would be the delivery boy for UPS or FedEx. But in the world of racket and strings, he’s a champion who’s won both the French and Australian Open.

People who have no connection with tennis will rarely able to sniff out the aces from their names. Sample these. Mary Pierce has the ring of a tattoo artist. Pat Cash seems like a walking talking ATM. Arthur Ashe has all the grim traces of a funeral director. Roscoe Tanner has the stink of a leather maker. And Steffi Graf can only remind you of a statistician.

The Eastern Europeans add a mirthful flavour to the game. As all of us know, Novak Djokovic is the djoke of all jokes. Ivanisevic, Zimonjic, Zivojinovic, Petrovic and Petkovic sometimes make you think if Club Sandvic and Chicken Sandvic might get a wildcard entry for the championships. Likewise, Sharapova, Kournikova, Navratilova and Kalashnikova make you wonder if Palkova might have been better off wearing a short white skirt than playing the mouth watering milk sweet.

The tryst with amusing surnames is not a new phenomenon in tennis. Historically, there have been many players with equally fascinating names. The American lady who won 8 Wimbledon titles should have been one happy woman. Instead she was called Helen Wills ‘Moody’. The first ever male to win the Grand Slam was a fleet-footed chap, ironically named Don ‘Budge’. And the greatest female tennis player of all time, in all surfaces, was predictably Margaret ‘Court’. Talk of coincidences!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Brand of Brothers

Wars, battles and disasters, have created the fallacious notion that our soldiers are gun toting toy heroes born to die for their country. The underlying assumption here is that the army man is an emotionless, pre-programmed, remote-controlled robot built for the sole purpose of self-sacrifice. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For he’s a jolly good fellow, very unlike the zombies, one got to see in ‘Border’ and ‘Lakshya’. In reality, the jawan is as fun-loving, quirky and goofy as boys can be. May be that’s why the most ribald jokes and limericks get minted in military dorms.

The sense of humour of the infantryman is best reflected in the nicknames conjured up for their regiments. Members of The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry (TRGBWLI), for example, rechristened their loftily ludicrous name into the mildly amusing ‘Alphabety Spaghetti’. Even more ingenious were the battalions under 101st Airborne Division. They called themselves ‘One o’ Worst’ - a clever play on their official moniker.

The Canadians in Princess Louis Fusiliers were one notch higher. Inspired by their insignia of a grenade with flames, they hit upon the explosive nick ‘Flaming Testicle’. Likewise the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment’s abbreviation (LSSR) served as the cue word for creation of the ‘Losers’ tag.

Wordplay with abbreviations is a crowd favourite with armies across nations. If the Royal Canadian Regiment were ‘Run Chicken Run’, the Governor General’s Foot Guards became ‘God’s Gift to Fat Girls’! Not to be outdone, the caustic Brits re-labelled Queen’s Lancashire Regiment as ‘Quick Let’s Run’, the Royal Logistic Corps as ‘Retard’s Lone Choice’ and Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers as ‘Ruin Every Maiden Eventually’.

One can be sure that the relatively staid Indian Army has its fair share of earthy nicknames. Among the ones in the public domain, the charming story of Madras Goondas shimmers like a pettai rowdy’s freshly sharpened aruval.

It seems that the Second Battalion of the Madras Regiment is named so because of a tale that goes back to 1951 when some soldiers played Robin Hood to ensure timely supply of food grains for the famine-stricken people of Rajasthan. Thank god for the uniformed goondas!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Questionable Names

There are only four people who relish the prospect of asking sadistic questions. They are: the teacher, the philosopher, the quizzer and the nation-wants-to-know kind of TV anchors. Everyone else just dreads the prospect of facing the question mark.

Although it’s a much reviled piece of punctuation, the Question Mark commands and demands attention, by intriguing and intimidating the respondent. Its sheer ability to befuddle people is the single biggest reason for its deployment in creating best seller book titles and blockbuster movie titles.

When Agatha Christie hurls a ‘Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?’ at us, we are shocked out of our wits just like an ill-prepared student taking the IIT-JEE. We desperately flip the pages hoping to find the answers for three questions: Who the hell is Evans? What is it that ‘they’ want to ask? And why didn’t they ask Evans?

When Philip K Dick teases our minds with ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ we feel as inadequate as an intern on her first day of work. And a nervous query pops into our heads: can Androids really dream considering they are supposed to be machines?

Being a sci-fi novel that explores the Android-like behaviour of humans and the human-like behaviour of Androids, note how Philip manages to achieve his goal of sucking us into his world with a mere title!

Back in India, the Manoj Kumar thriller ‘Woh Kaun Thi?’ was the first ever Hindi movie to use a sawaal as the title. The air of mystery posed by the question helped the film to smash all box office records.

The Naseeruddin Shah starrer ‘Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai’ was the first flick to leverage the possibilities offered by rhetoric. The unusually long title captures the angst of the protagonist and draws the viewer into the heart of the debate that Albert Pinto has about capitalism.

‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ and ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ are some more celebrated examples in the rhetoric genre. The rather annoying song ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’ and American clothing brand ‘Guess?’ are visible demonstrations of the pulling power of question-themed names in other categories. Which brings us back to the same old query: Why did the chicken cross this road? And why aren't many more joining it?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Banned at birth.

There may be a billion things wrong with India but we have one privilege that not many nations have. We have the freedom to name our babies any which way we choose.

We can call someone ‘Ravan’ without raising the hackles of the saffron chaddiwalahs. We can write a song on ‘DK Bose’ without fear of censorship. We can proudly give ourselves the surname ‘Chutiya’ without worrying about sounding offensive. We can contest polls as ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Hitler’, ‘Stalin’ or ‘Latrine’ without causing a stink.

One cannot dream of such liberties even in the USA. The recent episode of a New Jersey dad being denied custody of his four children, thanks to his penchant for giving Nazi names, is a tiny taint on America.

You’d be surprised to know that many so-called developed countries have regressive name censorship regimes. New Zealand leads the pack by religiously issuing a list of taboo names, every year. Among the ones they deemed unacceptable include very civil monikers like ‘Majesty’, ‘King’, ‘Justice’, ‘Queen Victoria’, ‘Knight’ and ‘4Real’. Clearly, there’s no justice for real in Kiwi land.

The Germans are worse. Forenames are cleared only if male names feel masculine and female names appear feminine. Nothing in between ever gets the nod. Not even unisex words such as ‘Rain’, ‘Mist’, ‘Shine’, ‘Magic’ and ‘Love’. Now you know why Germany never produces a Magic Johnson.

Iceland is, by far, the most restrictive. Parents have no other option but to choose from a sarkari menu card of 1853 female and 1712 male names. What that means is a Cecilia, Celina, or Camelia are OUT, as Icelandic doesn’t have the letter C. In case you’re wondering, “then how come ‘Iceland’ contains ‘c’?” Well that’s because the locals pronounce ‘Iceland’ as ‘Island’!

Even Sweden has a pre-approved list of 7000 names. Any deviation requires special permission. Elisabeth Hallin and Lasse Diding protested the silliness of the law by naming their child ‘Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116’ (apparently pronounced ‘albin’). The government authorities didn’t see the humour in the proposal. They simply declined it. The couple had to finally settle for Albin Hallin. So the bottom line is, when naming babies, always go by the book.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Wimpy Before Psycho.

MacGuffin, as any Hitchcock buff will tell you, is a misleading device that drives the plot forward and is invariably forgotten by the end of the story. The stolen cash in Psycho, the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, the Golden Eye in GoldenEye and cricket in the IPL are classic MacGuffins.

In strict Hitchcockian sense, a working title (the decoy name of a movie prior to the release) is but a MacGuffin. Let’s examine ‘Wimpy’ to illustrate the point. If you were a curious onlooker and you happen to stroll into the shoot of a film called ‘Wimpy’, the last thing you’ll expect to see on screen is a macabre thriller named ‘Psycho’. That deception was what Alfred Hitchcock wished to achieve with his lame working title. He used the same technique once before when he deployed the very yucky ‘The Man in Lincoln’s Nose’ for ‘North by Northwest’.

Finicky directors who hate revealing even a whiff of their plot usually resort to working titles. Clint Eastwood famously chose ‘The Cut-Whore Killings’ for ‘Unforgiven’. Christopher Nolan picked ‘Rory’s First Kiss’ to keep the ‘The Dark Knight’ fan boys at bay. Woody Allen actually experimented with ‘Anhedonia’, ‘It had to be Jew’, and ‘Rollercoaster named Desire’ before settling on ‘Annie Hall’.

Some film makers like to drop a teensy hint about their story with working titles. When Garry Marshall hid ‘Pretty Woman’ from the public gaze with ‘$3000’, he was alluding to the going rate for uppity escorts. Mani Ratnam selected ‘Traffic Signal’ for ‘Yuva’ as Green, Red and Orange represented the three shades of characters in his Hindi flick. When Gautham Menon recently code named his movie as ‘Nithya’, he was actually clueing ‘Ninaivelaam Nithya’ - the romantic movie with the Illayaraja song ‘Neethaane En Ponvasantham’ - that later became the title of his Tamizh padam.

‘Snakes on a Plane’ is one of the rare movies where the working title perfectly matched the final title. In quirky India however, actual titles are consigned to the status of working titles whenever a producer finds a suitably marketable name. ‘Gyaarah Chalis ki Metro’ is a case in point. It was replaced by the very crass KLPD!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Code of Code Names

May was a rather dramatic month. Batku called it a day. Guruji and Jack dragged the Helicopter down. Raavan and Shining glittered but didn’t strike gold. Chashma looked listless. Model didn’t live up to his billing. Dada was caught out. Rotru, Mowgli and Kavala were jailed. While Monkey and Pagadi danced away to victory.

If that sounded like a load of gibberish to you, it obviously means that you haven’t kept pace with the bookie code names conceived for IPL 6.  In case you’re curious: Rotru means cry baby and it can only refer to India’s most famous slap victim. The rest of the names are fairly decipherable once you get the drift.

Employed first by the military during the World Wars, clandestine euphemisms or cryptonyms have come a long way.  The code names today rarely reek of seriousness. A tinge of humour is the flavour of our times.

Sample these from the United States Secret Service: George Dubya Bush, not exactly known for holding his drink, was given the ‘Tumbler’ moniker. Dick Cheney, a lover of fishing and spinmeister par excellence, earned the ‘Angler’ tag. Barack Obama was called ‘Renegade’ which literally means ‘Christian turned Muslim’. And Richard Nixon, best known for the late night break-ins into the Watergate hotel, was fortuitously named as ‘Searchlight’!

Companies are equally funny when it comes to code names. When Microsoft employees were surreptitiously referring to Windows 95 as ‘Chicago’, the cheeky folks at Apple called their competing product ‘Capone’ after Al Capone, the mafia boss who tormented Chicago. Likewise, spunky Facebook has picked ‘Buffy’ for its secret new phone. ‘Buffy’ as everyone knows is the ‘vampire slayer’. The allusion here is to the blood sucking evil Google!

Not every one fancies a funny code name. Google has a glad eye for desserts - which explains why they chose Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo (Frozen Yoghurt) Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich for the various avatars of Android. Mozilla has a thing for national parks. Intel, Microsoft and Blackberry love place names. Mac OS X has a fixation for animals. ‘What about Indian companies?’ you may ask. Well, our covert names are among the world’s best-kept secrets.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Sweetest Revenge

Hitchcock once said: “Revenge is sweet and not fattening.” On deeper analysis, his quip indeed feels deep. Think about it. When life serves you lemons, the only artificial sweetener at your disposal is the aspartame of vendetta. When sprinkled in the right portions, it lightens up the bitterness, melts away the rancour and replaces the taste of acerbity with the saccharine glee of tit-for-tat.

For those who want their retribution to linger a little longer, there’s always ‘revenge naming’. It’s the practice of labelling a living thing or object after a name you despise, so that it acts as a permanent advertisement for whatever you hate.

Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, was the pioneer of the concept. When academician Johann Siegesbeck was busy denouncing his ideas, Linnaeus got even by naming a foul-smelling yucky weed as ‘Siegesbeckia Orientalis’.  

Carl was not the only one to take veiled jibes at opponents. Out of disdain for Anne Chisholm - the critic who trashed her novel - Jilly Cooper immortalised a goat in her next novel by calling it ‘Chisholm’. Understandably Anne wasn’t amused. They say it got her goat!

Revenge names, sometimes, present a handy valve for jilted wives to ventilate their anger. When Victoria Bage discovered that her husband had a mistress, she decided to embarrass him once for all by launching ‘Sarah Coggles’, a fashion store in Yorkshire. Every time someone asked her about the identity of ‘Sarah Coggles’, she used to regale her audience with salacious tales of her man’s fling with Miss Coggles!

In Michael Jackson’s case, it was just the reverse. He punished Diana Ross, the crooner who spurned him for Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Naess, by releasing the famed single ‘Dirty Diana’.

Using names as weapons to take pot shots at hate figures took an altogether political turn recently, when a French gaming designer created ‘Kill Mittal’. Apparently, his aim was to demonise Lakshmi Mittal, the billionaire responsible for shutting down steel plants in France. The game got such bad press for Arcelor Mittal that the steelmaker is now said to be steeling itself against more attacks. What this goes to show is: there is power in naming and shaming. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

When Mars Gains Currency.

If everything goes according to plan, four lucky souls from Earth will establish the first-ever human settlement on Mars by April 2023.

While landing on the red planet will be the easier part, staying put will be an altogether trickier proposition. Because out there: the average temperature is minus 60 degrees Celsius, the air pressure is the equivalent of living in a mountain five times the height of Mt. Everest, the oxygen content in the atmosphere is less than 1%, the surface gravity is 38% of what we face, and worst of all, there are no known water bodies. So the chance of survival of the four astronauts is almost the same as that of four tiny ants in Antarctica!

Assuming they rough it out and somehow procreate, in a few hundred years, we’d have created a whole new civilisation. From our wealth of earthly experience, we know that civilisations cannot be sustained on love and fresh air alone. Money is the vital ingredient for viability. And to generate money you need a currency first.

Considering Mars doesn’t have its own dollar, euro or yen, we’ll have to invent a new medium of exchange that’ll be acceptable to all. Suggestions have already started pouring in on possible options. The Mars Candy Bar is the universal favourite as it appeals to the inner child in us. Marzipan (almond confectionery), comes a close second. Between the two, it’s highly likely for people to prefer the former as 100,000 Mars Bars sounds far more sumptuous than 100,000 Marzipans.

If the Martians were to vote for a paper currency, then we’ll be forced to designate it with a name that captures the spirit of Mars. Since not much spadework has been done in this domain, let’s attempt to kick start the conversation by floating a few candidates.

Since Mars is the fourth planet, ‘Quads’ (Latin for four) offers an interesting choice. ‘Reddies’ is another likeable option as it captures the ruddiness of the terrain. ‘Ferrix’ (a variation of Ferric) could be a possibility as the planet is rich in iron ore. ‘Savoys’ (from Sevvai - Tamil for Mars) is an exotic take. Whatever the final pick, it better be out of the world!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Same Same Name

Would you notice a man wearing a white shirt? I can hear your resounding NO, sitting in Kilpauk. Now would you notice the same man if he wore a white shirt, white pants, white cap, white shoes, white gloves, white watch and white goggles? You would spot him from a mile, right? That’s the power of repetition. It can make sameness, stand apart.

Tautonyms (or ditto names, as I call them) use the same principle to incredible effect by repeating syllables twice. ‘Tata’ is perhaps, the best example. It’s a behemoth of a conglomerate and yet, the name is approachable, full of warmth and evokes instant affection. A teensy bit of the credit should go to the duplicative sound arrangement of the name.

Child-friendliness is one more reason for the adorability. Names like ZooZoo (the Vodafone creature with balloon body and egg head) and Tintin (the amiable Belgian comic character) roll off the tongue, very easily for kids, as they are very similar in structure to baby words like ‘Papa’, ‘Mama’, ‘Nana’, ‘Didi’, ‘Thatha’, ‘Dada’, ‘Kaka’, ‘Chacha’ and ‘Dhudhu’.

The juvenile innocence of Tun Tun brings a smile to your face even before you see the fat lady emoting. The nickname Chi Chi makes Govinda more endearing than he could ever imagine. Lady Gaga blasts away the icy visage of Stefani Joane Angeline Germanotta. Tuktuk morphs the rickety motor vehicle into a plump cutesy boy. Bulbul creates a lively little girl aura around the nightingale. Twenty-Twenty feels far lighter and unboring compared to the uptight Test Match.

The winsome nature of repetition is further attested by the formidable success of chartbusters such as ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’, ‘Dhak Dhak’, ‘Chaiya Chaiya’, ‘Hamma Hamma’, ‘Kandukondein Kandukondein‘, ‘Yathey Yathey’, and ‘Waka Waka’.

I suspect that our ancestors might have known about the power of reduplication much earlier. May be that’s why they injected the chants ‘Shiva Shiva’, ‘Govinda Govinda’ and ‘Ram Ram’ into the pedestrian parlance.

Zsa Zsa Gabor and Moon Moon Sen are among the celebrities who’ve mikled this strategy. Bisou Bisou and Miu Miu are some fashionable brands that have followed suit. So I guess it helps to be of the same mould.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

On lemons and melons.

Fruit names have always fascinated me. Who’s that Kamala in Kamala Orange? What does the ‘coco’ in coconut mean? Why is, the pomegranate, not called the apple? How come the Tamil Sapota sounds like the Spanish Zapote? When did the Chinese Gooseberry become the Kiwifruit? Which came first ‘maang kaai’ or ‘mango’? Where on earth did Tangerine come from? These are some of the questions that have tormented me ever since I bit my first apple. When I tried seeking the answers, I realised we don’t know jack about the jackfruit.

Yup, the Jackfruit is not named after Captain Jack Sparrow from the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. It’s derived from the Portugese ‘jaca’ which in turn is a lift from the Malayalam term ‘chakka pazham’.

If that surprised you, listen to this Malay fable. Once upon a time, an elephant strolled into an orchard. Seeing the succulent fruits it went delirious. It ate and ate, till its belly burst. Years later, when a passerby examined its fossil, he discovered that the culprit was the fruit. He called it Naaga Ranga which translates to ‘fatal indigestion of elephants’ in Sanskrit. Over time it seems Naaga Ranga became Naranga, Oranja and finally Orange! Take the anecdote with a pint of salt. The fact remains that Orange owes its origins to Naranga.

And what about Kamala Orange? Kamala in Sanskrit just means ‘pale red’ or ‘yellowish red’. So Kamala is only a colour allusion.

The Coconut has a more interesting story. When some Spanish explorers stumbled upon the nut, the three eyes of the coconut reminded them of a ‘monkey face’ or coco. Hence the name.

Avocado (testicle tree), Pomegranate (apple from Granada), Chikku (chicozapote) and Guava (guaya) have similar Hispanic roots. While Mango comes from the Portugese Manga which in turn is an offspring of ‘Maang Kai’ from Tamil.

Now to the Kiwifruit conundrum. Although ‘Chinese Gooseberry’ was the original name, some farmers in New Zealand were craving for a moniker reflecting their land. Exporter Jack Turner suggested ‘Kiwifruit’ as the fruit’s hairy exterior reminded him of the hairy bird!
Talking of geography, Tangerine is from Tangiers, Morocco, and Peach from Persia. Hope that was fruity loops to your ears.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What the Gandhi Dynasty owes India.

Naming rights is a nascent industry in India. BCCI, the famed not-for-profit society was the earliest to milk the potential to a Yes Bank Maximum by hawking every teensy thing associated with IPL. As Amrit Mathur points out here, the BCCI rakes in annual franchisee fee payments ranging from ₹ 198 crores from Sahara Pune Warriors to ₹ 36 crores from Rajasthan Royals. Considering the title rights (2013 to 2017) was sold to Pepsi for ₹ 396.8 crores, you can clearly imagine the cash cow that has been created by a mere transfer of verbal branding rights. Although sports is the lead arena for naming rights, internationally several cash-strapped universities, governments and hospitals have raised truckloads of money by deploying this strategy. To give you a quick idea:

 University of Missouri-Kansas City (UKMC) retails professorship naming rights for ₹ 4 crores, endowed chair for ₹ 8 crores, restroom branding for ₹ 13 lakhs and bigger ticket items for amounts ranging in the realm of ₹ 30 crores and above.

 The Pattison Avenue Terminus was renamed as AT&T Station by the city of Philadelphia for a price of ₹ 21 crores. In Camp Hill, Pensylvania, government officials were offering to name two gyms for ₹ 1.3 crores each, the town library for ₹ 80 lakhs and high school counseling offices for ₹ 8 lakhs!

 Hasbro Children's Hospital at Rhode Island Hospital, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey, and Mattel Children's Hospital at the University of California, Los Angeles are some hospitals that have benefited. It seems, Hasbro paid ₹ 13 crores way back in 1994 to clinch the deal.

Given this background, now let's examine what our Government of India has been doing, year on year. Naming rights to all leading institutions in all leading cities, has been gifted away to the Gandhi Family for almost nothing. Here's a very conservative estimate of the loss incurred by the tax payer:

  •  6 Airports and ports. Let's apply a basic fee of Rs. 50 crores a year. That's 300 crores gone. 
  •  98 Universities and educational institutions. Let's apply a peanut fee of 50 lakhs per institution per year. That's 49 crores gone down the drain. 
  •  39 Hospitals. Applying a pessimistic rate of 1 crore per hospital. That's 39 crores gifted away. 
  •  74 Roads, Buildings and Places. If the naming rights were to be auctioned, it will yield at least 50 lakhs per entity per year. That's again 39 crores. 
  •  15 National Parks and Sanctuaries. Since every corporate covets the green tag, the naming rights may yield at least 10 crore per park per year. That's 150 crores. 
  • 1 Airport and 1 port. @ 50 crores/year, the damage is 100 crores. 
  •  11 Universities and educational institutions. @ 50 lakhs/year, the loss is 5.5 crores. 
  •  5 Museums and Parks. @ 10 crore/year, the government loses 50 crores. 
  •  5 Convention halls and sports arenas. @ 10 crores / year, GOI gave up 50 crores of revenue. 
 I am not going to count the awards and other schemes named after Indira and Rajiv.

The net opportunity loss per year for the government of India is at least 775 crores. That's just for the naming rights. Think of what all can be done with 775 crores. For starters we could feed at least 7 lakh people below poverty line (Montek's definition of 28 rupees per day) for a whole year!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Immortal Daughters

Dads have a history of moving heaven and earth for their daughters. Mike Micka hacked an entire video game to let his daughter play saviour instead of Mario. Tom Cruise blew up 3 million pounds to hire a private jet to see his daughter Suri on her seventh birthday. Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan actually went all the way to the moon to etch the initials of his little girl (Tracy Dawn Cernan) on the lunar surface!

Entrepreneurs wow their daughters with a simple trick. They name their brands after their favourite child to give them the gift of immortality. When Karsanbhai Patel lost his daughter Nirupama to a car accident, he brought her to life again by christening his detergent as Nirma (her pet name). Just to make sure no one forgets her, he put her illustration on the pack and in the TV commercial. Result: Nirma lives in millions of households today and everyone knows her as the girl in that billowing white frock.

Steve Jobs’ case was slightly different. When he named Apple’s first ever PC as Lisa, it was to overcome his guilt as he had denied paternity in court by disclaiming the physical ability to procreate a child. So he couched it by planting stories that Lisa was an acronym for Local Integrated System Architecture. But later, he admitted that it was a nod to his daughter Lisa Nicole.

The commercial failure of Lisa brought to fore the inherent risks attached in the ‘immortalise my princess’ strategy. But the stupendous success of Barbie (nick name of Barbara, daughter of Mattel’s cofounder) doused the fire of doubt and emboldened Mattel to launch one more doll in the name of Barbara’s brother Ken!

Sara Lee, Wendy’s and Skoda Felicia are three more illustrious examples where daughter names have proved to be veritable blockbusters. The home appliances brand Usha and the fabric whitener company Jyothi Laboratories are some Indian success stories in this ‘beti brand’ genre. But fame for one daughter can cause needless sibling rivalry. The only way out of this logjam is to launch another brand in the other daughter’s name!