Thursday, March 24, 2016

Zed Letter Day

For 300 weeks, I’ve been serving you a curious potion laced with a hint of trivia, a slice of etymology and a dash of name history. You’ve been a willing partaker of my experiments with truth, no matter how tasteless the servings. Here’s my parting shot dedicated to all you lovely people who’ve been part of my journey.

Befittingly, it’s about the last, lonely letter that probably gets as much respect as the twelfth man in a club cricket team. To clear the air, ‘Zed’ wasn’t always the vestigial tail of the English alphabet. Till the nineteenth century, the ampersand (&) took that slot. But after the dawn of the modern age, the crown of thorns has been worn by Z.

Z owes its origins and its zigzag form to the Greek zeta. Dropped from the alphabet in 300 BC for being ‘archaic’, the letter is staging a comeback of sorts with the advent of start-ups like ‘Zovi’, ‘Zo Rooms’, ‘Zopper’, and ‘Zivame’.

The cool thing with Z is it’s often associated with energy. If you don’t believe me, recall all the z-words you know: Zippy means ‘full of vigour’; Zing is about liveliness; Zest is enthusiasm; Zeal is ‘driven by energy’; Zany is ‘over the top’; and ‘Zindagi’ is life itself.

Another factor that works to its advantage is Z sticks out in serpentine lists. There may be 196 countries, but Zambia and Zimbabwe are likely to figure in everyone’s Top 30 in terms of recall. If you ask a kid to rattle out animal names, chances are ‘Zebra’ might make the cut, pretty fast. Provoke a movie lover into naming European actresses, Hungarian ‘Zsa Zsa Gabor’ might pop up from nowhere. For similar reasons, Zakir Hussain, Zubin Mehta, Zico Coimbra, Zeenat Aman and Zig Ziglar, can never be forgotten while drawing up A-to-Z compilations.

Numerology has always treated Z with respect. Health, stamina, willpower, achievement, diligence, courage, faith and charisma are traits associated with the letter. But do take it with a pinch of salt as the Double Z cues sleep in popular culture. And the mathematical symbol of nothingness is Zero. Still, even if you’re a zombie, with all the Zaras and the Zappos, and the Zippos and the Zomatos, you can’t help but admit, that Z has the last laugh today!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

King of Good Crimes

There’s a new villain in the grand narrative of India. It’s the diamond-watch wearing asura who lives the rich life in a castle in a faraway land, even while his impoverished company owes 9000 crores to a nation, where poor farmers commit suicide due to their inability to lay piffling sums.

Let’s analyse Vijay Mallya’s crime before we crucify him. His award-winning airline that created 4000 jobs bled from day one. It accumulated a pile of debt in full public view right under the nose of the RBI. Air India did what Kingfisher Airlines did at an even larger scale – yes, the Maharaja owes the government 30,000 crores! Strangely no one screamed, shouted or shed a tear. Not even Arnab.

So clearly, what is bothering most people is not that VJ defaulted loans, but ‘how he continues to live it up remorselessly’. The public would have probably loved it had Mallya lived a life of penury and penitence walking street to street with a begging bowl. But Mallya being Mallya, he will always do what comes naturally to him.

Because the life number and name number of Vijay Mallya is 5. Ruled by the planet Mercury, he will continue to punt all his life, take risks and enjoy large slices of luck.

And by the way, Mallya is more pluck than luck. He’s the guy who started his career as an intern at Hoechst and ended up as its Chairman. Having inherited his dad’s brewery business, he took it even greater heights. Capturing 9% of the world whisky market doesn’t happen that often in our country, no?

Where he probably went wrong was: instead of being a Richard Branson, he chose to be a Donald Trump, who incidentally declared bankruptcy not once but four times! In the first instance Trump owed 3 billion dollars. That’s nearly 2.5 times more than Mallya’s bad debt! To think that Trump is in the race for presidency today just goes to show that Mallya still has hope. Lots of it.

The surname Mallya means ‘caretaker of palaces’. He’s been true to his name by amassing property after property. But can he retain them given the current crisis? Or will he capitulate? For answers, we’ll have to look at the names of the horses he owned at Kunigal Stud Farm. There’s one named ‘Capitulate’. It went on to be a winner, against all odds.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Rapper Wrap Up

T Rajendar can legitimately claim to be our first ever rap star. He could effortlessly rhyme thangachi with kottanguchi long before Baba Sehgal could pack chakraya and ghabraya into ‘Thanda Thanda Pani’. But unfortunately for TR, he was suppressed, oppressed, and repressed because of his pedestrian name. Had he repackaged himself as ‘Ra Gender’, ‘T Bear’, ‘Kara D’, or ‘Gangsta R’ he could have won a Grammy or two by now, for the Best Rap Performance!

Such is life. You’ve gotta have a ghettoesque name if you wanna do ghetto-style rap. Which is probably why a Curtis Jackson opted for the stage name 50 Cent.

For the unaware, Curtis chose this as a tribute to an American criminal Kelvin Martin who became infamous as ‘50 Cent’ for robbing just about anyone irrespective of how much they were carrying.

Most rapper names are monikers meant to grab attention - mostly the wrong sort of attention. You need to be smoking a warped kind of weed to call yourself ‘Shorty Shitstain’, ‘Yak Ballz’, ‘Boobe’, ‘Hot Rod’, ‘Young Thugga’ or ‘Pudgee Tha Fat Bastard’, right?

But there are also artists who don’t try to be too wannabe. Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arupragasam, the British Tamil artist, opted for ‘MIA’ after her cousin brother Jaana who went missing in action in Sri Lanka. Cordozar Calvin Broadus was nicknamed Snoopy by his mom as he used to watch a lot of Charlie Brown on TV. So he picked ‘Snoop Dogg’ as his identity.

Shawn Carter opted for ‘Jay Z’ inspired by the ‘Jazzy’ label that was associated with him when he was young. The white rapper Marshall Matthers flirted briefly with ‘Slim Shady’ before settling on Eminem, drawn from his initials M&M. Nayvadius Wilburn selected the offbeat ‘Future’ as he heard many of his buddies say, ‘he’s the future’.

Indian artists have learnt their lessons fast from their blingy brothers in the west. Otherwise why would the ‘Lungi Dance’ man rename himself from Hirdesh Singh to ‘Yo Yo Honey Singh’? The aim to layer the business card with a coat of coolness also prompted Taran Kaur Dhillon to experiment with ‘Hard Kaur’. Bangalore’s up and coming ‘Brodha V’ wouldn’t have made it had he stuck with his given name ‘Vighnesh Shivanand’. The Zambian Tam Bram ‘Lakshmi Narasimha Vijaya Rajagopala Sheshadri Sharma Rajesh Raman’ would have spent all his life saying ‘abhivadye’ had he not shortened it to ‘Blaaze’ (derived from ‘Blasé’, meaning nonchalant)! Ergo, the crux of the matter is: don’t use the name given by your mother; to rock in rap, choose some other!