What’s in a name?

Bouquet of Roses on the lawn. Image courtesy of SundayMorning at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Bouquet of Roses on the lawn.
Image courtesy of Sunday Morning at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“What’s in a name? That which we call a Rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare

My name is C S Vijayaraghavan and I feel that there’s much more to one’s name than what usually meets the eye. My own name, for instance, has an interesting history. The year I was born, my father passed his Department’s SAS Part II exam and to celebrate the occasion my parents christened me ‘Vijay’ which signifies ‘Victory’. But that was not to be end of it for my parents were ardent devotees of Lord Ram (my elder brother’s name is ‘Sriram’) and so ‘Raghavan’ was added to complete the picture (or rather the name). ‘Raghavan’, I am told, is but another name of Raghuvanshi Lord Ram as per the Indian mythology.

My name baffles most of my friends. They can’t quite grasp the fact that most Madrasis have no surnames. And I have had to clarify umpteen number of times that ‘Vijayaraghavan’ is my name and that ‘Raghavan’ is not to be read apart as my surname.

The next mocking query is:  “What does C S stand for – Common Sense?” And I answer to the point and not wanting to elaborate it much, “It stands for my native place and my father’s name respectively”. “And what do they stand for?”,  they would ask eagerly. Then I am forced to tell them that “C’ refers to a sleepy village near Chennai called ‘Chetipunyam’ and ‘S’ stands for my father’s name ‘Sheshadri’. Most of them find the name rather funny and would burst out in laughter.Even I am not much annoyed now for it has happened far too often and I am a bit indifferent to it.

Then some wise guy would announce, ‘Chetipunyam Sheshadri Vijayaraghavan’ – that is a mouthful for a name. Next I would find myself explaining to them that the letter ‘C’ is common to our family tree for many generations now while the second initial depends  upon the father’s name. They would nod their heads and I would be pleased to have enlightened them about the traditions of South Indian names. But alas! They are apt to be forgetful or there are some new friends around and so my ‘name’ story has become an unending saga in itself.

I have had a priceless compliments bestowed to my name. Like this year when our college group had just returned from the Botany excursion trip to Mahableshwar and I made acquaintance with a girl who stayed close to my home. And so we shared the auto-rickshaw trip on our way back. Now though she was my classmate and a familiar face, I still didn’t even know her name. So I asked her and she replied, ‘Kalpana’. And then she added, “And I know your name is Vijay. And you know why because it is Amitabh Bachchan’s name in most of his films. I just love his films.” I was speechless and for once did not say anything further. Incidentally among the  various ‘Vijay’ characters portrayed by Amitabh in his films, the most famous rendition is ‘Vijay Deenanath Chauhan’ in ‘Agneepath’. And often I have had friends use that name for me just to have some fun.

And to think that as a child I had found my name to be drab and dull. In fact I spent much time inventing new names which I felt suited me better. My favorites, for no particular reason, were Albert Pinto, Pheroze Batliwala and Sarfaraz.

But returning to the present, I confess that I have a deep fondness for my name. I still remember that when I was on the Editorial Board of our school newspaper, one of my assignments had been to write a report on the ‘Annual Day’ function. I wrote a lengthy piece that appeared in full but the byline that ought to carry my name was missing. I was very much upset that day and it was then that I realized that my name was my identity.

And so I take much pride (in spite of all the idiosyncrasies attached to it) in the fact that I am C S Vijayaraghavan and no one else.

The article appeared under ‘The Middle’ column on October 20 1997 in a local newspaper, ‘Maharashtra Herald’ in Pune, India. ‘Vijay’ was a popular name in my generation and I use it colloquially as it is easy to recognize and remember. I would tend to think that ‘Rahul’ and ‘Sachin’ succeeded it in the next generation.

I have had more adventures with my name after I started working. The officers manning ‘Passport Control’ would be doubly foxed in having to deal with an Indian name and such a long one at that. One of them was kind enough to educate me that his computer screen did not have enough ‘character’ boxes available to capture it in full.

Often the hotels that I stayed at would mess up the name while drawing my final bill – I made life easier for them by asking them to use my name as per my ‘Business Card’. And yes, it continues to be popular for my Indian friends to sometimes call me, ‘Vijay Deenanath Chauhan’.


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