Allegedly| Society

Name the game

Would I like a cricket stadium named after me? Not that anyone has offered to do so, although, come to think if it, they should, since my contribution to Indian cricket is less than zero. But I wonder how I’d react if Sourav Ganguly comes to me with a special request.

“Mr. Sampath, the BCCI has built a new cricket stadium in Gummidipoondi. Can we please name it after you?”

Knowing me, I guess I’d be overwhelmed by modesty.

“You seriously want to name Gummidipoondi’s largest ever cricket stadium after the world’s largest partly free democracy’s most renowned partly independent journalist?”

“Absolutely.”

“Mr. Ganguly, how many crores will you pay me for the privilege of splashing my brand name on the stadium walls?”

Narcissistic practice

Given the Board’s attachment to money, I’m sure the demand for compensation would squelch the possibility of Gummidipoondi ever getting a ‘Shri G. Sampath Cricket Stadium’. But frankly, I’m not the stadium type. My wife has a theory that everyone belongs to a particular ‘type’ when it comes to naming entities after themselves.

Some people like to lend their name to perfumes. So you have perfumes named Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Rihanna. Others give their names to businesses. So you have companies named after Adani, Tata, Birla. But not everyone is so conventional. Scientists, for example, give their names to effects, which is why you have the Raman Effect.

When I was studying physics in school, I used to fantasise about discovering a Sampath Effect, or a sub-atomic particle, similar to the boson but better-looking, which would be named ‘sampathon’ in my honour despite my fervent pleas to end this narcissistic practice of naming natural phenomena after oneself. Unfortunately, my achievements in physics did not keep pace with my nomenclatural ambitions, and the world’s wait for the discovery of sampathons continues.

But the honour that eluded me in physics sought me out in literature. The visionary R.K. Narayan was so ahead of his time that he named his greatest novel after me even though I wasn’t physically incarnated at the time of its publication. For those of you who don’t know, the novel is called, quite simply, Mr. Sampath — and unlike my annoying north Indian friends, he didn’t forget the ‘h’ at the end. When it comes to having your name on stuff, I’d say a literary classic beats a cricket stadium any day.

Advantage, A-listers?

The last time I gave so much thought to names was when I sat with Kattabomman for his online ‘oral recapitulation’. Students (and their parents) have to log in on Zoom and wait for their turn. When Katta’s turn didn’t come even after 45 minutes, I messaged his teacher, who told me I had to wait some more as they were going by alphabetical order.

I had assumed there would be other kids whose turn would come after Katta’s but I was wrong. He was the last child to be called, and no wonder. Of the 25 kids in this class, 24 had names starting with ‘A’, Katta being the lone exception. There were three kids named Aarav, one Aarush, one Aarya, two ‘Aanya’s, two ‘Ayaan’s, three boys named Ayaansh, an Aradhya, an Aaradhya, three ‘Avni’s, an Anvi, Asvi and Aswathi each, an Aadil, two ‘Advik’s and an Aardvark. So this is how Indian parents have gamed the system so that their child’s name is at the top of every list, which would mean they get the first chance in everything — from giving attendance to oral recap.

Now I am under pressure to make amends so that Kattabomman gets a level playing field with the ‘A-listers’ in his class. My father wants to change his name to ‘Aarumugam’, which he believes would propel him to the top of the attendance register. My wife, who is a bit of a Tiger Mom, wants to annihilate the competition. She has asked me to choose from three options: ‘Aaaaaaaditya’, ‘Aaaaaaaaahaan’ or ‘Aaaaaaaaatish’.

On the face of it, changing the name seemed a reasonable course of action. Katta doesn’t even have an Aadhaar yet, and the only government document with his name on it is his birth certificate. If we change his name now, to say, “Aaaaaaaaaakash’, he would have the first mover’s advantage for the rest of his life.

But I happened to mention this plan to a friend in Germany, and his reaction stopped us in our tracks. “Being the first name in every list could be a double-edged sword,” he said. He pointed out that it depends on the type of list, whether you want to be at the top or the bottom of the alphabetical order. As he put it, “What if they are picking names for the detention camp? You still want to be top of the list?”

So, for the time being, we have decided to maintain status quo. Besides, there’s another thing we hadn’t taken into account — the sentiments of the man whose name Kattabomman bears.

G. Sampath, author of this satire, is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

sampath.g@thehindu.co.in

This column is a satirical take on life and society
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Printable version | May 13, 2021 5:34:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/satire-name-the-game-the-importance-of-naming/article34167837.ece

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