Friday, April 25, 2008

Nicks and names

There was a discussion on the Drift recently about nicknames - thanks to one killer star son called Mimoh. And this really kicked in a bunch of memories for me.

Nicknames in my neighborhood used to abound. Often you'd get stuck with rote, boring ones. At home, I was probably the only kid in the world whose nickname was longer and more complicated than his real one. Mum called me Aspandiar - an affectionate mangling of Esfandiyar. Outside I went by the rather blah Bawa - which was pretty much ensured if you were a Parsi kid.

There was only one variation on this. When we started learning German, the kids started calling me Bauer for a brief period of time. This period of brilliant inventiveness lasted only a few weeks.

Yet when I heard the names handed out to my friends, I would often be thankful to be stuck with a boring one.

Why, next door, my best friend was called Piston. Rumor had it that this nickname came from my friend's untiring, uh, prowess. But not only did I know that my friend had never done it before but also happened to be there when he earned his alias. Turns out he would dive from the high board at the municipal swimming pool in such terror that his rigid body resembled a piston.

My favorite name - I say this with some shame - was a hugely biased one. Dilip was the darkest person in our extended neighborhood and so we called him Kalajam. So dark was he that when he would come out to play in one of our 1o over tennis ball night games all you could see were his bat and shoes (Dilip loved to wear dark clothes and our games had poor lighting - more like we picked the brightest spot near some streetlights).

When he took guard, he loved to smile. So we'd see a bat, shoes and some brilliantly white teeth. Since Dilip was a pichhle jamaane ka Dhoni, when he would walk out the crowd would erupt and chant his nickname.

A few doors down was Lala who used to hate me with a passion. The primary reason was that whenever I saw him I would call out his name. And when he'd look inquiringly in my direction I would pretend to be singing a song that started out with la-la.

We had a Kanji in our neighborhood. Kanji's best friend was a boy of unfortunately short height. We called him Gattuman. His sister was tremendously alluring but hugely commanding. We called her Don. The fair guy was called Bhurya. The guy with hair problems was called Bodiya. The thin one was called Bhinda.

Even our gulley ka stray had a nickname: Baluti because she was small and rather affectionate.

Also:

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

This brings back memories. We had a rather short guy in our class who was nicknamed "unit vector". We also had a G. Anand whose name was uncharitably shortened to Gand. Then there was a Ganpat in our neighborhood, you can imagine what his nickname would be.

-- Texan

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Hi
This reminded me on what I wrote sometime back on Mallu Names.

http://snipurl.com/25qhi [blog_nikhil_co_in]

:-)

Nice post

Never Mind!! said...

You sound like such a brat! I have a nickname and I would die before I reveal it :P. When we were little, Kaushik was Cow-sh*t, Saket was socket, etc.

Aspi said...

I was a brat. I've gotten better.

And I didn't even mention that we used to have a girl in college who looked like a girl in school. So we called her psuedo-Bala.

Tania said...

Bengalis have the weirdest nick names for boys. Names like Bhombol, Potol, Bheblu, Kaloo, Phonte, Babui, Bul etc etc.
One of my great aunts hade names all the uncles Raja, Rana, Kumar and Badshah and then she named her grandkids Prince, Duke and Dollar(I don't know why dollar).And that brings some fond college memories where we called the Prof Mosh Pal instead of MC Pal just because he was from khata pita khandan.And then one of my friends was called Bobby coz he liked Dimple in the movie Bobby when he was a sheer toddler :)(Thats what his mom told me).But he used to proclaim that he was named after one of those famous soccer players.

Pitu said...

Bhurya reminds me of the rather amazing story of how my grandpa found his dad (my great grandpa) in the Himalayas just with a black and white photo and the name 'Bhurya Joglekar'. Great grandpa had become a sanyasi and nobody knew his new name since he joined the Shaivites. Armed with the nickname, my persistent grandpa actually found the man!!!

I completely agree with everyone on Bong nicknames. My neighbor in Mumbai is a decorated Air Force officer (he received a medal for courage in Kargil) and he's this tall, burly guy stationed at Leh outpost. He'd come to Mumbai on leave and everyone STILL called him Babloo :-D The dude is married to an Air Force officer and they are the very anti-thesis of Babloos!

girlie girl said...

Gujju's have wicked names too...they usually rhyme or dont make any sense. I have cousins whose nicknames rhyme with their sister's nicknames. Pinkey, Chinkey...Dolly, Holly...It's the weirdest thing. We used to have this guy in our society in Surat...he grew up with my dad and he was this lanky tall, weird looking kid so they named him Bamboo...even now, he is a very successful surgeon and yet, he's called Bamboo!!

meena said...

Talking of bengali names sometime back two sistrs (twins) were featured on a magazine cover, I forget which, and the only reason I remember this are the names. get this ...Tapur and Tupur!
I go into whoops everytime I think of their names.
Can someone tell me if they actually mean anything?

Pitu said...

If I am not mistaken, their names refer to the sounds of the rain. You know, like pitter patter. I once begged my mom to change my name from Priti to Rimjhim, just coz there was a girl named Rimjhim in my colony. Sigh! Such a romantic name!

Aspi said...

And who can forget Dimple, Rimple and Simple - the last of which fortunately didn't go on to become a rocket scientist. Otherwise the irony would have thick enough to cut with a knife.

And Dimple named her daughter Twinkle. I've heard Akshay and Twinkle have already picked out a name if they have a daughter: Example.

Mind Rush said...

Yup, I too can vouch for the fact that tapur-tupur is the supposed Bengali sound of falling rain.

Pitu said...

Aspi, the treasure trove of utterly faltoo info that my brain is, I can tell you that Dimple's dad was going to name her firstborn. So he gave Dimple the following options- Sprinkle, Sparkle or Twinkle. She chose Twinkle :-p I have often wondered (when I am in a deeply philosophical mood) what exactly Rinke Khanna's name really is. I finally came to the conclusion that her name has to be WRINKLE, and out of shame she coined herself Rinke :-D

Mind Rush said...

OK, Aspi, you totally deserve no sympathy for having to hear the Jimmy song....

BTW, some of the most brilliant and merciless nicknames are given in IIT to incoming freshers. See the novel "Above Average" by Amitabha Baghchi for LOL examples. People in IIT forget your real name and 20 years later they will still call folks by their nicknames.

Aspi said...

Pitu, that's a hilarious hypotheses.

And great story about your great granddad.

m said...

twinkle now prefers to be called "Tina"..

girlie girl said...

Aspi, have you noticed, every Gujju family has one Pintu and one Lala(bhai, kaka, mama...etc) in it?!

Kanan said...

Great laughs, Aspi! maja aavi gayi.

Btw, I know of this aunty who had her nephew change his name to Nish from Nishit before coming to the US. LOL! Some of the Indians names should be completely banned in the US. Those poor fellows... I feel so bad for them. :P

I hate some of those nicknames we Gujaratis give our maids like "boDi", "tini" and whatnot. :D

leera said...

My nick name is actually more convoluted than my 2 syllable proper name. Hardly anyone but my parents call me by it. 'Jhinuk' pronounced jheenook means seashell in bengali.

Aspi said...

girlie girl, you are right. And most Shahs and Patels here had their first two initials as their nicknames when they grew up. Like MMuncle and PPkaka.

Kanan, yes, some of those names were terrible. I never quite understood how people agreed to them.

leera, your nickname is terribly cute. We'll have to call you that. If I was your brat neighbor I would call it out and then pretend I was singing that song from Aaja Nachle which went Jhinuk Jhinuk Than.

Cinderella said...

my friends call me 'kutti' just because i have mallu connections even though i have no similarity in any way as to what a mallu looks like or does!and i hate it everytime they call me that!!!!!!!they can call me a thousand different names instead..but why kutti??? i don't like it!!

Cinderella said...

and the 't' in kutti is like the 't' in 'take'..don't read it wrong..lol!!

leera said...

Thanks Aspi, i have always been a little conscious of it because noone outside of Bengal could pronounce it and I didn't want it to end up as jhinky or chinky!

The coolest nickname I have ever heard was my best friend from high school supriya nambal, or as she preferred to be called N.P. On further enquiry I learnt that they were the initials of her original village in Karnataka!

leera said...

Have to agree with Tania on the bong nicknames. I have cousins called Koko,kaju and kishmeesh respectively.
My brother however is Bubka (My dad was a fan of pole vaulter Sergei Bubka) and I mercilessly shortened it to boob which he has never forgiven me for!

nepalese_princess said...

in Nepal, extremely dark people are not common, unless they're madhesis from the very south bordering india...so we make a note. we called my very unusually black friend KALIMATA. this other guy was called PELE cuz he was soooooo black & also the best footballer in the school.

there was this girl called tsering gurung and everybody called her grung and bade that grung grung noise..that is almost like the brroom brrom of the motorcycle..hehe..

i was called sonu babba.

my cousin's name is chokey but cuz she didn't have a name when she was a baby for a long time, EVERYBODY knows her as BABYLA. even now, she's called a baby. her classmates, relatives, neighbourhood friends etc. i was even surprised to know her real name.

Aspi said...

nepalese_princess welcome! I liked that BABYLA story. And you should stop here when you get a chance - we don't get enough Nepali perspective around here.