Note: I was under the wrong impression that Mahabharatha was produced by Ramanand Sagar. It was in fact produced by BR Chopra. I have corrected the mistake. Thanks Humpty, for pointing that out. 🙂
Shakespeare was an idiot. Or maybe those who interpreted Shakespeare were. I am sure when he asked the question, “What’s in a name?” he was not being rhetorical. Ultimately, it’s the name which matters. Regimes are brought down just by chanting the names of the leaders of the movement. When you are born, people around quip, “Baap ka naam roshan karega”. It’s the name that defines you, that gives you an identity, makes you different, adds a dynamism to your persona. People big and small, tall and short, thin and fat have written about the trials of having an unusual name, I will try to go in another direction. The curse of a common name.
It all started in 1984. In 1984, Doordarshan which was the only channel available at that time started broadcasting Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana on Sundays at 10AM. Anecdotal evidences suggest that when Ramayana was being shown on the TV, the usually busy streets of Bombay were as bare as a desert in Siberia. People young and old, literates and illiterates used to flock to the newly acquired television sets of their rich neighbours and watch the series with devotion. Among many other things, it brought a Hindu deity who was on the fringes of what can be termed as “national devotion” into the centre-fold and gradually acquired a cult following which is seen among today’s Hindu fundamentalists. But as is my wont, I digress. This series ended in 1986 and BR Chopra inspired by Ramanand Sagar started work on the television debut of Mahabharatha. In 1989, by the time I was born, the Mahabharatha series was going on in full swing with a sizable population of India in front of the idiot box on Sundays at 10AM. Of course, arguably the most awesome and heroic character in the series was the Pandava prince Arjuna. And hence, my mother named me Arjun after the great prince. Now being a Brahmin and a South Indian, I am normally supposed to have my father’s initials but my father being a wise man and wary of the limitations of an initial decided to give my Gothra (Bharadwaja) as my surname. If I was born in 1984, I am sure my mother would have named me Hanuman Bharadwaj, which my father feels should have been my name anyway.
Along with me, infinite mothers across the country named their kids Arjun, thanks to BR Chopra. Unfortunately, Bharadwaj happens to be the most common Gothra among Brahmins. So there were bound to be an unusually high number of “Arjun Bharadwaj”s who were born between 1986 and 1990. In high school, the problems were limited to two people answering “yes, madam” during attendance. Then I joined this coaching institute called BASE for JEE coaching. That was the first time I realized the sheer magnitude of people named Arjun. In my class of 50. there were nine whose first name was Arjun. Among these nine, there was another Arjun Bharadwaj, with “S” as an intial. Then there were Arjun Rao, Arjun AK(IDK, who is my batch-mate here at IITM, again), Arjun Shounak, Arjun Bapatla, Arjun VJ, Arjun P etc.etc. To add to my bewilderment and greatly contributing to the general confusion around, I was apprised of another Arjun Bharadwaj who was also studying in BASE, but at a different centre in the same year. So, imagine this. If there are three Arjun Bharadwaj all of them in Bangalore, all in the same year, all of them aiming for the same thing, how will I distinguish myself now or in the future? I mean, say if one of the Arjun Bharadwaj turns out to be a murderer, I am screwed.
Anyway, after I got into IITM, I forgot about the problems of having a very common name, and was living peacefully till my 5th semester. Then I got a weird mail from a certain Miss Dookhy,
Dear Bharadwaj Arjun,
I am writing on behalf of the international academic publisher, VDM Publishing House Ltd.
In the course of a research at the Library of North Carolina State University, we came across a reference to your thesis on “On Quantifying Covertness of Ultra-Wideband Impulse Radio”.
As we would like to make your work available to a larger audience, I am wondering if you may be interested in publishing your thesis in the form of a printed book.
Your reply including an e-mail address to which I can send an e-mail with further information in an attachment will be greatly appreciated.
I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Miss Y**** Dookhy
Now, imagine my surprise. Here I am, a small kid in the fifth semester of engineering, overwhelmed by the excesses and brutality of Analog Circuits and this… this Miss Dookhy wants to acquire my PhD thesis. A certain amount of snooping around and stalking on Facebook and Google, I came to know of another Arjun Bharadwaj from REC Trichy who had just finished his PhD from NCSU.
After my sixth semester, I got an internship offer from Qualcomm in Hyderabad. The first day of my work, I get an e-mail, asking me to come to San Diego as quickly as possible for some legal work on the patents I am supposed to have in my name. I was the happiest man on earth that day, until I realized the aforesaid Arjun Bharadwaj was also working at Qualcomm. 😦
I am not saying that having an unusual name is not painful. All I am trying to point out is that having a common name has it’s disadvantages as well.