Monday, May 19, 2008


Most people don’t have any say in their official names, unless they rechristen themselves at a later stage of life through affidavits. Names are given by parents. Let me not go into the parent-psychology behind choosing the best possible names for their kids. Many people may have objection to the names given by their parents, but seldom do they change the names because they may take the name as the density, something on which they don’t have any control. But it’s the nickname that anyone actually earns!! Nicknames are always most aptly chosen by friends or colleagues (or even relatives at times). I’m sure you take anyone, and you’ll get a list of interesting nicknames and more interesting background behind those names. Let me share my repository, categorized according to the origin.

  1. Simple nicknames derived from original names: These nicknames are the most common ones, not always interesting and very easy to track the origin. They originate mainly to simplify bigger names to bi-syllables. Padmanabham becomes Paddy, Krishna Kant Verma becomes KK, Swaminathan becomes Swamy, Bhaskar becomes Bhaski, Devparna becomes Parna, Arunangshu becomes Nashu, Ranjita Bhagwan becomes Bhags, Arijit Chatterjee becomes Chatty and many more including some nasty ones like Panty from Pant and Cunt from Kant. A little complicated is Gooch, by which my high school (Ramakrishna Mission Residential College, Narendrapur) classmate Indrajit Ghose is commonly known. Most of my classmates would have forgotten the story behind the name. Apparently our music teacher used to call his name as Indrajit Gooze, and he being a good cricketer got the name Gooch inspired by Graham Gooch!! A further complicated one is Biri, which comes from Hiri, a short for Hiranyabha Bhadra. Likewise we had Gubre, derived from Shubra, a short for Shubhra Samujjwal. Now the toughest one - Saumendra became Mausendra after spoonerism and finally became Mau!! Another weird one was Khan Saheb, by which we used to refer to our MD at Synopsys, Sanjay Nayak. We badly needed a name that would camouflage the identity of our MD. Then some one came up with Khan, the last name of the Bollywood actor Sanjay Khan, and then we added the Saheb to add some reverence. I believe this is the weirdest origin of any nickname I’ve ever come across.
  2. Nicknames based on physical appearances: These are also very common. I’m sure you would have come across many a Mota (Fat), Lambu (tall), Taklu/Ganju (bald) etc. But a very interesting one is Bling, the nickname of Shamibrata Chatterjee, one of the most intelligent and brilliant guys in our batch. There’s a controversy even among our friends about the origin of ‘Bling’. Some says that it comes from Ting, a short form of ‘tingtinge’ which in Bengali means very lean and thin. Then there is Hojo, which is much more popular than the original Arup Bhattacharya. He has been always a sweet and cuddly hefty guy, who never shied away from making his culinary preferences public. During our ragging period in IIT KGP, he got quite popular with the seniors with his sweet behavior and sense of humor. Finally he got the name Hojo, because some senior thought that he resembles Hojo, the chef of Mandrake the Magician, in the comic strip created in US in 1934. Mandrake is widely believed to be the first bona fide superhero and Hojo is also the secret Chief of the international crime-fighting organization Inter-Intel, in addition to being a superb martial arts expert. Very few know even this much about Hojo or Mandrake and even fewer would have read these comics. But the name stayed with him for ever. A similar one is Molu, inspired by a very sweet and cute indigenous cartoon of the same name that used to appear in Indian television (Doordarshan) in the eighties. The cartoon, and specially the title song (Molu Molu Molu, Ek Dil Hai Matwala, Man ka Ujala Tan ka kaala, Kabhi yaha, to kabhi wahan, Har mushkil ko kare aasaan) used to be quite popular among the kids. Kanishka Lahiri was given the name Molu, for his sweetness and cuteness, by his senior, again during the ragging period in IIT. We all have grown up, and though I believe his wife (Ranjita Bhagwan or more commonly Bhags) doesn’t prefer any newer people calling him by that name, but we, the old timers from KGP, are still not deprived of calling the ever sweet Kanishka as Molu!! Then there is Rafael, the name given to Priyatosh because some of his friends in mid-school had thought that he has a big head like the Rafael fish. It’s really commendable that students of junior school knew so much about a fish called Rafael, which I never had heard of till I met Priyatosh in high school. The most complicated in this category is Jaydeep Burman’s nickname Puta, which came from Putu Rani, the name by which he used to be fondly called by someone in the school because of his feminine looks.
  3. Nicknames based on behavior: Ashwin Kamat was named Bachcha because he looked kiddish. Nabarun Banerjee was christened Gyana (a sarcastic variation of Gyani, meaning knowledgeable) because of his famous fakes in mid-school. One of his fakes was that whenever Concorde flight goes over any place the window panes crack, the houses vibrate and many other spooky things happen!! Very recently we christened Sachin Dhanorkar as Salim Feku Harvardwale because of his constant fakes during our train journey to Bhopal for our colleague’s marriage. After waking up from a nap I asked Sachin whether we’d entered Madhya Pradesh. Sachin saw something outside through the window of the train and told, ‘yes’, on which I was very surprised and asked what did he see outside. He told very smartly that he saw the hills outside where it’s written Madhya Pradesh, the same way it’s written Hollywood in LA. Many more came henceforth from Sachin and finally the nickname came very spontaneously. We unanimously concluded that he can make it to Harvard for an MBA in marketing because of his high quality of fakes. To keep up with the tradition of appending the name of the place in the name, we came up with Salim Feku Harvardwale (meaning Salim Feku from Harvard). Anandaroop sings very well. He used to be relieved from ragging on the condition that he would sing throughout the night and he indeed did that. The seniors used to be mesmerized with his singing and kept quiet as long he sang. That reminded of Satyajit Ray’s children movie Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne, where everyone became still whenever Goopi sang and Bagha played the dhol (drum). Accordingly Anandaroop got the name Goopi!! Sudipto Roy, a senior of mine and also the Hall President of RK Hall, was first known was Stupido, a little juxtaposition of the letters in his name, which might have gone well with some stupidity he might have exhibited, and then Dodo, the extinct bird.

Now it’s turn to tell my nick-name. Well I got my second nickname from my Taiwanese colleagues. It looks like they can’t pronounce Sudipto. Even if they read my visiting card they pronounce it as Stupido Das. People around me thought that as more interesting than Sudipto.

BTW, my other and more popular nickname, which I’d got in IIT, not during my ragging period as generally people get one from seniors, but at the end of the ragging period of our junior batch, is ALU. It was given by my junior Anandaroop (Goopi). To maintain the decency of netizens, I prefer to not disclose the story behind the nickname!!

1 comment:

Azi said...

Dude, nice article. Not only was it a good read on nicknames, I am sure the examples are going to be a bonus for those of us who knew them.