Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Name Dilemma - The trouble with Gogol

It’s a warm Sunday morning and I wake up beaming (a result of the best news I’ve had in a year). I was going to get a J.O.B, the kind I wanted. I was hired as a staff writer/journalist for a monthly newsmagazine. This Sunday was indeed special, different from all the Sundays I’d spent this year, doing a job I didn’t like and quit and wandering in that space Buddhists call the Bardo. Jeez! I was over the moon!

All perked up, I freshen up and zap on the old box.
“Boy you are going to be a writer and writers need to stay current and updated” I tell myself and watch the BBS.

“Dasho Tashi Phuntsho, the Secretary of MoIC is visiting the National Museum” Bhutan’s version of the morning-breaking news begins.

The ten minute bulletin comes to an end and the music program takes over. “Today we are going to play the music video Ga Tro, sung by the artist Tshering and composed by Tashi Phuntsho,” the VJ plugs in the program.

The bliss I felt is gradually slipping away and I can’t really decipher why. The news bores me. I unplug the tube and turn on the local FM channels. There’s that familiar voice-, a nauseous nasal twanged with an American-Thai flavor. It’s the RJ from Kuzoo FM. He does the usual talk-a-thon, “and Tashi Phuntsho, a driver, wants to dedicate this song to his family in Pemagatshel.”

Then I realize what’s been puncturing my spirits. It’s the bloody name! I cannot help but ponder the number of Tashi Phuntshos coming out of my ears. I think of checking the telephone directory to get a rough estimate. I flip over the pages and the numbers keep scaling the ceilings.

Billions of blue blistering barnacles! Now I know why Captain Haddock goes ballistic with that phrase. It’s such an apt expression when you’re feeling the pressure and the heat.
Captain Haddock had it with barnacles and now I find myself having it with my given name. I’m beginning to hate it. Too darn average, common and placid for a wanna-be-Hunter S Thompson like myself.
In a nutshell, I find myself caught up in just one-two many Tashis. It was such a pleasant Sunday until I switched on the TV and the radio.

I find myself back in time. “Son, could you call up Tashi Phuntsho and inform him that his parents are here?” That was my parents making an enquiry to a little boy at one occasion when they visited me in school. The boy made them aware of the seven other Tashi Phuntshos in school. The confusion was priceless. My parents start describing me and the boy goes, “Is that Tashi Phuntsho dark?” That occasion made an indelible impression. I was to begin a conflict with my name that went through rage, resignation, ire and the like.

And it carried on. I went to college in India and things started to change, at least for a while. “That’s a nice name. So unique,” my Indian friends used to comment. It felt good. In time, I even found a way of accepting the compliment without looking and feeling cheeky. It was something new for me and I needed that. The first semester was over and I looked forward to college rather than the vacation where I’d land up like that boy Gogol in Jhumpa Lahairi’s ‘The Namesake’ (a film about the inconsequential consequences of names adapted by Mira Nair), though with a lesser anguish than Ralph Fiennes as Count Laszlo de Almasyn in the ‘The English Patient,’ (a 1992 novel by Sri Lankan- Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje.)

It’s the first day of my second semester and my Indian mate Rohit has news for me. He says he met two Bhutanese students who had enrolled in Hyderabad. “What were their names?” I asked almost unconsciously. On second thoughts I shouldn’t have.

“One was called Tashi and the other one was Phuntsho,” it’s a deadpan retort. In a scene reminiscent of a Bollywood flick, there’s a melancholy melody playing in my head. By now I’d contemplated assassinating my name from the records and giving myself a fresh start. Jiggy Dorggy had a certain rhyme and ring to it. But being in India was far less cumbersome than being-back home and that’s where I was headed next- ‘The Kingdom of Tashi Phuntshos.’

Cut to Rohit and he’s got some tales about names. “I believe that the Bhutanese, like the Chinese, throw utensils after the birth of a child and names the child as whatever noise is produced. Is that for real?” he inquires.
I feel like punching the smartass but that’s my name. Peacefully resigned to the fact that my name will forever drown me in mediocrity, I make a mental MoU.
With this newfound insight I look at the rationale behind the new emerging- naming-culture. One of my nephews is called Jigmed (originally Jigme with a cool D) and the other is called Osel (Yoesel with an infinite O). Then there are modern Tandy Novus of the ancient Tandin Norbus and the budding trend of triple names.

I feel facebooking might help me divert my mind. I log in with a hope of losing myself in the virtual world. I like facebook. I kind of feel unique and special there. As I enter, I hit upon a notification: A PICTURE OF YOU HAS BEEN TAGGED BY SONAM PELDEN. Getting a kick, I click on it. It takes me around a few minutes to realize that I’m not in the picture. I scroll down for apologies and there I see a photo comment, THANK YOU SONAM FOR REMINDING ME OF THIS PIC, signed by, guess who? Yeah right.
It was some other Tashi Phuntsho. I sign out and hit the sack.

The next day, I wake up and there’s a different aura about the whole apartment. I zap on the TV and there’s no mention of any Tashi Phuntshos. I turn on the radio and still no Tashi Phuntshos. Feeling relieved I get dressed in my presentable best and head for the office of Drukpa, the monthly newsmagazine.

The office is an unpretentious little cottage. As I enter through the wooden door, I see a roomful of PCs and guys dressed in casuals and I mean extreme casuals. I’m welcomed in collectively and handshakes woven all around, I get introduced to the Drukpa team. “I am Jigme Tshultrim the publisher and this is Jurmi Chhowing the Managing Editor and these are staff writers Kunga T Dorji, Mitra Raj, Sunny Tobgay, Tshering Wangdi and Phuntsho Wangmo…” The introductions warmed me.

Just when I thought the introductions were done, a bespectacled man walks in and Jurmi Chhowing says, “Oh TP! Meet our Chief Tashi Phuntsho. Shit! You two have the same name!”
My mind goes back to the namesake trauma but Jurmi has something in store. “Well! I guess we’ll just have to call you Tashi Phuntsho Junior to avoid the confusion. I hope you don’t mind? Do you?” he questions genuinely.

I breathe a sigh of relief on the sound of the handy ‘Jr’ tag and say “absolutely not!” with a grin.


  1. You shouldn't be happy with the Jr tag. In fact, I see some trouble with it. For instance, your lady will call you "Darling Jr", your yet to be children will call you "Daddy JR" and the list will follow until one day, you will have only one tooth left in you and your grandson will call you "Agay Jr". You will always be one step behind, one priority less than the original Tashi Phuntsho. LOL

  2. see the positive side, i will always be little younger than my real age :P

  3. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet."....

    a name is an artificial and meaningless convention