What's in a name?

sweet and sour

He had not travelled abroad nor known any other language besides English. Unfortunately, a word or a name in one language can mean something quite different in another.

The latest victim of double meaning is chief minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit. Dikshits are high caste Brahmans. In English slang when broken into two, it becomes Dik Shit.

It means birds droppings. So an ill-mannered Kiwi commentator mocked her by pronouncing her name in his own way. Our government lodged a protest with the New Zealand High Commissioner in New Delhi. He tendered an abject apology.

I was in Stockholm to attend a meeting when I met a Professor Lund who was about to leave for India on a lecture tour. He came to me to get some tips about my country. After answering his questions, I warned him: “Don’t be surprised if some of your audience break into smiles or sniggers when you are introduced”. “Why?”

“Because in Hindustani your name means Professor Penis.” “Ah so!” he exclaimed, “I am glad you told me. Only last month I had to escort a lady professor from your country around Swedish universities. Her name was Professor Das.”

“Das is a common surname in India.” I said. “In Swedish Das means shit.” There is a tribe in Assam called Choottias. How do any one of the tribe explain his tribal identity in northern India?

Fathering books

It gives me vicarious pleasure when I can persuade any of my lady friends to write a book. I boast “I did not write that book but I fathered it”. That also nearly ends my friendship. The latest example is the publication of ‘Eternal Romantic: My Father, Gemini Ganesan’ by Narayani Ganesh.

Some years ago I befriended Narayani Ganesh. I was quite taken by her. She was a slightly enlarged version of her younger step-sister, the actress Rekha. I often invited her over for chit-chat. One evening while she was there, Promod Kapoor of Roli Books dropped in. Promod has a sharp nose and smells out books which bring money.

He had a killing, publishing a series of illustrated books, written by sons and daughters of men who had made it good. Amongst them were Anoushka Shankar’s about the eminent Sitar Mastero and Bharat Ratna Pandit Ravi Shankar and my son Rahul’s account of my life.

Promod smelt money in Narayani talking about her father. He asked her if she would like to write about him. I urged her to say yes. She did so and signed a contract with him. I signed it as a witness.

Thereafter every time she dropped in I asked her how the book was doing. She showed me the material she had collected. He was a very handsome man whom many women found irresistible. As a gallant gentleman, he responded to their overtures. One of them was Rekha’s mother.

All it needed was a week or so to put it together in book form. But every time I asked Narayani how the book was coming on, she made some excuse or the other. She had to travel distant places to fulfil her official assignments, etc, etc. I began to nag her. She stopped coming to see me. I have not seen her for some years. But at last it has been published. I can claim I fathered it. She acknowledges it in her opening lines. But our friendship has ended.

From Kasauli to Murree

Two small townships
Murree in Pakistan and Kasauli in India —
What is that common to both?
Both hill resorts of repute, right;
But says the geologist there is more to it
Than mere scenic charm of
the hills;
Same the rocks they’re
founded on,
Common their basin of
deposition
And same their geological age
Some 20-odd million years.
The common ricks of shale, sandstone
Though assigned different
geological names
As Kasauli and Murree
Formations
Extend from Kasauli to Murree, uninterrupted
For no less than four hundred kilometres
No LoC for them, no barbed wire fence either
Along the border of India and Pakistan
Because they are rocks, stones
Not human beings!


(Contributed by K C Prashar, Kullu, HP)

Family planning

God decided to encourage people to have less children and introduced an award. At one point he concentrated on learning about the situation in India:

He first met Jawaharlal Nehru and asked him how many children he had during his time on earth. Nehru replied only one! Happy with the good family planning, God awarded Nehru with a Celestial Rolls Royce!

Indira Gandhi was next. God asked the same question. She replied she had two children and God thought not too bad, so he gave Indira a BMW.

Sometime later, both Nehru and Indira were going around in their new cars. They saw Mahatma Gandhi on foot! Wondering what went wrong; they asked why God hadn’t been merciful with him.

The Mahatma replied in disgust, “God did not even ask me! Some idiots had told him that I was the Father of the Nation!”

(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)

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