Monday, January 24, 2011

No 'First' name please! I am a south Indian.

My request is meant specially for the new breed of Telemarketers. One of them, a girl this time, irritated me right in the morning and I was rude and banged my phone down. My first!

Our conversation went like this:
'Mr Doreswamy is it a good time to talk?' I replied 'No! And this is Srinidhi here.' Apparently the girl did not bother or failed register my correction. She should have known that in South India it is different. It is the village, father's name and then the given name. (Hopefully it is still the same.)

True the TM's are coached not to give up and keep talking. But when she continued rattling her piece ignoring my correction I saw red and being Taurean my reactions can be quite extreme and I banged my telephone down. Wait a minute, I just switched off my cell phone but my body reaction was that of a person who violently banged the phone down!

Honestly the girl is not to be blamed. In fact, it is a conspiracy by the West and by our brothers in the North as well. I know some of us have adapted and a few have tried to resist valiantly. In all probability it may now be a lost cause.

I understood the impact of this first name/last name thing only when I moved to Pune. One evening I went to meet my colleague 'Deshpande' at his home. His father opened the door and I asked 'Is Deshpande home?' He replied with a smile, 'We are all Deshpandes here, which one do you want?'. He was just having fun and luckily my friend came out to greet me before I could answer! Would have been embarrassing as I did not remember his first name!

I recall that once I silenced a lady who crowed with pride 'We all have the same surname, my son and his son will all have the same family name' with: 'It is alright if it is a well known family like yours. But if parents are notorious, it would be a disadvantage.'

My first passport was SI friendly, it just had blank space to fill in the name and Doreswamy Srinidhi was simple and straight forward. My father for some reason had decided to drop our village Grama from my name. Just as well as these smart kids would have addressed me as grama or gram!

It became somewhat confusing when I moved to Bangkok. My first task was to design my 'Name card' and having learned that the Thais used the first name to address people I called myself Srinidhi. D.

I thought it was a clever move, Thais would call me Srinidhi (Actually they settled for Kuhn Si. They found Srinidhi too hard to pronounce!) and the rest would not address me as Mr. D and I would be back to being Srinidhi.

The real blow came when I renewed my passport in Bangkok. The passport had a new format for names and the official at the embassy, probably from the north, put Doreswamy as my First Name. I did think of getting it corrected, but by then I had a ten year US visa in my old passport. Also there would be corrections in many other official documents. And this would lead to complications all across. So I just gave up and resigned myself to being called Doreswamy in Thailand. Fortunately it was not too often.

I had hoped that once I returned to Bengaluru I would regain my own name and when this girl addressed me as 'Doreswamy' I just blew a fuse!

I wonder if there is a movement in the south to go back to our old system. Worth investigating. I think tracing back people to their roots in these insecure days makes more sense than identifying them by caste or profession and so on.

A follow up note:
When Kesari queried me on Thais inability to pronounce our names I got curious and found this in Wikipedia. I wonder if India should follow suit and make family name mandatory or continue with the freedom we have now.

Thai names follow the North Indian and Western European pattern in which the family name follows a first or given name. In this they differ from the family-name-first pattern of the East Asian tradition.

Thai names, both given name and family, are often long and there are a great many of them. The diversity of family names is because they are required to be unique to a family, and they are a recent introduction. Further, Thai people change their family names relatively frequently (this practice being virtually unknown in many other countries outside of marriage).

Last names became legally required of Thai citizens in 1913:[1] before then, most Thais used only a first or individual name. The names generally convey positive attributes. Under Thai law, only one family can use any given surname: thus any two people of the same surname must be related.

Thai surnames are often long, particularly among those of upper-class families.[citation needed] According to the current law[clarification needed], to create a new Thai surname, it must not be longer than ten Thai letters, vowel symbols and diacritics are not counted.

As a measure of the diversity of Thai names, in a sample of 45,665 names, 81% of family names were unique, and 35% of given names were unique: the people with shared family names are thus related, and the diversity of given names is conventional.[2]


10 comments:

Shibani said...

Somehow its easier with a family name and a first name when it comes to forms - I just cant get over how many alphabets Raj's expanded name has- he has a problem every single time on his immigration/ passport forms- too little boxes!!

prati said...

Why don't we just call you "DORE" !! Obviously, you know the meaning of "dore" in kannada ! It would surely befit the VIP who has returned from Thailand and finally settled in good old Bengaluru ! But then, what's in a name -- the rose, by any name, smells as sweet !!

srinidhi said...

Hi Prasan
Interesting. It seems my father's name was Srinivasa but my grand father's orderly used to call him 'Dore' and that became his name even officially. Your suggestion will make it go the Full circle!

N L Sriram said...

I actually find that it is an effective screen for telemarketing calls. I just put the phone down if I hear someone asking for Nonavinkere! But it does get exasperating to spell out the full name when demanded for legal reasons, or even sign it! It is good that there is not much insistence about the "middle" name - Lakshminarasimhan!

Sriram

Marisa Narula said...

This is truly interesting. I never knew this either. Thank you for the new piece of information.
Marisa Narula

Kesari said...

Srinidhi is a difficult name for the Thais to pronounce ??
Try

Jatukamranthep
Ramkamhaeng
Vajiralongkorn

for starters !

It is only in the South that this practice of not having a surname is prevalent perhaps to mitigate the backlash of the 'lower' classes against the 'upper' classes. The surname (Iyengar, Iyer, Achar, Shastri ....) would reveal one's class and probably discriminated against while looking for jobs and admissions to educational institutions.
On the lighter side my Dodappa would always joke that "the 'igher and 'igher one went in life one would become an Iyengar !"

srinidhi said...

These are family names. Reason why Thais prefer first names, which are normally short and easy to pronounce; kanya, aroon, som etc.

In spite of this, most of them go by pet names. Maew(cat), Nok (bird), Moo( mice) are some I remember.

Anonymous said...

Hello Nidhi Uncle,
How true....
However, I always have fun when people try Na-Ga-Man-Ga-La, a taluk headquarters in Mandya district - Nagamangala :-)
Or when they end up calling Srinivasan - I'll say - he is not here (ASHWATHAMONAAMA HATHA kunjaraha)....
Regards
Mohan

VATSALA said...

This is an eternal problem outside the village-father-name area. I landed amongst Ds in my MBBS exams following a couple of well heeled Cs. Nevetheless cleared the exams. Every day have to explain the Dasarathy in my name. Solutions are Mysorekar, Malurkar or Niuggehalli as surnames!

Chandramouli Narsipur said...

In the SI version The Avatar Ramachandra would be

Dasaratha Ramachandra and if you needed details say for explaining it to Hanuman

It would have been AYODHYA DASARATHA RAMACHANDRA ( KARNATAKA)
AYODHYA DASARATHAN RAMACHANDRAN( TAMILNADU) ETC OR A.S. RAMACHANDRA

IN U,P/M.P/BIHAR/ORISSA/ETC IT WOULD BE RAMCHANDER DASRATH AYODHYA ETC AND SO ON.

MY NAME FROM 1938 TO 1952 WAS
NARSIPUR LAKSHMINARAIN CHANDRAMOULI
SOMEONE IN THE SSLC MARKS CARD CHGANGED IT TO NARSIPUR CHANDRAMOULI. I LET IT GO AT N. CHANDRAMOULI

THEN WHEN I IMMIGRATED TO USA IN 1981 US CONSULATE GUYS IN MADRAS TOLD ME TO MAKE IT INTO CHANDRAMOULI LAKSHMINARAIN NARSIPUR !( NAME, SURNAME, FAMILY NAME) LO AND BEHOLD THE VILLAGE OF MY GRANDFATHER BECAME BY LAST NAME.THAT IS HOW IT STAYS FOR EVER.
NARSIMHASWAMY TOLD ME HIS USA NAME WAS REGISTERED AS N.G.MYSORE
I MET A SOUTH INDIAN GUY WHO TOLD ME THAT HIS USA NAME WAS
VENKATESHAMURTHY NARASIMHAMURTHY GOBICHETTYPALAYAM OR
V.N.GOBICHETTYPALYAM(IBM WHERE HE WORKED TOLD HIM TO SHORTEN IT OR ELSE!) SO AT IBM HE WAS KNOWN AS V.N.PALYAM.
THERE IS A PLACE IN TIRUNELVELI DISTRICT BY THE NAME OF GANGAIKONDANCHOLAPURAM. THINK OF A BRIGHT IIT TYPE WHOSE NAME IS
LAKSHMINARAYANA MURTHY WHOSE FATHER'S NAME IS VENKATANARASIMHAMURTHY WHOSE VILLAGE IS GANGAIKONDANCHOLAPURAM !
I REST MY CASE.
MOULI

PS., AGES AGO, DR SHIVARAM IN KORAVANJI GAVE NAMES OF THREE BROTHERS(REAL) WHOM HE HAD ACTUALLY MET AT TIPTOOR AND SONS OF ONE HIRIYANNAYYA. THEY ARE
APPANAYYA, ANNAIAPPA, ANNAPPAYYA. MY FATHER ASKED ME TO KEEP LEARNING IT TO TEACH VAAKSHUDDHI!, ,IMAGINE IF THEY HAD ALL IMMIGRATED TO USA. THEY WOULD HAVE ALL BECOME A.H.TIPTOOR