In my last post, I had written about a few amusing incidents that came to my mind involving names of people. Here, are a few more!
In some organisations, people are called, not by their names but by their initials! In one such organization, in those days, addressing people as AHP, DAP, PSP, DKR etc was the norm. For many years, people knew me as BPR. They knew my surname was Rao but I am sure most didn’t have a clue what P stood for in my name, leave alone the B. We once interviewed a candidate called B.R. Acharya. He wasn’t selected, which perhaps was a good thing for him as you know what he would have been called had he joined!!
My Dad’s name was abbreviated to B A Rao when he joined Burmah Shell in the old days. His friends called him “Bar” which was quite appropriate considering he was fond of a drink. This reminds me of his saying often that amongst his friends were a Daruwala, a Batliwala and – you may not believe this- a Sodabottleopenerwala!! These gentlemen, as you would have guessed, were from the Parsi community. It was common, amongst the Parsis, to have names that reflected the business or profession they traditionally were in.
Sometimes, even abbreviated names are further abbreviated. A case in point was a Tata Steel executive who was a guest faculty at XLRI, Jamshedpur when we were students there. His name was AVLRN Murthy, so naturally he was called, “A to Z Murthy”. Later I came to know that even this paled in front of another such name : AVSRKN Murty.
I have noticed that people spell “Rao” in various ways. In previous generations, relatives in the prestigious Indian Civil Service (ICS) chose “Rau.” An opening batsmen for England with Indian origins during my childhood was Raman Subba Row. This, I felt was misleading as “Row” could be pronounced as in ” row” a boat. It could also be -as in an argument ended in a ” row.”!
While abroad, I have found the rhyming method generally works well. People are prone to pronounce Prem to rhyme with “gem” . I have learnt to say, “Prem rhymes with “game” which makes it more easily understandable. Likewise , rhyming Rao with ” Wow!” also does the trick!! So ” Prem Rao” is like ” Game Wow” !!
My name almost made me miss an important flight while traveling in the US. At Chicago airport while waiting for a connecting flight, the lady called out, “Mr Ray-o” several times. I ignored the announcement because I never imagined she was calling me! It was only when she said, ” This is the last call for Mr Prem Ray-o and Mrs Sho-ban-a Ray-o” that I told my wife, ” That’s us! Let’s go!!”. We ran to her boarding pass in hand. The name was new to me but I was told that Rayo was a common enough Spanish name!
So as you can see, when Shakespeare asked , ” What’s in a name?” there really is so much behind a name.