The Line Between Truth and Falsehood
February 24, 2010 2 Comments
Riddle: What’s yours, used (or abused) most by others?
Answer: Read ahead to find out.
Tradition had yielded to convenience. The venue should have been in Mambalam at Lakshmi’s house – that was Sushila’s mother. Not so in this instance. The assembly was in Aravind-Sushila’s single-storied family house in Thiruvallikeni. It was full house on a Sunday with Chechi, Aravind’s mother, joined by Venkat and Usha, his college-going siblings. Lakshmi came in specially for the occasion, along with Kamala, Sushila’s elder sister on visit from Delhi and her five-years-old son, Santosh.
Time was running out. They knew they wouldn’t get everybody together again before the D-day which was only a couple of days away. So it had to be wrapped up today even if it meant extra-time. All the seats in the hall were taken. And some, on the floor. Tiffin plates and coffee tumblers were cleared. Only an excited Santosh was on his feet playing with a dented ping-pong ball when not colliding with those seated.
Aravind called the house to order and set out the agenda in a manner he did in his meetings at work.
Usha kicked it off.
‘My vote is for Surya.’ Not a surprise. Surya’s posters folded into four freely mingled with her text books on the shelves – unfortunately the posters couldn’t claim their rightful place on the walls. Sushila wouldn’t have anything but Ravi Verma’s Gods adorning the walls.
Venkat, a Bollywood buff, was quick with: ‘Ranvir is my choice. He is so cute. There’s no heroine who isn’t tied up with him.’
Not your fault at all if you thought they were picking the ‘Year’s Winner for Best Looks’ or ‘Year’s Winner for Most Heroine-Tangled’.
‘I can’t recall Ranvir figuring in Vishnu Sahasranamam (a thousand epithets in the glory of Vishnu), though my memory is no longer what it used to be, you know,’ said Kamu Patti who had made herself comfortable on a sofa much before others trooped in. On many occasions – and this was one of them – she surprised everyone with her perfectly coherent responses, given that she heard on an average five out of ten spoken words. Apologies for missing out on the venerable old lady – it was inadvertent – in the introduction. She was Chechi’s mother-in-law.
Not your fault if you thought if Kamu Patti had her way, whoever aspired to be the ‘Year’s Winner’ must have had his name necessarily enlisted in the ancient text of Vishnu Sahasranamam which unfortunately, for the aspirants, was not open for additions or alterations.
Chechi spoke up: ‘It is usually the late grand-father’s name that is carried by the first-born. Ask Amma if you wish.’
Kamu Patti did not jump in at the opening provided by the tactful Chechi; those were perhaps the five words out of ten that she missed out.
Now you must’ve guessed it right. They were discussing and deciding on the name for Aravind-Sushila’s new born baby. The formal naming ceremony (Jaatha Karanam, Naama Karanam) was fixed up for Tuesday.
Venkat: ‘You mean all of Muttharasanallur Vasudevan Krishnamurthy’, Amma?’
A word here on the mystique of long names in the south: The names usually took the format: name of the village followed by father’s name and then the given name.
Venkat continued: ‘I recall what the principal of my coaching class thought about the guys from the south; he held that these guys included in their names, the names of their neighbor and his village too – that’s how they get half a dozen alphabets into their names as initials.’
Usha: ‘Venky, you’re being dumb. Now, if that be, it has to be Muttharasanallur Aravind Krishnamurthy. We don’t even know where Muttharasanallur is (A shame, really! It’s a beautiful village near Trichy). So, Thiruvallikeni Aravind Krishnamurthy is more appropriate. Or to be even more accurate, Isabella Aravind Krishnamurthy (Isabella was the hospital where Sushila delivered the baby).’
Venkat bristled at the rebuke. He also resented being called ‘Venky’ ever since a poultry brand going by the same name launched a marketing blitz.
Before he could get back at Usha, she continued: ‘Now, to the part about what your principal thought of the guys from south carrying half a dozen alphabets into their initials: In certain parts in the north, they call their young: Mickoo, Bunty. Pinkie…and their dear pets: Ramkali, Sukhwinder…Tell him that when you meet next.’
Aravind: ‘Will you folks get back on track? OK, Amma, that is settled. We’ll resolve later if it would be Muttharasanallur, Thiruvallikeni or nothing at all. Now let us move on.’
A baby is usually given several names; one of them is for the records, another for common use, and others never to be used thereafter.
Sushila was solicitous: ‘Kamala, Amma, you haven’t said anything?’
Lakshmi: ‘Well, I had prayed to Lord Parthasrathy (the presiding deity at the 1000+ years old temple in Thiruvallikeni) for suga-prasavam (trouble-free delivery). Fortunately everything has turned out well. I suggest we name him as Parthasarathy.’
Kamala: ‘You know children these days like modish names. I’ve been thinking about it over the last couple of days. How about Krishnesh, Shivesh, Sumesh …? The trick is to add ‘ish’ or ‘esh’ to a name or word. It means God in Sanskrit; Ganesh means God of Gana’s; Nagesh is the God of Nag’s. Of course we strike off the oldies: Rajesh, Ramesh, Suresh …’
Sushila: ‘I certainly haven’t heard of Krishnesh and Shivesh before. By your ‘esh’ reasoning what would they mean? Who would be the God of Krishna and Shiva? I thought they were the supreme Gods themselves’
Venkat: ‘Well you’ve a point there, Manni. I can say this for Sumesh – Su stands for nice and mesh is a goat or a lamb. So in Sumesh you’ve a nice goat there. I could be wrong. Though, Kamala Mami’s method of combining with suffixes and prefixes is commonly used in constructing names.’
Kamala appeared somewhat mollified by this credit.
Venkat carried on, after a brief silence: ‘Let me coin a name right now for you using the same technique. I take vardhan from Harshavardhan and append it to Anand and we get a perfectly legitimate Anandvardhan – I’m sure you’ve never heard of it before. It means enhancer of happiness. To give you another example, Kamalakshee (lotus-eyed) from the more familiar Meenakshee (fish-eyed).’
Usha, mockingly clapping her hands, ‘Venky…er…Venkat, we’re impressed.’
Chechi: ‘Shouldn’t you be asking the father and mother of the baby what they have in mind?’
Aravind speaking up for the first time: ‘I like pure Tamizh names like Kannan, Maaran…’
Sushila: ‘Satyanarayan? I go quite often to Satyanarayan temple on the 3rd Crosslane.’
Usha: ‘Manni, that seems to be a good choice. If it is contracted either to Satya or to Narayan, no harm done – you see, we’ve to be careful about the possible contractions. There is a boy in our class by the name Avinash. But everyone calls him Avi. And ‘avi’ in Tamizh means ‘to steam cook’ and in some ways, ‘rotten’ or ‘mixed up’ – not something a kid relishes to be called as. Also the name should not be amenable to mutilation like Kiccha for Krishnan or Naani for Narayanan. I must caution you – even Krishnamurthy could also become Kiccha.’
Venkat: ‘Too late, sister, to go around changing your grand-pa’s name now. And he is already ‘late’.’
Kamu Patti suddenly came to life: ‘Choose Satya – it figures in the Sahasranamam. Satyanarayan also does, however only separately as Satya and Narayana and not as such. That which remains the same at all times is called Satya(m), the ultimate Truth. If you want to know why I go back to Sahasranamam every time, read up the story of Ajamila from Srimad Bhagavata Purana. You all have heard it from me when you were knee-high.’
No one picked up the thread of Ajamila’s story.
Sushila: ‘Ah, Satya is short and sweet. And so profound. Seems just right. I’ll go for it. Brilliant, Patti.’
It was a little amusing to see the daughter-in-law’s daughter-in-law, Sushila, not restrained in intercoursing with Kamu Patti, while the daughter-in-law, Chechi displayed a certain reserve.
Kamu Patti received the plaudits with a Buddha-like expression.
Usha: ‘It’s too short – safe against any unseemly contraction or mutilation’.
Sushila: ‘I hope he lives up to his name’.
Chechi was quick to chip in with a dose of worldly wisdom: ‘Are you blessing the baby or cursing it? Let it grow up and live normally like all others do. This is Kaliyug. You don’t want him to suffer as a misfit, Right?’
Usha: ‘Well said, Amma. You’re not serious, Manni. Are you? This ‘living up to the name’ makes no sense today. We’ve a Latha in our class, who has joined a weight-loss program, a Shweta who blows her money on fairness creams and a Subashini who can shame a fish-market if occasion demands.’
(In Sanskrit, Latha is for one creeper-like slim. Shweta is for fair complexioned. Subashini is one who is sweet with her words)
Venkat: ‘And just imagine a Padmanabhan sprouting a lotus from his navel, or a Narasimha…!’
Chechi: ‘Cut it out, Kids. These names are nothing to jest about.’
Aravind intervened, in the manner of an efficient executive: ‘So that settles it; let me sum up. It is Krishnamurthy, Parthasarathy, Kannan, and Satya. We’ll call him Satya. That was pretty quick. Thanks everybody.’
But they had overlooked something simple that would haunt Satya, the new-born son of Aravind, for some years.
Eight years later
The two neighborhood teams were playing cricket with soft-ball and one set of stumps on a mud-track in the maidan. A good number of boys wore half-pants.
The ball was pushed past covers. The batsmen ran for a single and were returning for the second. The fielder rushed in from the deep, collected the ball and threw it to the wicket-keeper, all in one swift move. The keeper took the bails off and appealed for a run-out. The batsman protested the keeper hit the bails with his bare hands and not with the ball. The unsighted umpire went up to the keeper to check out and declared the batsman as run-out.
The aggrieved batsman looked squarely at the keeper and hissed: ‘What else? Your name says it all: A. Satya…Asatya (Falsehood)’.
From that day the name stuck.
It was not even a thin line between Truth and Falsehood, only a tiny dot!
PS: It is your name, if you have not yet figured out the riddle.