What’s in the name(s)?

An interesting incident involving a non-acknowledged transcript at one of the universities to which I have applied, is the reason for this particular post.

When I was born about a quarter century ago, my parents decided to name me Gautham. My name in my birth certificate was R Gautham Shenoy. This name was used in all my records till I got my 10th standard marks card. In that marks card, I saw that my name had been spelt as Gautham Shenoy R. I thought, well, its just a shift of an initial, how does it matter.

So, my PUC  Marks card as well as my Engineering Marks cards have the same name: Gautham Shenoy R.  Somewhere during the third year of my Engineering, I applied for a passport. There, I had to write my name in the specified format. First Name – Middle Name – Last Name. And the rider was that, if you had any initials, you had to expand it.

Now came the confusion. In my Birth Certificate, my name is R Gautham Shenoy, in all my educational documents, it’s Gautham Shenoy R. Thus, that ‘R’ would have to be expanded at either the beginning or the end of my name.

Now, more often than not, the last name is taken to be the surname and usually, in formal contexts, you would be addressed by your surname prefixed with a appropriate title such as Mr (or in case you are knighted, a lofty Sir!). Since Shenoy was the family surname, and since all my ancestors had their name in the format R <something> Shenoy, I decided to expand the initial in the beginning. Thus my name from then onwards on all official documents became Ranjal Gautham Shenoy.

Now, the degree certificate which my university presented me almost a year after I obtained my passport, still had the name with which I had registered, i.e Gautham Shenoy R. This dichotomy created confusion at a lot of places. Luckily for me, at the time of joining my company, in one of the forms, I had to fill my name as it was on my passport AND the name I would like to use for all internal purposes. This time, I chose Gautham R Shenoy in the interernal usage purpose section. I thought, this name would appear symmetric atleast. And that’s the name I use to sign all my Linux patches.

So, thanks to my share of fun with permutations and combinations, this Ranjal thing has managed to find a place in all three sections of my name. There have been instances when my co-workers asked me, “Hey, I didn’t know your name was Ranjal. What’s does Ranjal mean anyway?”. There have been times when I have felt the anger at my parents for not giving me a standard <First Name>: <Middle Name>: <Surname> kind of a name.

It took me a while to realize that just because there is a standard template for names for the documentation purpose, doesn’t mean that one is strictly bound to adhere to it. Especially when you come from a place where a name is not merely a unique identifier which can be slotted within the specified format of a particular namespace. A name can tell you a lot about the person. In some cases, the whole story of his family.

Before I tell you the story behind my name, let me mention my FULL name, which I haven’t done yet! Believe me, I ain’t kidding!

My full name which tells the complete story about me  is Ranjal Gautham Shenoy Manjrekar.

So, what’s the story behind the name? Here it is:

Manjrekar tells me that my ancestors were from this place named Manjre in Gomantak. That would be Mandrem in the present day Goa. In fact that’s where our Kula Devi (Family Deity), Mahalaxmi resides. So, I am a Saraswat Brahmin whose ancestors migrated from the banks of the River Saraswati to Goa, either through Dwaraka or through Trihotrapura, which was contained in Gauda Desha. Hence the community which I hail from is called Gauda Saraswat Brahmin.

Shenoy tells me that one of my ancestors, who must have been a popular person in his time, was the temple accountant. Most of the common surnames of the Gauda Saraswat Brahmins have to do with the occupation of the person.

Ranjal tells me that, at some point in time, my ancestors migrated from the Gomantak region(Goa) southwards towards Mangalapura (Mangalore). Along with them, they brought some relics from the old temple and established a new temple in a place called Ranjal which is a few kilometers away from my hometown, Karkala. The reason for this migration could have been to safeguard their religious freedom. Thus, Ranjal is my family’s adopted home.

Gautham is a popular Hindu name. The earliest well known person with this name is not Gautama Buddha as popular perception would have it. It was Gautama Maharshi, one of the Saptha Rishis (Seven Sages), who was credited with the hymns present in the Sama Veda. The other well known person of the yore, having the same name was Akṣapāda Gotama the founder of the Nyaya system of philosophy. The intention behind name me with this particular name, was that my father wanted a name that could not be mutilated inorder to be served as a nickname. In and around my place, that’s a common practice. Like Srinivas becomes Shinna, Ganesh becomes Ganna and so on. But there was no such thing for Gautham, atleast not around the time I was born 🙂

Now, in case you’re wondering how I got tagged with this “Ego” thing, let me assure you, it’s nothing more than a play of words. In my first year at the engineering college, I happened to read this book, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Though it is a one sided book whose characters hardly had a shade of grey, I found it quite interesting back then. For a year, I guess any of my philosophical discussions involved the role of a man’s ego. A couple of years later, enamoured by anagrams, I started working on the anagram of my name Gautham Shenoy. One of the anagrams that I came up with was Hasty Human Ego. By this time, though the charm of Fountainhead was lost, the memory of the one-time association still lingered. Hence the name Ego stuck.

Oh, and by the way, to save myself any trouble in the process of obtaining a passport, I got an affidavit signed by a notary which said that Ranjal Gautham Shenoy, R Gautham Shenoy, Gautham Shenoy R, Gautham R Shenoy, Gautham Shenoy were all the names of one person – Me!

Thus my friend, that’s the story of my one name and it’s many forms! So, what’s the story of your name ?!

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About gautshen

A jack of many trades of which , Linux Kernel Programming puts food on the table. Also pursuing his PhD in the area Theoretical Computer Science at the Chennai Mathematical Institute. Is an avid reader interested in the Hindu traditions and philosophy. Loves Bicycling and Good Music. Name is Ranjal Gautham Shenoy.
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11 Responses to What’s in the name(s)?

  1. Ananth says:

    Huh, don’t even get me started on names…

    Anath errr.. Ananth

  2. Krips says:

    Couldn’t resist the chance of confusing people who are confused enough already?

  3. ego says:

    @Ananth:
    Yeah, typos can be nasty. At OLS last year, my name was written as Grantham R Shenoy.

    @Krips:
    Like they say, from chaos and confusion, comes clarity 🙂

  4. yogesh says:

    Incidentally, I have written a post on a similar concept..
    Please check it out and give your comments on it.

    It is at http://http//yogeshwarkumar.blogspot.com/2008/05/whats-in-name.html

  5. Vikas says:

    What’s in a name? A lot of trouble…
    My US visa was rejected because I didn’t have a middle name or a surname.
    Initially I was only ‘Vikas’
    Later I had to legally change my name to my current ‘Vikas Keshava Rao’ and then I got my Visa.

    Some names are not viable these days…Fakruddin for one…I guarantee he’ll have interesting nicknames
    Vikas is mispronounced by all non indians as Weak-A$$ and I get mightily pissed off!

  6. Sita says:

    I enjoyed your story very much.You have a pleasing style with words.I thought you were named after your Gothra ! and atleast you would not have to change any of your iniitial when you get married or if you didn’t ,you wouldfn’t be questioned “I thought your husband’s name is S—– .”
    Also thanks for the info. on how to handle this kind of problems.
    One thing that leads to this confusion is the tradition of using one’s father’s name as a prefix in a society which uses the family name as suffix.So people make a suffix out of the prefix and you get to be called by your father’s name[atleast abroad].This happens to my husband. Have I added to the confusion or the clarity?

  7. SAthya says:

    Awesome post da… learnt quite a lot about Indian migrations in this single post 🙂

    You are gonna beat me up for this but I always thought you were E Gautham Shenoy and hence you got the name E-Go…

    Cheers,
    Sathya

  8. Atanu Dey says:

    A minor quibble. The convention is “Mr Richard Branson” but if knighted, the convention is “Sir Richard” and not “Sir Bransan.”

  9. ego says:

    @Sita,
    Thanks for sharing your story.. I can understand this since one of my cousins faced the same problem when he visited Australia recently.

    @Atanu Dey,
    Ah, thanks for pointing out the convention!

  10. ooohhh..Awesome post! 🙂 Detailed and good one…Go GSB!

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