Wednesday, April 08, 2009

What's the good name?

What is the height of adventure? For some people it is jumping from a plane...for some it is bungee jumping or scaling a steep cliff. The thrill and the adrenalin rush it gives you is a heady feeling. For me the ultimate adrenalin rush comes with flirting with grave danger a.k.a calling my mother “edi leelamme.” The thrill it gives will beat sky diving with an umbrella any day!!!

I come from a family where calling elders by name is forbidden even if the elder is elder by a couple of months only! If you were to ask me what my grandfather’s youngest brother’s name is I wouldn't know and he is my favorite grand uncle too! He is called Kunjitappan (Kunju + chittappan). His eldest brother is called Perappan and the guy after him Chittappan. The wives also follow the same naming logic and that is 8 pairs of names that we kids memorized by habit by the time we were 6 or 7 years old. I have to call both my elder brothers "chetan" even though one doesn't deserve it at all :p Even cousin brothers who are elder have to be addressed as “chetan” and cousin sisters are “chechi.” It is more or less a habit now and as a kid I amused elders by calling cousin brothers close to my age as “eda cheta

Luckily for us we are allowed to call my Dad’s five brother as “uncles”. However there was a hitch. Every person in my family both from my mother’s side and father’s side has a nick name…sigh. And remembering my uncles nicks was really tough. My Dad is called Kunjunju, the next Kunjooty and so on. We could never tell them apart and to the usual question as to which of the brothers kids were, we usually messed up royally :p My family is 500 strong so you can imagine the number of names we had to know. It came naturally as we have heard them being addressed with their nick since we were lil kids. But there is a hitch here too. We do not know their “real names” It was very recently that I came to know that two close friends and cousins called “Kunjumon” and “Ciby” were Mathew and Sebastian respectively and the revelation came when they came here for their interviews and my Dad was going over their papers. For the past 21-22 years I had never known that they were Mathew and Sebastian!!!

So this Saturday I sat down and got my mom to tell me the “real” names of people I know so well except for their ‘real’ names of course. And out tumbled the Antony’s and Abrahams and Korahs and Thomases out of the family closet. I just couldn’t believe that these people had normal names! :-O

What is more surprising and somewhat miraculous is that my Mom and Dad married into almost identical families as far as nomenclature traditions are concerned! Else they are as different as chalk and cheese :p

Coming to the height of adventure….now you can imagine the grave peril I subject my life and limbs to when I dare to call my mom “edi leelamme”. And it is the absolute faith in my ability to outrun my mom and stay out of sight till she cools down that makes me take the chance! :|


Nitram said...

Oh man. Talk about names in the family!
We had a logical hierarchy that was used to name our Uncles and Aunts- Moms side: Add the suffix achan, amma for uncles, aunts respectively. Dads side: Add the suffix peppan, mema for uncles, aunts respectively. The next rule for this twisted name calling logic was: Anyone elder than your parents has the prefix Vellia(big).
So you have people being called stuff like Velliappan, Velliamma, Peppan, Memma, Velliachan and Achan. Whew.

silverine said...

Nitram: You are lucky. We have absolutely no logic in naming people though we have our share of Velliappan, Velliamma, Pappan, Velliachan and Achachan. Double *whew* :p

Amal Bose said...

guess this is a common problem for all..
for me, i dont have a clue on what my not so close relatives.. i just call them uncle, aunty etc.
and for closer relatives.. well.. the namings are a bit funny, coz i myself made them up when i a child. i was told their normal names but i just called them what came out of my mouth.. and my brother, cousins etc started calling them by that ( im the eldest) and we are still calling them by that. even other grownups took it...

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

500 relatives?! You are so lucky!! When my bro and I were kids we had to know country names in order to play word building :|

mathew said...

so alike..we do have a kariachen..a vakkachen..a pennamma..a kunjotty..a kunjumon...a babychen and even my dad is actually called Kunjachen..its so happens that we need a catalogue for difference versions of the same name.

But well talkin of calling names..when all get together people actually get confused..I have been actually addressed as Bobby(a cousin's name) several times even by my mom!!

But i kinda like these names...sadly our generation wont have these names.:-(

Dhanush said...

Good One. Ever heard about uskoolamma (ഉസ്‌കൂള്ളമ്മ വടകര സ്ലാങില്‍ -സ്‌കൂള്ളമ്മ in normal terms) ;). My Vallyama(that's my dad's elder sister FYI) was the head teacher of the local school and hence we used to call her by that time when we were kids. No I wonder if the latest generation know about that name :)

Then there is umpteen chitta's, vallyammanvans, ellayachans, ellayamaas, memaa's ( ones dad's sister I suppose - More heard in Calicut Area), Maaman's by name - (govindammaman, santhoshmaman, babumaman).. Hmm but as Mathew said, I too love it.

Now with neo nuclear families, it will be just an ammavan or kochchan or ellayama or vallayamma.

Pramod Abraham said...

The real names most of the time come up during the wedding season when the Groom and Brides names are given for printing.

silverine said...

Amal Bose: Looks like you are from a small family!

Karthik: LOL!!

Mathew: maybe thats the name your mom wanted to keep for you! :p But I agree. I too love these names and do not see the tradition continuing!

Dhanush: Uskoolamma was cool! :) I see that you have your work cut out too.

Pramod: In our family we do not give wedding cards to close relatives. They are personally invited. So I never saw the real names! :) Nowadays some people do send invites preceded by a call.

~==[[[ Abhi ]]]==~ said...

Awesome post. I've hd a lot of trouble when i was a child and came home for the yearly vacations in april-may. All my relatives whom we visited will quiz me asking their names and if i somehow got it right, they'd ask me the ultimate "How i'm related to you, parayeda jithu" and i go "ammmmaaaaaaaaaaaa, rekshikooooo"

Good 1. :)

Anonymous said...

My parents have large families and have seen similar situations happening for them. I took the easy way out. I decided how I want to call everyone and insisted that's how I'll go about it (I was a pretty annoying kid). I even made a nickname for an aunt on my mother's side, because I cudn't pronounce her name properly. My kid sister picked up the nicknames from me and for a while, the aunt's daughters, who are also younger than me, used to use the nickname much to her chargin :)

Sriram said...

ah.. so Anju or silverine is really Anjali? Or do we have another name-in-the-family-closet? :)

thomman said...

Hmm, my grandfather was called ichayan by my dad and uncles, so we followed the same; same case with all other people, regardless of the relation or age, we call 'em what their bros, cuzs n other relns call 'em. Btw, I've never been called 'chetta' by anyone in the family. Younnger or older they call me 'thommu'. :D One name fits all.
And now I know which family caused population explosion in the country :P

silverine said...

Abhi: Your relatives seem to know which leg to pull hehe! :) We did not go to Kerala yearly. We went there every time there was a long weekend as Blr is so close. So got to know all my relatives well!

Arby K: If I had taken your route to naming my relations myself that would have created utter chaos. :p

Sriram: Anju it is at home. But my friends have a nick for me! :)

Thomman: Thats what we follow i.e call people by names they are called by their people. But their family members themselves give them a nickname. Calling anyone by their given name is unheard of. Reg population explosion we plead "guilty" :p btw I have an uncle Thomas, who broke the family tradition of being called by a nick. We call him Thommachanpappan! :|

thomman said...

That reminds me of ichayan's bro, appachanpaappan.

silverine said...

thomman: :D


u really had a tough time of it ....
i wld have messed up zaroor!!
p.s. the term ur going to risk using on ur mum - what does it really mean ???

great post.