In a world where Satyam stands for anything but, I found an antique shop on MG Road, Kochi, with absolutely the right name. AAKRI-ti.


And a designer boutique on Marine Lines, Mumbai, with…absolutely the right name.


Names fascinate me. During the long Friday evening bus rides from REC to Cochin, when too dark to read, too bumpy to sleep, I used to play a game…I would select a random letter, say G, and in my mind compile an alphabetic list of celebrities whose surnames starts with that letter…Art Garfunkel, Ben Gazzara, Clark Gable, Danny Glover, Elliot Gould,…all the way up to Zsa Zsa Gabor. Then to the next letter…

I knew it could be developed into a parlour game…participants picking up random letters from two bins…I got a J and a C…umm…Johnny Cash, yippy…but taime kittiyilla.

Sangham had a name game inspired by Malayala Manorama’s ‘everybody who is somebody is a malayali’ theory – Arnold Shivasankaran, Manisha Kuruvilla, Pete Sambashivan, Boris Bharathan, Sunil G. Bhaskar, Kapil Devassy, Anil Kumbalam, Margaret Thachil, Al Kora. To the list my wife recently contributed Rya Nair.


Sajeev and I took this art form to a higher level in Chennai, awarding all our fav colleagues mallu names: Gupta – Guptan, Aggrawal – Abraham, Popat – Pappachan. And once Sajeev was transferred to Baroda, while talking to him from office, invention of nicknames for colleagues became a necessity. Our friend from Packaging was kuppi, his assistant was dappi; the heir apparent was Yuvraj, the also-ran was Kaif…I can’t reveal more, I happen to like my job.

While in Rajagiri, Biju was Chavali and TV was Thanivali…thankfully the names never stuck. Osa was Achayan and Bob was Cristo for a brief period. Diji, son of Rajappan – RA Japan – couldn’t escape being called Japan. We could never have called Varghese anything other than Mookkan, or Pattar anything other than Pattar. Philip, the only guy who could hit high notes, had to be Top.

While the most bizarre nickname of our generation was Chaly’s – KM-squared KKC (don’t ask) – the most appropriate one was reserved for Varkey’s friend Babu…a very unique character, an absolutely one-in-a-million guy…The Babu.

Friends of Rojo (son of ROsily and JOhn) always had colourful nicknames – Wheeler Pappan, Drummer Babu, Bolt Murali – but the award for the most colourful name would forever belong to Prof. Balasubramaniam from Chrompet…Chrome Balls (Honourable mention – a skinny lady lecturer in REC who was tagged Manchester).

Sona Chandy was my aunt’s student – in Hindi, sona means gold and chandi means silver. I haven’t come across another name that works so beautifully as a translingual pun – except, of course, Rosemary PO (roze meri piyo in Hindi means drink mine everyday). BHH.

Vaal Kashnam 1. 1988. Cricket-Bonji season. Mayan was Suni’s neighbour then. The cricket kit was kept at Mayan’s place and whoever reached the ground first would collect it from the house. One day Mibu was the early bird. By mistake he walked up to Suni’s house and rang the bell. 5.30 am, Suni’s father opened the door.

Mibu: Mayane vilikkamo?
Suni’s father: Enthina
Mibu: Kalikkana
Suni’s father: !@#$%^&*

Suni’s sister’s name is Maya.

Vaal Kashnam 2. A few after graduation, Pattar’s Manipal gang got together at a friend’s house. While they were watching old college/hostel videos on the living room TV, the host’s sis walked up to the TV-stand, bend down to pick up a book…and at exactly the same moment on the screen appeared the image of an old friend, and the entire room erupted…Kundi, Kundi, Kundi

The girl underwent therapy for many years…