In my earlier piece “What’s in a Tambrahm name?” I had talked about how Tambrahms have a unique way of compressing long names and coming up with typical aathula koopadara pergal like – Vengidi for Venkatachalam, Naanu for Narayanan and so on. If you had missed that article, please read here.
This kind of naming and calling is usually aathukulla or within the extended family. But there is another unique way of naming and calling outside of the family as well. This is what I am trying to explore here.
In the 50s to 70’s, most Tambrahms from Palakkad boarded the Jayanti Janata express and headed towards Mumbai or Kerala Express to Delhi for some Joli. And when they arrived, they came equipped not with Engineering degrees as it is today, but with skills like typing, stenography, Accounting and above all English proficiency. So, invariably most of the Indian companies those days had Tambrahms as typists, Stenographers, Secretaries, Executive assistants and Accountants. In fact, the domination of Tambrahms in this domain was so much that, it provoked the then Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray to start a tirade against all mundu or as per him lungiwallah Madraasis!
It is usually said, “You are known by the company you keep!” In Tambrahm scheme of things, this is in fact literally true! That is, many times individuals are known and called by the company (organisation) they worked for. As we all know, in our previous generations, kids were always named after some Umaachi – Krishnan, Ganapathy, Raman, Sivan and so on. Since this naming convention was extensively used, in the Tambrahm circle there was always a surfeit of Krishnans, Ganapathys and the like. So, one way to differentiate each of them was to prefix the name with the name of the company they worked for.
So a Krishnan working in Batliboi will be Batliboi Krishnan!
One may think that Cadbury Sivan is a Sivan who loved Cadbury chocolates or a Raymonds Dorai loved wearing Raymond suits. Athu thaan kidayaathu! Sivan working in Cadbury became Cadbury Sivan and a Dorai employed in Raymonds was known by Raymonds Dorai!
And then you had Godrej Mani, Kirloskar Parameswaran, Indian Oil Gopalakrishnan, Voltas Hari, Burmah Shell Janardhanan, Glaxo Balan, LIC Rajan, Remington Murthy, Brooke Bond Raghu, Metal Box Suri, Tata Ravi, Birla Krishnamurthy, Times of India Natarajan, Britannia Chandru, State Bank Padmanabhan, IOC Radhakrishnan, L&T Ramaswamy, Saibol Venu, IOB Kannan and so on! Even in address books, names will be written as TVS Vasudevan, Simpson Rajagopal, Bajaj Venkatraman and so on.
In functions, if someone had to be introduced it will invariably be with the company name suffix. So in a kalyanam one mama (IPCL Raghavan) was introducing another mama. “Ivar thaan Colgate Subbaraman!” For which Subbaraman quipped – “Naan ippo pension aayaachu. Athanaala verum Subbaraman nnu sollungo!” For which IPCL Raghavan responded, “Retired aana enna. Engalukku neenga ennikume Colgate Subbaraman thaan!”
This prefixing by company name became so ubiquitous that many mamas while talking on the phone had to introduce themselves such without which nobody could recognise them. Something like this in this telephone conversation:
Mama 1: Hello…..
Mama 2: Hello… aaru pesarathu?
Mama 1: Naan thaan Krishnaswamy pesaren.
Mama 2: Krishnaswamya? Entha Krishnaswamy?
Mama 1: Adhaan, FIAT Krishnaswamy!
Mama 2: FIAT Krishnaswamya? Chollungo. Chollungo, Sowkiyama?
Most ushaar mamas will introduce themselves with the company name in the 1st place!
In fact, I heard that Rajnikant’s dialogue of “Mala da, Anna Mala” in the film Annamalai was inspired by this Tambrahm naming scheme! The film’s Director Suresh Krishna is a Tambrahm brought up in Bombay, aache!
Solla pona, “My name is Bond. James Bond!” dialogue was exported by Tambrahms only😀
At times, the company connection to the name of the mamas extended to mamis also. As per that, I know of some mamis who were called as Saibol Sarojam and Kirloskar Kamala etc.
Apart from easy identification, there is one another periya advantage of linking the name with company. Antha company product ethavathu vaangum pothu, discount venumna correcta concerned mama va contact pannalaam! I recall one Godrej mama was everyone’s go to person for getting Godrej fridge and cupboard at whole sale prices!
While in Mumbai, most of the Tambrahms worked in private companies, in Delhi, it was mostly Central government departments. There was a time till 80’s when the entire Delhi bureaucracy was ruled by Tambrahms all the way up to the level of Secretary in ministries. Fortunately this naming convention was not adopted there, I think. Otherwise, we would have had Finance Ramachandran, Education Ramamurthy and so on!!! Health Balachandran and Agriculture Raman… would have been hilarious! But in Delhi, Tambrahms working in Public Sector Undertakings were promptly called by the company they worked for. SAIL Krishnamurthy is well known!
In Delhi, many mamas were also working with Newspapers . Hindu la work pannindu iruntha Vaithi used to be known as Hindu Vaithi. When he got married and soon put on some weight, Hindu Vaithi soon became Gundu Vaithi 😀
I may be wrong here but, I didn’t notice this naming convention being adopted by other communities like Maharashtrians or Telugu. I have never come across a Bombay Dyeing Milind or a BARC Yashwant or for that matter a CEAT Balakrishna!
This tradition of prefixing with company names died a natural death post 90’s. Blame it on liberalisation and reforms for this also! Unlike that generation, sticking to one company throughout their career became passe for the post 90’s generation and this naming convention also died. However, I am just wondering if the same had continued now also, some of the names will make us roll in the floor and laugh!
And so on!
Postscript: The spark for this piece germinated from a conversation I had with my friend Prognosys Sudharshan – so duly thanking him here.