Sunday, August 26, 2012

Oh Bishwanath!

Last evening, after I spoke about Madras and Tamarind City at the Gymkhana Club, an elderly couple sitting in the front row came up to me.

"Can I please have your email ID?" the man asked.

I gave him my card.

"I've been reading you in The Hindu," he said, "and somehow I always thought you were an elderly gentleman, sixty or sixty-five years old."

"You are not the only one, sir," I assured him.

He isn't the only one, really. From time to time, I am told by various people, once they meet me, that how they always thought the byline belonged to a much older person. I usually take it as a compliment (because to be thought of as an elderly man can mean the writing is mature), but at the same time I am also reminded how unsexy my name is.

Recently, when Tamarind City launched in Bangalore at the Leela Palace, I was told the same by danseuse Vani Ganapathy, who read from the book there. When I rushed up to the entrance to escort her to the book-reading venue as soon as she reached the hotel, she asked me: "Are you Bishwanath Ghosh?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"You know what, I thought Mr. Bishwanath Ghosh is a very elderly person, and that you are someone he has sent to receive me," she told me as we took the escalator down. She then went on to read out two extra passages which she hadn't intended to earlier.

The older I grow, the more I am beginning to dislike my name. It only seems to be hastening the aging process. No matter how hard I try to imagine myself looking like an elderly man, I fail miserably: in my own eyes, I am always the child who is lusting for the green mangoes hanging from the tree in the neighbour's compound. But God knows what images people conjure up in their minds when they read my byline: Bishwanath Ghosh.

My father's name is Samir; my grandfather was Suresh; my grandfather's father was Umesh, my grandfather's grandfather was Govinda. Then why am I Bishwanath? Oh well, it so happened that when I was still in my mother's womb, my grandfather -- mother's father, that is -- happened to visit Vishwanath Temple in Benaras. He told the god, "If my daughter gives birth to a son, I will name him Vishwanath." Considering we are Bengalis, Vishwanath became Bishwanath (thankfully, not Bishshonath).

Ever since then, I've been carrying the burden of a long name. Ten letters! Certain long names can be sexy, such as Harshvardhan. But certainly not Bishwanath. I wonder if a shorter name would've have had a greater appeal among readers and also members of the opposite sex: Atul Ghosh, Tarun Ghosh, Bikram Ghosh, Ayan Ghosh, Arjun Ghosh.If the Shiva connection was so necessary, I wouldn't have minded even Shankar Ghosh. Or Shambhu Ghosh. Such short names would have certainly looked better on a book cover. Of what use popularity if majority of your audience assumes you are an arthritic old man who is hostile to attention: not everybody is on Facebook, after all.

Fortunately, for me, most people who matter to me call me either BG, Bish or Bishy. They sound sufficiently sexy and cosy. Many others call me Ghosh -- which is also perfectly fine. But I invariably develop a dislike for people who insist on calling me Bishwanath. I distinctly remember that afternoon, many years ago, when this woman, drunk on the cocktail of love and lust, happened to blurt out the offending words during a highly passionate moment: "Oh Bishwanath!"

I instantly came crashing to earth. I never wanted to see her after that. I never did.


janani sampath said...

Ditto, I hate my name too. More so after I came to know that 'janaanee' is a Punjabi equalisation of the word woman.
And the worse part is in school, I had some 6 Jananis in my class.Too common.

The burden of being born in the Orwellian year when that name was popular. :(

Paresh Palicha said...

Bishwanath by any other name would have written as well. I've always craved for a sexy name like that since noticed it for the first time in SEX (I think you'd written about Kovalam beach going the Goa way). And, your writing does make it sound sexy & distinct in the reader's header's head. :)

Desi Babu said...

Dear Ghosh Babu,

I once met a white gentleman, who was a devoted member of ISKCON. He had named his sons Pundarikaksa and Jagganatha. He had changed his own name to an equally ancient Indian name for Krishna. And, I did sense some regret in his voice when he told me that his dad's name was Jack.

Looking at the first names in your family tree, and then yours, reminded me of this gentleman. Ah the things we inflict on our progeny.

But trust me, you came off relatively unscathed, it could have been much worse. After all, who in the world would like a name like "Desi Babu"?! But then, once you have it, you are stuck with it.


Deepika Munot said...

Just for the sake or argument, would a shorter name have made you write any differently?!?! A writer by any other name would have written just as well or bad!! Does it change the way you see life? Does it change how people who mean anything to you, feel about you? I for one find classical Indian names, long or short incredibly appealing!! There is a regality about them that foreign names lack. I would have been proud with like Vaidehi, Gayatri, Rukmani......etc.

Shamita said...

I think Bishwanath is a beautiful name. It has an inexplicable aura about it.

Abhishek Mukherjee said...

My apologies, but the name always reminds me of the Subhash Ghai-Shatrughan Sinha iconic movie.

Anonymous said...

i don know why.....but to me u r always mr ghosh and ...true not ur name but ur writing makes me think ur from that much romantic bygone era......long long time ago times

Nivedita said...

I prefer traditional names any day and think your name is lovely. It sounds very distinguished and has a personality about it. Some of today's names lack that personality. Plus I love the meaning-- lord of the world.

Anonymous said...

BG, Bishwanath ghosh, Bish, Bishy -- By any name you are the same awesome, sexy and a wonderful writer !!I kinda like your name.. the "Sh" is very sexy..

Especially the BG - the name I use would not have been there if your name would have been something else..

Keep writing ...

PS: The last line is hilarious!! "Oh BG"!!

meet deepti said...

Such a naughty end to the blogpost. :)

Murali Raman said...

Oh Bishy!

btw...i do admire your tenacity in constantly blogging, rain or tsunami!

I also find quaint, your use of 'members of the opposite sex' to refer to them!


Anu said...

You have touched many chords with that. People like me with extremely common name across the I wish my parents had though a bit more before naming me.

Anubhuti said...

ha ha !! Did she ver get to know why you never met her again ??

I too have a long & unusual name but unlike you, I loved it all my life & still do. Infact, I hated it when ppl tried to call me anu. Later some of my friends named me bhuti, which sounds funny to ppl but I feel it's so much more personal than anu !! Now if someone would have called me that, I would've left him !

Anubhuti said...

by the way, how does Mr Ghosh sound. I think it's quite flambouyant ad flattering !!

Anonymous said...


when i came to know u for the first time..i got your name as Vishwanath. and after i met u only i got to know that u r "b........ the name , the looks and the writing a are attractive, different and really sparkling.......3 in one are so adorable...