Monday, May 7, 2012

The trouble with names

I have heard of legendary teachers who can match names and faces of old boys almost instantaneously, decades after they last met, and while I marvel at such tremendous feats of memory, I don’t really pity myself for not being able to do as well. For one thing, as I tell my current pupils in class, only the very good and the very naughty leave any strong impressions at all; the rest, unless they make an effort to keep in touch, are quickly forgotten. There’s a broom in my mind that does the sweeping out automatically, every season. Didn't somebody say you have to keep forgetting in order to keep learning?

For another, people don’t help matters by sending children with the same names to my classes again and again. I have long lost count of all the Subhadips, Sayans, Arnabs, Ayans, Joydeeps, Anirbans, Arghyas and Abhirups I have dealt with, and likewise with the Ankitas, Ananyas, Anweshas, Sushmitas, Shreyas, Sagarikas and Gargis. It helps if they have uncommon names, so I don’t easily forget the Jayastus and Jias and Brahmis and Diptokirtis, Dibyanjanas, Sponditas and Koussis – though some of these have been entirely forgettable or worse except for their names…

I wish they’d make a law that in every municipality, only one newborn child will be allowed to be named Ananya in any one year (to think it means ‘unique’, too!). At least, they could ring me up saying ‘Sir, I am Ananya of the 1991 batch’: that might help to ring a faint bell.


Shilpi said...

I've been chortling with this post of yours for a day and more, and some of your lines have been running through my head. These are the posts that get me grinning through the day, and if I didn't comment right away it's because I was wondering which part was the funniest and sharpest bit.

For a long time, I thought that remembering names and matching names with faces was an enviable feat but I also imagined that I was extremely good at it. Now I know that I'm not just poor at it but insist on calling a student by some other name in the class because he looks more like a 'Josh' than a 'Joe'. That's what I'd done for two weeks one semester some years ago.

They say, from the sociological angle that names follow some sort of a pattern for contemporary cohorts. I don't know whether that's the case always, but I've noticed a flood of Britneys across a couple for years and one semester I got every possible variation of Brittney, Brittany, Brittni and some other ees which I've forgotten. And among boys, Michael, Matthew and Eric are always names that are there...

I don't know what to say when I am reminded of some old acquaintance who was named 'Siren' for what reasons I do not remember any longer. And somebody else was named 'Sputnik'...and to think that these were the names they sported in public.

I often wished that I'd been able to choose my own name though...this thought still sticks., I don't think I can actually pick out the bit that I like best in this one.

Subhanjan said...

Thank God my name is Subhanjan. It is not quite common. I wonder if you ever had any other student by this same name. :)

Sayan Datta said...

In my four years, Sir, I have already taught one 'Sayan'. And Rashmi has an eighth standard student whose name is- hold your breath- Sayan Datta! Out of plain curiosity I took a peek at his face once...and here comes the most curious part- apart from his bushy eyebrows, there is very little dissimilarity between him and my photo when was in the eighth standard! And I am not exaggerating at all!.
Sayan Datta

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Hahaha, Sayan, thanks. This has got to be the most precious comment that anyone has sent in for a very long time. So few years into teaching, and you've already got a namesake! I have been at it for more than 30 years, and I still haven't dealt with another Suvro Chatterjee yet...

Sunup said...


Maybe some ex/current-student of yours reading this, and who is also a Chatterjee, or who would get married to a Chatterjee, might name their kid Suvro Chatterjee and enroll him to your class! You never know :)


Sumitha said...

When I was a kid in primary school, I loved reading the names of the students admitted to kg every year (they used to put up the list on the common notice board). One name that has stuck around in my mind after all these years is "Reliance".

When I saw the name, I didn't quite know the meaning or the brand name significance of the word, so I went home and told my parents; mom did the math and informed me that the child would have been named after the Cricket world cup in 1987 :)

I personally loved Aakanksha and Anamika for reasons long forgotten, but nobody in my family shared the love, and they would tease me royally about those names.

I've named my son Kenneth (though I wish it had a more significant meaning than just handsome or born of fire) because I really love the sound of the name; husband gladly agreed. He wanted the baby to be named Emma if it were a girl (thank God, Emma didn't arrive this time around; if there's a next time, hopefully, father of the baby will have gotten over the penchant for the name!). So much for names!

I remember having disliked my own first name all through childhood (though I like my full name quite a lot!), to the extent that I asked mom if I could get it changed just before ICSE :D


Sunandini Mukherjee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sayan Datta said...

Just came to know from a student of mine about her sister (let us assume her name is Nivedita) who married a punjabi of the surname Suri. Now her surname was Sur before marriage. So, this woman who used to write her name earlier as Nivedita Sur, now changed it to Nivedita Sur Suri. Only when her Bengali friends began to tease her, by saying her two surnames together, did she drop the 'Sur' in between and now writes her name plainly as Nivedita Suri.

I am also reminded of a student of mine whose surname was Mondal. His parents quite cleverly named him Soura.

There is another person I know of the name Arnab Sur. I wonder how he signs his name. Does he write ASur?