With advancing age, one of the most difficult tasks is remembering names and relating them to faces. Or in the new gen terminology, recalling the PDF file and matching with the memory card. Such an exercise I tried the other day with the help of one of my friends whom I knew for over the past five decades.
The effort was to remember the names of our common friends who studied with us in our intermediate class for two years. Those two years at the beginning of college life were really memorable for many reasons. Most importantly, it was the time when we all got out of the clutches of rigid regime at school. The class was quite big.....more than fifty students.....no uniforms....liberties to skip or (fondly called as) "cut" classes and so on ........were the liberating factors.
Let me confide, more than names, the nicknames came to the fore while trying to remember the classmates and teachers. And for the sake of concealing the real identity let me confine to only the nicknames while describing them here.
A few of our classmates were interested more in their extracurricular activities than studies. Someone who always carried his Bongos was called by that name though he had three godly names as per register. He was very popular among all of us because his expertise was utilised during free periods as percussion accompaniment for the crooners amongst us. That reminds me of my close friend who had been nicknamed as "Whistle" thanks to his extraordinary skills in whistling old Mohammed Rafi numbers to new Yesudas songs at ease.....
The next was not really an extrovert, but very interested in making his presence felt by others. Once in the English class, the teacher asked for a single adjective to describe a new born child. Our friend jumped up with an answer- "fresh baby", and there after he was referred to by that name. Even today we friends refer to him as "fresh baby"!
Another friend had facial resemblance with one of the erstwhile chief ministers of the state. No wonder he was always called EMS by all of us. The other day he called me over the phone after a long gap of decades. When I was struggling to recollect his name, he quipped "Don't you remember me, I am EMS ?"
The facial resemblances made two of our professors to being called Nagesh and Berkeley after the famous Tamil comedian and the logo of an old brand of cigarettes respectively...
The characters in famous movies, epics, etc influence the fixing of nick names. During last summer I met "Ravanan" . I forgot his real name. I could only recollect him having portrayed that character in a play for college day! The fellow whom we used call “Potato" appeared before me in one of the meetings of the management association. He had shed so much weight and deserved to be called "Amitabh Bachchan".
Nicknames normally help in identifying the correct person when there are more than one having the same name in the class. If one is fair and the other dark, the colour is generally added to the names. I generally refer to a pair of my closest friends with the same name as big and small because of the contrast in their stature and size. Since they have now excelled in their divergent careers, my wife refers to them by adding their professions...
The proficiency in games or arts too gets tagged to the names many a time. We had a state champion in Table tennis in our class who was always referred to as champion....There was a son of a former minister. It was easier to call him qualifying his status than by his real name which was common with at least two others.
One among us was quite tall. He was a very enthusiastic athlete, pole vault being his favorite. He was an Under officer in the NCC too. Among our close circle of friends he was called the pole vault....! Alas, he could not surmount the heights put up in his family life. He fell down to the ground realities of life without mat or cushion at a very tender stage!
Even in the organization I worked, we had interesting situations while identifying persons with the same name. There was a legal officer and a general officer by the same name working in the controlling office. When someone came to call on one of them, the security staff sought clarifications from the visitor, he generally asked, "You want to meet legal Muthaiah ?" The visitor who wanted meet the other officer with the same name, quipped "No, not legal." Then one subordinate staff was given directions to escort the visitor to the other (illegal) officer. The latter got a negative tag for no fault of his.
In my own case, when I worked in an office, there was another colleague by name Sathya# das. And he generally got many visitors thanks to his popularity. Once an old man from my native village came to meet me and he said he would like meet Mr.Das.The lady at the reception asked "We have two with the name Das. Do you want to meet Sathya Das? " He answered,"No, no, I want to meet the other one."Without knowing the consequences, someone uttered " is it Kalla* das?” Thereby I too got a new nick name!
# means true
* Means untrue or lie