What’s in a name?


Today’s prompt was to write about my first name and to describe whether there were any stories or associations attached to it. So here goes.

It is a no-brainer that I (Jairam Mohan, for those who don’t know my name) have been named after Lord Ram, one of India’s and I daresay the world’s most popular deities. However, there is more to Jairam than just the literal meaning “glory to Lord Ram“.

I belong to a community called the Palakkad Iyers, and for anybody who is familiar with this community, they know that all firstborn children are named after their paternal grandparents, the boy gets his grandfather’s name and the girl her grandmother’s. Given that my grandfather had seven sons and two daughters, there just would have been too many grandchildren with the same names, and he therefore decided to play around with the names just a bit.

His name was Ramaswamy and that meant that all of us had to have Ram in our names. He was a freedom fighter and was a lifelong Congress supporter (the Indian National Congress, mind you, and not the Congress that we know of today). And it was just after the 1977 Emergency that a cousin of mine, a tad elder than me was born. He named him Sreeram, the first in the lineage of Rams in the family. I came next, Jairam, and the cousin born three years after me was named Rajaram.

The choice of Sree, Jai and Raja were not random ones. It was my grandfather’s way of coining a catchy slogan to support Indira Gandhi during the 1980 elections. The chant would go “Sreeram Jairam Rajaram, Indira Gandhi zindabad” In fact, my grandpa loved it so much, that he would sing it out aloud whenever he would get to see the three of us together in a family function.

Of all the wonderful memories I have of him, this story behind my name and those of my cousins remains one of my all time favorites.


Therefore, unlike the popular perception that I had been named after Lord Ram and my parents or grandparents were extremely devout or religious people to name me after him, the fact remains that my name was a result of one of my grandpa’s word plays and his penchant for playing around with the English language to suit the occasion.

Just chanting out the phrase aloud brings back some really wonderful memories to me. All the days spent as youngsters learning English from my grandpa, playing word-building games with him, sparring with him over interpretations of Shakespearean and other literary works, asking him ideas for slogans for products and competitions, asking him to help out with essay and elocution topics, discussing cricket matches with him, these were things that almost all his grandchildren (with the exception of the youngest ones) have thoroughly enjoyed. Yes, while the eldest three of them managed to spend more time with him personally given that they actually stayed with him for more than a few years, the rest of us couldn’t complain as he was always game to spend time with us kids. In fact, looking back today, at times I feel that he probably used to enjoy our company more than the company of his own children.

Thatha, this post is a tribute to all those wonderful memories, and of course, to the lovely name that the world knows me by today.


This post has been written for Project 365 : A post a day where, as the name suggests, the aim is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided by WordPress.

35 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. “the fact remains that my name was a result of one of my grandpa’s word plays and his penchant for playing around with the English language to suit the occasion.” – How interesting and quite an unconventional tribute. I wish the story behind my name was half as interesting as yours, Jai.
    And big thank you for jumping in the fray for today. πŸ™‚

    • Sakshi, my absolute pleasure in narrating this whimsical and mildly funny story which has the origins of my name πŸ™‚ And while all my writing is probably a tribute to my grandpa, this post in particular mentions him and credits him for all of my English skills πŸ™‚

  2. Being a palakkad iyer myself, I know the passing down of grandparents name…My friends to this day wonder how I have two names (one belonging to my grandma just for tradition sake)…my grandma’s name was Sundari and thank God my parents decided to go with Veena instead…I would have otherwise had to dealt with many word plays with my name, i.e. in addition to what I receive presently…and oh yeah the surname being your father’s name brings about a lot of curiosity in my circle of friends as well. Nice post πŸ™‚

    • indianhumor, welcome to the blog and thanks for reading the post and leaving behind your comments.

      Am sure that this post resonated well with you, given the fact that you are a Palakkad Iyer yourself πŸ™‚

  3. A well-suited dedication…
    Loved it!!!

    I wish u also talked about how your 3 female cousins got their names. Especially mine… so unconventional and different! πŸ˜›

    • locomente, long time no see on the blog, huh πŸ™‚

      While I do know the full story behind your name, the only thing I know about the rest of the names is the ‘ya’ angle. Is there more to that story as well ?

  4. beautiful tribute .. thank you for sharing and telling us more about your grand father..

    and there is a lot in the name as I found out while depositing my cheque.. πŸ™‚ it is all about a name sir..

  5. Sigh!! I wonder if the story behind my name is even remotely this interesting. A whimsically funny post Jai and glad to knoe the origins of your name. And yes, thanks for jumping in

  6. Hey that’s interesting history behind the name Jairam and I bet it makes u a very politically alert citizens since you blogged about it at a time we are yet to recover from Lok Sabha results. Do we see u as a future candidate? hehe!

  7. My name is a combination of my dad’s and mom’s name slightly twisted plus a couple of other reasons…I loved your grandfather’s idea..super sweet :):)

  8. I have no clue how my name came about except that each of us siblings is named with the letter R and my dad’s name also began with that letter. But yours sure was interesting. It was nice having a peek at your childhood and your grandpa through your eyes.

  9. Ohh!! I wish I too had an interesting story to tell.. My parents must have thought that they had come up with the most modern ,catchy and yet ‘religious’ name until they met with thousands others who named their daughters as ‘Puja’!!

    • @Puja, first of all welcome to the blog, thanks for reading the post and leaving behind your comments.

      Am more than sure your parents had no notions about your name being unique, but yes, it is modern, catchy and religious, all at the same time, no doubt about that πŸ™‚

  10. wow.. my name was kept based on a novel cum TV serial character. She was powerful influential Character of those days, and hence became my name. at times i feel bad that my mom got carried away by the novel and dad obsessed with the letter A, they just named me like that..

    • @ashreyamom, oooh, a powerful influential character from a TV Serial starting with A, now that has enough clues in there, let me try and see if I can guess your name πŸ™‚

  11. In my community there is a tradition of naming the child after their paternal grandparents provided the are not alive.It is a way of remembering them. I will have to ask my mom about the story behind my name.

  12. how interesting!! πŸ™‚
    Your grandpa sounds like a wonderful man! πŸ™‚
    My parents picked my name. My dad esp, since I was the first child in the family! πŸ™‚

  13. Champion thatha πŸ™‚ I loved the way he modernised the traditional ‘ Ram’, thus ensuring that the name sounded traditional, yet so contemporary. Thanks for sharing this cute n sweet story here with us πŸ™‚
    At home, we are 3 girls, and 2 boys as grandchildren to thatha-paatti, so all of us have been named after our paternal grandparents… that makes all 3 of us girls ‘Janaki’ and the 2 boys ‘Ramasubramanian’ πŸ˜€ So we have different names for official purposes πŸ˜€
    And you might have guessed it by now, Sreeja, itself is ‘Sreemathi Janaki’ πŸ˜€ ( My appa’s play with words πŸ™‚ ) :

    • @Sreeja, trust me when I say this, your dad is also no less of a champion himself, Sreemathi Janaki becoming Sreeja is quite something else πŸ˜€

      As for champion thathas, all our thathas are champions to their grandchildren, aren’t they πŸ˜€

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