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.