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.

All grown up


We all have occasions and instances in life when we are catapulted to adulthood from our carefree teenage years. For some of us, it might the first day of our job after completing our graduation, for others it might be getting married after spending more than a few carefree years in our first job, for some it might be when we get saddled with the additional responsibility of having to take care of our retired parents at least financially, but I suspect that for more than a few of us, there were more serious incidents that happened in our lives that forced us to ‘grow up’ more than just literally.

I remember, when I was all of seven years old, my maternal grandfather was just about beginning to teach me the nuances of the wonderful game of chess when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. And despite the fact that he was admitted to a hospital full time, his last words to me on the day before he passed away was “Always remember that the pawns always move forward, never backward.” And although I did learn chess, I never took to it with the same passion or commitment that I might have if he were around to finish up his classes with me. But those words will stay with me forever.

Five or six years later, when my maternal grandmother who was quite old and had lived with blood pressure and diabetic problems for more than a fair share of years was in her last days and was admitted to the same hospital and if memory serves me right in the same ward as my grandfather. Now Ajji, as I used to call her was someone who literally brought me up given that I had a working mother. All the good things, the naughty things, my eating habits, my doodling on wall habits, my potty training, my toys, all of these were courtesy Ajji and when you are all of twelve years old, these memories are still quite fresh. To see her suffering during the last week or so in the hospital affected me quite a bit. And for the first time in my life I actually prayed that someone would put an end to her suffering and that she could die in peace. I know it sounds a little morbid and ill-natured when I put it in as many words, but the truth is that I didn’t want her to suffer the way she was during those days.

Fast forward to 2004, I had gotten an admission letter from one of the Tier 1 B Schools in India after a torrid 13 month hiatus when I was unemployed and writing B School entrance exams left, right and centre. My paternal grandfather, who was all of 92 yrs old then, who had never once visited a doctors’ clinic in his entire life (except for a minor operation) had been diagnosed with early signs of Alzheimers’ Disease. I still vividly remember my last conversation with him the day before I left Bangalore to B School. The irony was that he not only had forgotten me, but also my dad when I mentioned his name in the conversation. He talked to me like he would talk to any visitor who had come home. That shook me up quite a bit. That memory haunts me to date.

Looking back at these three incidents after all these years, I guess these were pivotal points in time when I actually ‘grew up’ as a person, an individual and these incidents helped me get a perspective in life like no other. I guess I am more defined by the tragedies in my life more than the other ‘happy memories’ and they helped me ‘grow up’ in more than one way, I guess.

I would love to hear snippets from your life when you have actually felt ‘grown up’. These walks down memory lanes always make for interesting readings, don’t they.

Working parents and over indulgent grandparents


I am an only child who grew up in a nuclear family. To add to the fun, both my parents were working, my father in a private company and my mother in a nationalized bank. Given that these were the early 80s that we are talking about, they didn’t have to spend too much time on their commute to and from office, but having said that my father was a workaholic and my assumption is that he never used to get too much time to spend with me during weekdays including half days on Saturdays. My mother however, probably used to spend some quality time with me during the evenings. Even so, I give full credit to my maternal grandparents for bringing me up during those initial few years, until I turned 7-8 yrs old.

I remember my maternal grandmother, (I used to call her Ajji) feeding me, telling me all those old granny tales (quite literally in this case), playing with me, putting me to sleep and generally spending lots of time with me. And my grandfather also doted upon me and my cousin, given the fact that we were the only two grandchildren that he had in the same city that he lived in, Bangalore. While I wouldn’t say that my grandparents were over indulgent when it came to taking care of me, I would like to believe that I was well taken care of and was never left in need of anything that I wanted, be it toys, books, or overall items that kids usually want for.

The fact that both my parents were working and that I would see them only for a couple of hours in a day did not deter me from loving them as much as any other kid would love its parents. And even looking back now, with the lens of being a parent myself, I can undoubtedly say that I had a wonderful childhood.

All my friends at school and college who had siblings had only one term to use for me when they came to know that I was an only child – “spoilt kid”. Back then I used to wonder if I really was a spoilt kid. The way I saw it, I had to struggle as much as any other kid to get my parents to buy me the latest toy, to buy me the latest children’s book, to give me what I wanted. I never really understood what my friends meant when they called me a spoilt kid. It was not like my parents ever gave me more than what any normal kid got. It was not like I got a Maruti Car the day I turned 18 yrs old (I wouldn’t have even gotten the ‘hand me down’ car from my father if he hadn’t had his back problem which prevented him from driving). I used to face the same pressure from my parents regarding studying well and scoring high marks that all my other friends used to face. I had the same time curfews at home that all my other friends had. So I never quite understood how and why I was a spoilt kid.

I guess it was the fact that I didn’t have a sibling who competed for my parents and grandparents attention that probably made me a spoilt kid. I never had anyone who I had to give up things to, sacrifice toys for, and fight with for love and affection and that probably made me a spoilt kid. That being said, the combination of ‘working parents + over indulgent grandparents’ did not spoil me as a kid. If anything, both these couples ensured that I inculcated an awesome value system and taught me that only things that came to me as a result of my efforts and struggles would stay with me for long. They taught me that there are no free lunches in life (in a manner of speaking). Therefore, adding to my equation, working parents + over indulgent grandparents + value systems = good kids.

Why am I talking about this equation in my post….because my daughter R faces the same situation today. Both my wife and me are working, and my daughter has equally (or probably more) indulgent grandparents than I had. While my wife and me make it a point to spend quality time with R on a daily basis, talking to her, playing with her, reading books to her, taking her out to rides and walks, the fact remains that she spends a good amount of time with her grandparents on a daily basis.

I have observed my mother reading out books to her and explaining the morals of the stories to her. Values such as sharing, cleanliness, punctuality are all being taught to her (as much as her 2 yr old mind can absorb) by her parents and her grandparents. Every once in a while when she throws a tantrum, all of us ensure that we don’t necessarily fall prey to her emotional blackmailing tactics and distract her away from the cause of her tantrum. Both couples, us as parents and my parents as grandparents, are constantly learning on the job, in terms of adjusting our behaviors to how R reacts to situations. We continuously exchange notes on how to handle particular types of tantrums and effective ways to overcome them.

I would love to hear from the readers as to what they feel about kids with working parents and also about kids with over indulgent grandparents.

Image courtesy : http://static.andertoons.com/img/toons/cartoon4037.png


This post was originally posted at Parentous, India’s largest growing online parenting community.