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.

Idiots’ guide to life with toddlers

Once the initial euphoria of becoming a parent (father or mother) wears out and the entire extended family and friend circle has shared their wishes over SMSes, phone calls and Facebook likes for your status updates, all parents are faced with the true-blue grim realities of parenting. So, this post shall strive to make you a little more aware of toddlers and all the ‘baggage’ they bring with them when they arrive.

1. Your time is not ‘your time’ anymore. All sleeping hours and hours spent awake will now be spent fretting and fuming about why your toddler is not sleeping for more than two-three hours at a stretch. How is it that he/she manages to wake up at the slightest hint of a paper swishing due to the fan running in the room. And once the toddler is up, he/she needs to be fed and nursed to sleep which will take at least an hour or so and the cycle repeats itself over and over and over.


2. Food doesn’t quite mean food as you have understood and consumed all these years. It refers primarily to milk, water and other liquid forms of nourishment only. And if new age parenting is anything to go by, then it means liquids without any artificial sweeteners in any form or fashion in them. As parents of toddlers, you’d better have food (of the classification mentioned above) ready for consumption at any point of time in the 24 hr time-frame that the rest of the world calls a day.


3. It has been medically proven that you aren’t supposed to be using any strong odors around the baby. So all those fancy deodorants that you bought at a good price (courtesy the box set of three cans or online shopping portals selling them for peanuts or simply because the femme fatale in the ad tempted you) have to pretty much be thrown out or gifted to younger friends or cousins. For the next year or so, you have no choice but to sweat it out and not just that be seen and smelt as sweating it out. Pity the poor parents during the sweltering Chennai summers.


4. If you thought how tough can it be to wash a small baby, wait until you have your first darshan of a diaper with baby poop in it. Trust me when I say this, no amount of preparation can prepare you for the experience of cleaning a baby’s bottom, more so when it has poop all over it. Lesser said the better about this particular point.


5. If you are a parent who likes dressing up in the newest Marks & Spencers shirt or the latest Ritu Beri salwar suit bought at Biba or Manyavaar, you just have to end up gifting these to friends or relatives. Babies like dribbling, they think it is a good way not only to communicate with its handlers but also believe that is therapeutic as well. If not for anything else, this trait of theirs will reduce your expenditure on fancy expensive clothes at least until the time they are two years old.

'He'll be a great basketball player someday -- he already dribbles all over the place.

6. Attending family functions will mean only one thing for you – sitting in a silent corner of the mandapam where the function is happening and putting the baby to sleep despite the noise and hullabaloo that is created at the spot. There is absolutely no way that you can participate actively in any function in the near future.

'Friend of the bride or the groom?'

Now, while all you readers who are parents yourselves are probably nodding your heads in fond reminiscences of these days yourself, let me clarify that this post is NOT in any form or fashion intended to put off wannabe parents at all. If anything, this is just a tongue-in-cheek attempt at trying to infuse some much needed humor into these early fun days of the entire ‘parenting experience’. After all, we all need to smile every now and then, don’t we?

Let me be the first to confess that I personally have experienced all of the above mentioned points and truly have fond memories of all of them. What makes these experiences ‘fond’ and worth is all the joy, warmth and fulfillment that being a parent brings along with it.

Game on

001Being an only child, most material things were handed over to me quite easily and I wasn’t expected to share them with anybody else as a kid. Although my parents were diligent enough to ensure that I wasn’t a ‘spoilt brat’ in any sense of the word, they also ensured that I wasn’t left wanting any normal small thing that kids of my age would normally want.

002However, my father almost always wanted me to excel at whatever I did, be ‘the first’ and the best in all my endeavors, both at curriculars and extra-curriculars. While I was pretty decent at studies, meaning that while I wasn’t ‘the first’ or ‘the best’ but always managed to be among the ‘first three’ in class right up to my 10th standard meant that from a curricular viewpoint I pretty much managed to keep my father’s competitive aspirations satisfied. And since I enjoyed quizzing also quite a bit and actively participated in more than a few intra school and inter school competitions, my father was ok even if I didn’t manage to win too much. He was probably happy that I was busy with these activities rather than hanging out with ‘good for nothing’ teenagers learning to smoke and drink.

003One small fall-out of the ‘only child syndrome’ and being competitive at my studies was the fact that I hadn’t quite learnt to take defeat easily back in those days. This ‘competitive streak’ that my father inculcated in me peaked by the time I was probably 12-13 yrs old when the hormones were raging, and I was on the cusp of that all-important phase of my life, teenage. And this meant that if I ever faced defeat or a small hurdle in anything that I started doing, then all hell would break loose.

I studied my middle and high school in an all boys’ school and this further exacerbated this competitive streak in me. In an environment where every second day involved having a soccer match with your rival from the class or an inter class cricket match or the free period involved a hyper-competitive game of basketball, losing was not an option. Losing meant that you would be taunted at by the winning team, your ability as a captain of the team, a valuable player of the team would be laughed at, you would be treated derisively by your own team members who would not want to pick you again in their teams. You just had to be on the winning side, you had to contribute to the victory, there were no two ways about that at all.

004Back in those days, winning was everything for me. Notions such as a sportsmanship, fair play, trying your best, were all terms used by losers. A true winner would win at all costs, and be willing to sacrifice anything and anybody for the cause of a victory. I strongly believed in the saying “to the victor belong the spoils” and because I was not used to sharing stuff with anybody I had to be the victor, at any cost.

A couple of friends of mine, who still remain friends till date, fondly remember the days when I used to break at least one badminton racket a day when I used to miss that crucial drop shot or be left swinging at thin air when the shuttle casually whizzed past me on the court. They remember how I have thrown the cricket bat in disgust after getting out to a particular good catch. They shudder at how I used to bowl nasty bouncers at them after they had hit my previous ball for a four or a six. And when I look back at those days I find it quite hard to believe that it was the same person that I am today, but a much younger, angrier, and a more competitive version, that’s all.

What drastically changed me was the fact that I studied my pre-university college in a co-education institution. And what was worse was that this place had two-thirds of its population as girls. Being part of a minority, and also completely tongue-tied as a gawky, bespectacled, angry 15 yr old boy meant that I simply couldn’t bring myself to compete fiercely at things as before. While I continued being aggressive on the field with other guys, my shyness, my awkwardness and my overall inability to strike up meaningful conversations with girls bothered me so much that I somehow withdrew into a shell for the first few months.

005And then, of course, there was the whole new atmosphere, the freedom from uniforms, the freedom from stupid Fathers and Brothers who used to be watching over your shoulder and punish you for every small misdemeanor, the new found freedom in terms of actually getting some money to spend on buying knick-knacks from the college canteen. All of these meant that life didn’t have to be too competitive anymore.

I learnt that ‘sharing’ brought with it its own advantages, and as clichéd and naïve as it may sound, I learnt that by acting collectively instead of competitively, the benefits involved increased exponentially and everybody got more ‘bang for their buck’, so to speak. Having a decent set of folks around me meant that I was spared of the petty politics and matchmaking games where guys and girls were ‘paired’ with each other and treated as a couple. It also meant that I didn’t have to compete anymore to get noticed and to win. Winning, I learnt was more a state of mind rather than an absolute truth recorded somewhere.


This post is written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided.

Today’s prompt was “What activity, task or game most brings out your competitive streak?”  and the short answer for the same that was tried to be conveyed through this post was absolutely nothing at all.

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.

A walk down musical memory lane


I still clearly remember my maternal cousin giving me an audio tape – Off The Wall by Michael Jackson and this was my first very own audio tape. And man, did the song “Wanna Be Starting Something” literally start off my musical journey or what.

That began my unending fascination with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson and it therefore followed that his “Bad” was one song for all occasions for a long time to come. When I used to come back from school, on Saturday afternoons and entire Sundays, during summer and winter vacations, this song was almost on an endless loop for very many days, months even.

And then Classic Rock happened. My eldest paternal cousin, the one I used to look up to and consider a role model in many things, including taste in music gifted me an Audio CD – Cross Roads by Bon Jovi and the first song in that CD, “Living on a prayer” took my music appreciation to an entirely new level. The way the song started, the keyboard riffs gradually building to a crescendo with the drums literally exploding out of nowhere leading to the lead guitar riffs was truly an out of the world experience for me. You have to hear it to believe it.

This started a lovely musical journey for me with Bon Jovi, U2, Def Leppard, becoming mainstream bands for me and regular features on my music player and Walkman. When I was in high school and college, you would be hard pressed to find me silent. All the while I used to be hearing to and humming one or the other song at will.

Given that my dad was well travelled, he introduced me to the soulful tunes of Kenny G and his saxophone and this song The Moment holds a special place in my heart as it almost always managed to bring a tear to my eye and extraordinary peace to my  mind whenever I had any ‘teenage troubles’ bothering me.

And then in 1994, when Greek composer Yanni performed live at the Acropolis in Greece, my fascination for western instrumental music took entirely new proportions. The next few months were spent in listening to and appreciating the finer nuances of composers creating contemporary western music and using philharmonic orchestras to present them to audiences. Santorini was a classic example of one such piece which haunted me to no end in those days.

And then when I grew older and mostly started listening to MP3 songs on my system, Linkin Park burst on to the scene with their immortal track In The End. This marked a new phase of fascination with the contemporary rock genre for me with groups like Linkin Park, Creed, Limp Bizkit, Hoobastank ruling the roost.

In recent times, after I started my career, life kind of caught up with me and it took me almost 8 odd years to get back to listening to music regularly. And guess what old favorites Linkin Park with their latest album Minutes to Midnight and more specifically the track Waiting For The End played a huge role in music reappearing in my life in a big way.

While most of the above journey contains only the non Indian music that I have enjoyed over the years, the influence that Ilaiyaraja, AR Rahman, Harris Jeyaraj and Yuvan Shankar Raja have had over me has been tremendous. In B-School, when I rediscovered my South Indian Tam Brahm roots, songs from Tamil movies played a huge part in me recognizing and appreciating the huge ocean of talent in these music directors. AR Rahman in particular continues to wow me consistently with almost all his songs, barring a few.

Thus, it would be not be an overstatement if I stated the music has and will continue to play a huge role in my life, more so given that my little two yr old daughter seems to enjoy her Tamil movie music quite a bit 😀


This post is written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided.

Today’s prompt was “What role does music play in your life?” I took the liberty to use this prompt to chronicle some of the wonderful artists and composers that I have enjoyed over the years.


The image used in this post has been sourced from Google Image search.