What’s in a name?

You are either with me, or you are against me! The voices are getting louder and angrier. The actions are getting bolder. There are lynch mobs everywhere it seems. Posses of vigilantes are omnipresent and are meting out their brand of justice with absolute impunity. The state seems content to just stand by and watch its proxies run riot on land and online. A slap here, a kick there, a punch hither, a bludgeon thither is the new form of rebuttal in a ‘civilized society’.

Sedition, Reservation, Character Assassination, Unhinged Retribution, Distortion (of facts), Desecration (of names) and revision (of history) are the flavors of the season. Dissension is NOT.

A young student who took his life after he was unable to cope with the perceived discrimination and injustice at his university has been vilified after his demise. His death hasn’t been mourned nor has been the reason behind a young man taking the most extreme of steps been objectively analyzed so that such future tragedies can be averted. He has instead been called a coward and many other appalling allegations have been leveled against him. Where has our humanity gone that we have stooped to a level where we are hurling allegations and abuses on someone who isn’t even around to defend themselves? He probably was seeking a semblance of dignity in death that had eluded him when alive. Pitched battles on whether or not he was a ‘Dalit’ have ensued and the government and the opposition have taken turns trying to outmaneuver one another. The governments mantra has been ‘offense is the best form of defense’  and the oppositions mantra has been ‘keep throwing muck and something will eventually stick’.

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare would probably turn in his grave if he were to realize how his hallowed words have now been misinterpreted by rubes and vandals who disfigure and caricature names of their targets with gay abandon and with astounding alacrity.

Khujliwal, Owl Gandhi, Maun Mohan are a few of the bastardizations of names of political targets. I perhaps need to elaborate the logic behind the disfigurement of the aforesaid names for the readers benefit to expose the concealed method behind the apparent madness.

Khujliwal – A reference to Arvind Kejriwal (AK) of the Aam Aadmi Party who with his penchant for relentless rabble rousing, incisive yet boisterous criticism of Narendra Modi and by extension the entire central governemnt has perhaps become the biggest thorn in their flesh. It is quite clear his bellicose posturing and his appetite for a fight at any given moment has given the ruling party quite a few headaches and nightmares.

What have they done? They substituted Kejri with Khujli to rechristen him ‘Khujliwal’.

Why you ask? Khujli in hindi means itch and AK’s constant crtiticism and barbs have been equated with his itch to finger the government at every given opportunity.  How apropos yet how inappropriate at the same time!!

Owl Gandhi – A reference to the scion of the Gandhi political dynasty Rahul Gandhi (RG) who with his unending list of gaffes and propensity for bloopers has perhaps rendered his clueless self into a sitting duck. RG besides his personal weaknesses and his obvious lack of touch with the pulse of the nation has been a target more so due to his status as the crown prince of Indian Politics which is seen by the opposition as an entitlement which he absolutely does not deserve. I tend to sympathize with the opposition here but the vandalization of his name is plain wrong.

What have they done? They replaced Rahul with Owl.

Why you ask? An Owl (‘ullu’ in hindi) in Indian culture is associated with being dumb or stupid. Rahul and Owl obviously rhyme and that makes for an easy days work for the ‘name vandals’.

*In the Western culture the Owl is a symbol of wisdom.

Maun Mohan – A reference to the soft spoken, sagacious and taciturn former prime minister and perhaps India’s pre-eminent economist Dr. Manmohan Singh (MMS). The man who was perhaps singularly* responsible for ushering in liberalization which lifted India out of the abyss of bankruptcy and set in motion her spectacular journey to becoming the democracy with the fastest growing economy (GDP) for almost a a decade and half if not more.

* I would be remiss if I did not recognize MMS’s boss and partner in crime Dr. P.V. Narasimha Rao the then prime minister who had the cojones to turn policy on its head and push through with the reforms (MMS’s economic policies) despite the opposition and uncertainty.

What have they done? They have replaced the first syllable in his name ‘man’ with ‘maun’.

Why you ask? ‘Maun’ in hindi means silence and MMS’s reticence even when the occasion demanded that the de facto leader of the nation address her made him a soft target for the ‘name desecrators’. Perhaps with good reason yet absolutely immoral.

Since time immemorial, for us human beings the accordance of respect to the other started with the invocation of their name. The carefulness with which we approach someones name (perhaps asking for a clarification beforehand) and subsequently the way we pronounce it complimented by the inflection of our voice truly sets the tone for the engagement and relationship between two parties.

Why can’t we then agree to disagree on matters of belief? Why do we have to desecrate names, indulge in character assassination and even resort to physical intimidation to prove an ideological point?

The larger point though is that we as a people and a nation are slowly but surely treading a slippery slope that is guaranteed to take not only us but more importantly our children down into a morass of a society that will be bereft of any decency, ethics, morals, chivalry and mutual respect. That my friends you will all agree would a very unpleasant place to live in.

“The one thing I want to leave my children is an honorable name.”

~ Theodore Roosevelt