Singapore August 18, 2009 Tue/Wed 12:45 AM
As I glance up from this page that I write on, I observe that the number of comments that have come up so far has reached 906.
The only other time it reached such a large proportion was when I suddenly decided to take an ambulance ride to the Leelavati Hospital, a birthday earlier. And I wonder whether one could compare the two circumstances with some impartiality or not. One was a sudden emergency, the other a sudden threat of one. One a circumstantial disconnect, the other a circumstantial ultimatum, a probability. Both however had one commonality. A plea to come back. Do we then infer that each time we need the numbers, we need to go away. Absence makes the heart grow … comments !!
What was interesting to observe, during this unfortunate procedure when there were definitive words expressed, was the appearance of several individuals that had never been seen or heard of before. These I would presume are the hidden talents among the FmXt. They are there, but are not there. This is interesting, and I wonder if since our average for a common day is about 350 to 400, it would imply that a larger number of EF visit us, but do not necessarily express themselves ?? I am enamored by this analysis.
I noticed another factor. 'Either you stop or I stop' was considered important enough to find the headlines of news papers. What in heavens name, would the media find so earth shatteringly important in an innocuous statement like that, on an innocuous blog by an innocuous certain Amitabh Bachchan ! But .. there it was. Reason anyone ??
"Thank God he's stopping - his media bashing was getting our goat !"
"Thank God he's stopping - we do not have to keep rushing to his self centered blog to find out what he's up to !"
"Thank God he's stopping - we now get to meet him personally to record that interview and not be in that humiliating situation of us sending him a questionaire on the email to respond !"
Ah !! Who cares ! What I get in return from my EF cannot be matched by assumptions from any other medium. They can only speculate. We shall dictate. Right ?? Right.
The name Amitabh Bachchan has always had its share of peculiar reactions. It has always been odd for people to either pronounce or spell it. In India, a country still steeped in caste distinctions, regional distinctions, the name Amitabh was unusual for most parts of the country, except Bengal. There Amitav or Amitava or Amitabho have been prevalent and popular common names. But Amitabh for central hindi speaking India was still unusual. And Bachchan more so.
Bachchan was my Father's nom de plume. A pseudonym, a pen name, a fictitious name used when working for a particular social cause. It emanated from his Mother, my Grand Mother, who lovingly called him 'bachcha', or child. Much like what many of us endearingly address our off springs as 'baby'. I keep doing it all the time when addressing Abhishek or Shweta and now Aishwarya. It comes involuntarily before starting a conversation on the phone or writing out an sms, or a Black Berry PING !!
So the Mother's 'bachcha', matured to 'bachchan' when my Father started writing his poems and Bachchan became the name he used as the author of his verse. This is not a peculiar occurrence in India or in these parts of the World, where a pseudonym has always accompanied most important and popular writers and poets. In Urdu poetry the nom de plume has also often found its way into the composition of a couplet or a quadruplet. It has been appreciated as an art to be able to do so, without deviating from the essence of the verse. And so, Bachchan became the name by which my Father came to be identified with. In his formal representations he was what his name was - Harivansh Rai, but his poetry was under Bachchan. For long he was always addressed as Mr Rai, many not being aware that he was Bachchan the poet. He was in true caste sense a Kayasth fom Uttar Pradesh, a Srivastava. Most prominent Kayasth names went under, Srivastava, Mathur, Verma and such, but my Father was a strong propagator against the caste system and deliberately refused to use Srivastava, because it identified a system he did not believe in. This was all very well till he was on his own. But with marriage, certain registration formalities and paper work had to be faced which sought clarifications. When he married my Mother and brought her to Allahabad where he lived, the people in the city started referring to her as Shrimati Bachchan, Mrs Bachchan. He was Bachchan and she, Shrimati Bachchan. It was when I was born, the first child of this union, and a first off spring for my parents, that certain firm decisions became compelling. At the age of four when I was to be admitted for my schooling, the dilemma of what surname I was to be registered with, became an issue. It was then that my Father and my Mother decided to give my family name as Bachchan and to start in their own words, 'the beginning of a new family'. I was registered in my first school, the St Mary's Convent, as Amitabh Bachchan. I am the first bearer of the surname introduced by my Father. The name Bachchan was also for the first time written against my Father's name, when he registered at Cambridge in 1952. Thus began the advent or the beginning of the Bachchan family. In ancient times the 'gotra' , an exogamous sub-division of a caste group, family, lineage, stock, marked the beginnings of special individuals. My Father did not start his family with any special status in mind, it was more a compelling decision than any else. But having started it, he had wished and desired as his sole intent, that the individuals of this family in every generation should break the shackles of traditional conventionalism and move forward, to understand the strength in being alone, and to ground and express themselves without fear. At the same time he had wished that each generation should rear, foster and breed those qualities that are bound and tied together, connected, related and affiliated to, those of a child. Christ, he said, had pronounced in His divine wisdom that until you become a child, you will not be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven .
I often wonder how the practice of surnames began and with what purpose. Many stories abound of it being initiated in India by the British for better identification of the various castes that existed in our social milieu. It also becoming a handy tool for the practice of their 'divide and rule' policy, in the administration and governing of this vast and diverse land. And even though modern India and some liberated souls pay little interest to the purpose and reason behind such nomenclature, it has the habit of creeping in to our thinking at times - not in any derogatory manner, but simply just…
Barve, Khare, Thakeray, Tendulkar, Gavaskar - ah.. Maharashtrian
Kapoor, Khanna, Chopra, Singh - Punjabi
Singh, Singh and Singh - Sikhs and the Rajputs from Rajasthan
Bannerjee, Chatterjee, Ghosh, Ganguly - Bengali
Balkrishnan, Swaminathan, Ramachandran - South Indian
Mansukhani, Advani, Chugani - Sindhi
Shah, Patel - Gujarati
Nehru, Kachru, Kaul - Kashmiri
Jha, Sinha - Bihari
But Amitabh Bachchan, was a complexity ! And the varied manner in which it was getting pronounced was not helpful at all. It has had its fare share of distortions -
Mitab Singhya - for those that identify with my Sikh genes from my Mother
Ahmedtab - getting that Muslim tinge into it
Ameeta vachan - for those that have felt feminine qualities, and vachan, a promise
Mr Bachmann - on checking in at a New York or European Hotel
And when it gets too complicated and confusing - AB Baby
The Indian, my countrymen, will give it a good try when they first hear it. I talk of times before I joined the movies. Some from the UP and Hindi belt will immediately express reverence because of the Bachchan poet they identify with. Elsewhere they make sincere efforts to get it right. Overseas… thats a different ball game altogether.
Mention the name and there shall be an awkward silence from the other end. Its now become habitual for me to take the initiative and confess to them that it is a difficult name even by our own standards, to pronounce. That comforts them. And by the time we are back slapping each other, its either Abe, or Mr B !!
The Americans have made life so much easier for themselves. They just stick to John and Bill. So what if they were Presidents of the United States of America !
I tire now. It is past 4:15 AM on the 19th of August and I have still to hit the bed. The count meanwhile is 1,012.. whoaaa !! Thats the comments, not the pedometer !!
Love you, baby !!
Amitabh Bachchan or any of the above distortions