Friday, April 25, 2014

WHAT’S IN A NAME

WHAT’S IN A NAME

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet."
                                                            ‘Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet’

Yes, I said to myself, after all I’d still be bald and bearded whatever my name. I thought a name like ‘Vicky Donor’ sounded good as long as the others did not know what you were donating (I had just finished watching the movie on TV). One of course never gets to choose his name. Midway through, if you feel dissatisfied with your name, you will have to undergo the hassle of going through a number of formalities to change it and ultimately announcing to the world that you are so and so and henceforth will be so and so. Imagine the troubles you have to undergo to have your new name incorporated in the passport, ration card etc. As it is you have had enough problems obtaining those in your old and original name. So why all the trouble, let it stay and learn to live with it till the end of your days. Imagine yourself starting all over again with your girlfriend or your wife, whichever the case may be or your friends for that matter.

It all started one day when I was filling up the application form for the GRE exam after graduation, the spaces allotted for filling in the name was not enough to accommodate mine. When I received the admit card I found a truncated version of my name – Gopalsam S Subramanian. It sounded good I thought, like all those NRI’s, the only difference was I was trying to go there and not returning. I have always found it difficult to fill in those various application forms, whether it be for passport, ration card, aadhar card etc. I have been confused when they require your first name, middle name and your last name. I wondered whether my name should be the first name or the last name, there being no confusion regarding the middle one as it has to stay put where it is. You see we South Indians incorporate our entire address in our names, it makes it easier for you to be traced in case you are lost – the village name followed by the father’s name and then your name in that order, so you see where the confusion arises. So ultimately you can guess what my name is in the passport. Last time I went to the US, I got used to being addressed as Mr. Gopalasamudram, which is my village name, of course it was shortened to Gopalsam as mentioned in my GRE application form, may be they had an inkling that I shall be coming over there one day. I am sure they did for I found that there was a placard with my name on it when I landed in Saint Louis and it read ‘Mr. Gopalsam’.

But one gets used to various pet names as they call it during one’s life, a sign of endearment. The only problem is you end up feeling like a pet yourself. I do not know how they (the pets) feel being called Jimmy, Tommy etc. I remember when I was in school our neighbours had two dogs named- Caesar and Brutus. I always waited for the day when Caesar would be done in by Brutus. I did like and continue to like some of the names I have been called by (by the way that does not include the number of times I have been called names). One name that still stands out is the name given to me by my seniors in IIT KGP during the course of ragging – ‘Submarine’ and that stuck on till I was there, though I never did go underwater.

I could have dropped my village name and made it simple like they do nowadays – just your given name and your father’s name, but I have a problem as my father’s name is also same as mine and please don’t ask me why, for it will require more space here to explain and you will lose patience. For all you know I could end up being called ‘Subramanian squared’. I wouldn’t mind though.

There are any number of Shahs, Patels, Subramanians, or Smiths for that matter, but we have still managed to exist as ourselves. I thought that it is really not fair cribbing whether you have one, two or even three names. Remember the Lord Vishnu he has a thousand names or more but he does not complain.

I like it whether you call me Subramanian, Subbu, GS or Gopalsam or Submarine for nothing can take away the fact that I shall still be bald and bearded. After all ‘What’s in a name’!


Monday, April 21, 2014

THE TRAVAILS OF AN ASPIRING AUTHOR – PART 2 AND IT CONTINUES

THE TRAVAILS OF AN ASPIRING AUTHOR – PART 2
AND IT CONTINUES

And ultimately I did not make much out of my ‘Nothing’. The publisher suggested “Sir, why don’t you promote it aggressively through your social media sites? But if you are having problems trying to do so, you can avail of our specialised marketing and distribution services. We can also arrange a Book Launch and Media coverage.”

“Oh that’s good!” I said “So why don’t you go ahead?”

“Sir you can let us know which package you want to opt for and we can determine the cost accordingly.”

I am still to get back to them and I know I never will.

I met my friend thereafter and he asked me “What happened to your book? I haven’t heard from you thereafter.”

What do you call it – rubbing salt on your wounds? Well this was the same guy who had promised to go through the draft manuscript and never did respond. I felt like punching him on his nose.

I stared hard at him and said “You should know, I had posted the details of the book on Facebook saying that it has been published and asking all my friends to buy it. You had even indicated you liked it.”

“Oh! Did I?” he replied and then continued “You see I like every post on FB whether I read it or not. That’s the only way I ensure that others like what I post whether they read it or not. Well sorry, why don’t you give me a copy, after all you must be having some spare ones with you. I promise to go through it and post a review on Amazon or Flipkart. That should help you out.”

I moved away for I knew any further dialogue with him would result in violence from my end.

But you see I was made of sterner stuff. What if ‘Nothing’ happened, I could always make something happen.

And that’s how ‘Something’ happened.

As usual when I sat down to write, my wife asked me what it was and I replied ‘Something’. She frowned and I knew she was annoyed “Is it so secret that you cannot share it with me? Go write your something, I am going to sleep.”

‘Something’ took me two years to complete. After all I had to write something after I had done ‘Nothing’.

As usual this friend of mine bumped into me the other day and the first thing he asked was “I heard that you have written something. Can you tell me what it is about?”

I said “Nothing” and walked away.

I had learned my lessons and of course I had no money after my joust with self publishing. I never came to know whether my ‘Nothing’ was something after all. I did not want my ‘Something’ to become nothing once again.

This time I decided to pitch my work through the traditional publishing houses and sent my manuscripts as per their submission requirements and waited for their response. In the process I did send my manuscript to a literary editor who replied that it would not be possible for him to take it up but did offer paid editorial services to make my work better. He took umbrage when I enquired whether after having my manuscript edited by them they will be able to pitch for it with a publisher. The reply was that they do not work with authors who are not serious about improving their writings. Well that was a lesson learnt.

The wait continued till I received a mail from one of the publishers that they would like to work with me for publishing the book, after having evaluated my manuscript in full. Well now I am in the queue and hopefully ‘Something’ will after all become something.

Meanwhile I reassure myself by saying that it takes nine months for a child to be delivered. Hopefully it is not an elephantine delivery. 


Friday, April 4, 2014

THE WOMAN IN THE TRAIN – PART 2

THE WOMAN IN THE TRAIN – PART 2
WE WENT FOR DINNER

The Saturday came; I and my wife went over to her place for dinner. She welcomed us with a warm smile and led us in to the living room. As we sat down she switched off the television and settled down on the sofa facing us.

She said “I am so glad you could make it. It is rarely I have guests. You see I am not much of a socialite. Shall I get you some fresh lime or orange juice to drink?”

“Don’t bother”, I said “a glass of water will do for me.” My wife settled for fresh lime juice. A lady in her fifties brought the glass of water and two glasses of fresh lime juice.

“Oh, she is my house maid and stays here. You know she has been with me for the last ten years and is practically a member of the family.”

“You are the marketing head in your company, how come you say that you are not much of a socialite, I guess your job would require you to be one?” I asked.

“I don’t mix my professional and personal life. It is very rare I call people home. Somehow I felt comfortable talking to you and realised that we do share similar views on a number of things. Moreover you appeared as someone who has the capacity to accept and understand other’s opinions. Now when I see both of you sitting here in front of me completely at ease with each other I feel happy.”

The apartment was fairly large with three bedrooms and very tastefully done up, but what caught my attention was the large bookshelf in the living room stacked with books and as I got up to have a look at them, she said “That’s my wealth.” Her interests varied from classical literature and art to philosophy and religion. Similar interests! I thought.

“My wife doesn’t speak much and I may do it a bit too much and that I guess balances it out. She is a good listener though and sometimes keeps me in check when required. It has worked out fine.” I said.

She laughed “That’s lovely, a perfect relationship, it doesn’t happen much nowadays. How long have you been married?”

“Thirty seven years” I said.

“Oh, that’s only two years less than my age.”

And that’s how I guessed her age. She was thirty nine but did appear a bit younger though there were streaks of greying hair on her head which  only served to enhance her personality; a mature and confident woman.

“Your son, you said is studying in Bangalore. How old is he?”

“He is fourteen years old and is in tenth standard. You see I have been in Chennai only for the last one year. Earlier I was in Bangalore. When I moved I let him continue his studies there especially as the next three years will be very important to him. He stays there with my parents now and I go there at least twice a month to be with him.”

“It must be really tough staying away when he is in the crucial years of his schooling?”

“Yes it is, but there is no option. I have confidence in his ability to cope up as that is how I have brought him up. Ultimately he will choose what he wants to be, I can only be a counsellor. Anyway he gets along fine with my parents and they dote on him.”

“It must have been really difficult being a single parent. From what you have told me you separated from your husband when your son was only two years old. How did you manage?”

“It was not really that bad for I had my parents who were a great support. Anyway it was much better than continue in a loveless marriage. You see I was married off early when I was twenty three years old. It was an arranged marriage and my ex-husband’s family was known to my parents. He was four years older than me and had settled down in a good job. I had just completed my graduation in engineering and secured a placement with one of the top multinational companies during the campus recruitment. I had always been good in studies.”

“What went wrong?” I asked.

“Initially it was ok. Like me he was also the only child of his parents. My son was born two years later when I was twenty five and to cut the story short we divorced when I was twenty seven. So you see it adds up. It’s been twelve years now. I have sat down many times to put together the pieces and try to understand what had happened. A marriage works out only when each partner is able to understand the emotional and physical needs of the other. This was lacking in our marriage and escalated after the birth of the child. I have been brought up to believe that for any relationship to thrive there has to be a sharing of responsibilities. This never happened. It was always me who had to take care of things. After a time this becomes frustrating when you are ordered around. We were always on a different plane mentally. Once in a while we had our arguments but the disconnect was evident. It only increased as time passed on. The last argument did it. He wanted me to leave my job spend full time looking after the house and his parents. It was not as if I was not taking care of them. He never wanted to acknowledge the fact that I was also a single child of my parents and had my own responsibilities. I was not ready to surrender my economic independence. His parents were never really helpful. It was once again the same old belief that the wife is the property of the husband. I knew that this could never work out, so I decided that parting ways was the best option, after all I knew that I could take care of my self, my son and my parents.”

I was quite for sometime and then asked “How bitter was the parting?”

“Initially yes, I went back to my parents place with my son. The divorce came through a year later and I officially got custody of my son. I should acknowledge that this was fast because there was not much of an opposition from his end. He was not really prepared to take on the responsibility of a parent. To be frank at the end of it all I felt a huge burden lifted of my mind. My parents have always been supportive though initially they were a bit disturbed at the turn of events.”

“So how do you look at what is ahead of you? Your son will in a matter of years become independent and chart out his own life and your parents are getting on in years.” I asked her.

“I am awake to that reality. One thing I am very definite about is that I shall not come in the way of my son enjoying his own space and charting out his life. Too many parents have come in the way of their children to the extent of strangulating them in their growth as individuals. I have seen this happening from close quarters, I am sure you know what I mean. As for my parents I will always be there to take care of them till their end. I have the strength and the resources to do that.”

“But don’t you feel lonely at times?”

“Sometimes yes, but that has happened over the last one year ever since I started staying away from my son. But these are only fleeting moments. I have found happiness being with myself, my books and music. I also do a bit of writing. It is not that I am a loner. I do have friends, some close ones with whom I enjoy talking and sharing my thoughts. They have been very helpful especially in stressful moments. But ultimately I like being with myself and with myself.”

“I am happy for you.” I said and looked at my wife who had been silent all the while. Her silence was not one of subjugation but one which had risen from an understanding and acceptance of what makes a relationship work. It is a different world now and it was a different world then and both have their merits and drawbacks.

After finishing our dinner and we were about to leave I said “It is been nice talking to you and let me tell you that you have friends here also and you are welcome to our house anytime you want. You can have dinner, talk if you want to or just sit there giving us company and listen to music.”