My photo
Sydney, Australia
My musings and meanderings on childhood - mine juxtaposed with that of my kids'. Everyday incidents and images from our life in Sydney turn my thoughts towards my own wonder years growing up in Bandra, Bombay, India.

26 June 2008

What’s in a Name?

The other day, I went to the North Sydney post-office to pick up a parcel. It’s become quite a routine, this parcel-picking-up of mine, thanks to my love affair with eBay. Sure enough, I got this lady at the counter who always mis-pronounces my name, “Alice-ON”.

Which got me thinking about names, misnomers and nicknames…
How come in Bombay, the Catholics usually have foreign names instead of Indian ones (the Mangloreans are an exception; then again, they are an exception in themselves!)? Maybe it started out when the British set up shop on Indian shores, and the locals, wanting to get jobs in the English offices, started speaking English. And went one step further in their “English-isation” by giving their kids English names. Perhaps Mohan, Mohammad, Laxman, and Jitesh became Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…

Sounds like a list of the Bible Gospel writers. Which brings me to the other possible explanation – Catholic conversions by the missionaries. Religious fervour running through your grand-parents’ veins resulted in your parents being christened after saints upon whose feast they happened to be born on: Bonaventure, Maria, Peter, Assumpta... No heed was paid to correct pronunciation. So Basil was “Bay-sil”; Augustine – “Aah-goo-steen”; Juanita was pronounced the way it was spelt instead of “Wha-nita”…

Our generation - today’s modern Macks - go for celebrity-style names like Brittany and Brad; too bad “Chloe” got called “Cholay” (the spicy chickpea dish) during the school role call! And thank God poor ebony-skinned Bianca doesn’t realise that her name means “white” in Italian!

Which brings me to the dreaded nickname that is superglued to you for life. Michael-on-the-cycle; Ball Curry; Lepsy Leper; Bruce-your-balls-are-loose; Master Neef, back beef; Looking London, Talking Tokyo (generically bestowed on any cross-eyed person); Bum (you guessed it, he had a big one!); Sex on Toast; Boobs at the Back (a lady with a mighty stoop)…

After years and years of nickname nightmares, they even have the audacity to forget your real name, or how you acquired the moniker in the first place!

As for me, I was called ‘Batli’. Why? Because I carried a water-bottle around in high school. Bet you, when I go down to Bombay this Christmas, my former classmates will call out, “Hi, Bats!”. Yes, even after 15 years…

Do you know of any funny nicknames? Post a comment below:


  1. Master Neef. Black beef. Because of his color . Named with childhood cruelty. This wonderful man who taught generations of Stanislites and lived behind Bandra Medical stores in the JD Alves society.

  2. nice blog...a tribute to the memories of bandra...well i remember calling my friends with glasses...DAPNIA...and ofcourse the scores of animal names given to people.


Would love to hear from you, so go ahead and post a comment here!