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Mera Naam Joke

This week, I got to savour an honour that no other humour writer has presumably got before: A new film with my name in the title got released

Was I thrilled? You bet. Let us face it, for all his prowess as a humour writer — arguably the best the world has ever seen —- good old Plum could have never hoped for a film with the title Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Wodehouse-a? (Is this what you wanted, Wodehouse?)

Seriously, I never thought that one day someone would actually find my name useful for a fun film, because in reality, my name invariably gets me into situations that are not exactly fun for me.

The problem is many people can’t make up their mind whether my name is spelt as a single entity and whether — this is pretty logical doubt —- I am a female.

Some typical samples:

Caller: Hello, can I talk to Bala, please?

Me: Yeah, I am Bala…

Caller: But you are not a woman?

Me: Why should I be? I am comfortable being a male.

Caller: But Bala is a woman’s name, why are you having it?

Me: But that’s not my name. It is just one half of it.

Caller:  So what you are saying is, Bala is your better half’s name?

Me:  *Beep Beep Beep Beep * (Was it the sound of the phone line being cut? No, it is the noise of the censors, in the form of this paper’s editor, beeping out the unprintable expletives that I had used)

Another time, this one at a social do, the kind where you run into middling acquaintances and people with whom you have interacted in your professional capacity, hence you think you have to remain polite and politically correct, but realise much later that they aren’t exactly under the same compulsion:

Guy 1: Accha, don’t Bala and Kumar mean almost the same thing? Why do you have the same thing twice over? (Loud laughter)

Me: (Trying a weak joke) Aside from the Congress spokesperson, the guys who repeat themselves the most are humour writers. So I guess, it fits. (A weak smile).

Guy2: (Butting in) But you are not writing anything now…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (breaks into a wild guffaw that draws the attention of the entire party and soon enough my name becomes the stuff for jokes before they could find something else to joke about. Like Sunny Leone’s, I don’t know, hip)

Me: (Mentally making a strong note to recommend to Rahul Gandhi the need for an urgent ordinance to completely exile people who laugh the loudest for their own jokes).

This one with the administrative executive from the bank, who calls for the usual yearly updation:

He: Is Bala your first name and Kumar the surname?

Me: No, sir. It is one name only. Spelt without any space.

He: But our records show it as two names?

Me: What can I do if your records show it incorrectly?

He: It might be our records, but realise it is your record…

Me:  ??????

He: What I mean is, it is your responsibility to ensure that we are more responsible with your record. Okay, tell me then what is your surname?

Me: I don’t have one. Actually, I don’t even know what a surname is.

He: It is usually the one that follows the given name.

Me: In which case, my given name, surname, last name, and not to speak of my pen name, are all the same.

He: Does your pen have a name?

Okay, he didn’t say that. But if I, with a relatively uncomplicated name, can run into such trouble, imagine the plight of my classmate who had a stretch limousine for a name: Koubali Sehsha Venkatesa Raja Bhaskara Jaganatha Rao (whom we disproportionately shortened to Jugs). Till this day, we are not sure which in the preceding litter of letters represent his actual name. He was possibly the first guy in the entire history of college education in these parts, who had arrears in his name every semester.

We, in our friends circle, always imagine Jugs to have such an exchange at the check-in counter in airports:

Lady at the counter: Is this your name or the check-in baggage?

Jugs: Is this a joke?  Well, it doesn’t beat the one that you usually serve as sandwich in-flight.

Anyway, coming back to the film that was released this week, I went and saw it and realised that the name in the title is actually a portmanteau-arrangement of the names of two different people (the two heroes).

Well, I am now preparing myself for the inevitable calls to me, seeking to speak to, well, the other person sharing the name with me.


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