What's in a name?
Seriously. I actually talked to that guy on the phone Friday, and it was a complete cluster. Granted, he spoke English better than I spoke Hindi, but still -- I understood about every seventh word, and that word was usually "Yes?" which he repeatedly asked me after every unintelligible outburst.
It was brutally painful, and I found my desire to end the call rapidly beginning to outweigh my desire for other things like the answer to my question, or my continued life. He kept trying to get me to understand his e-mail address, and all I heard was someone gargling small rodents. It reminded me of the scene in Office Space where Samir says "No one in this country can ever pronounce my name right. It's not that hard: Samir Na-gheen-an-a-jar. Nagheenanajar."
I am not a student of history, geography, linguistics, or apparent glossolalia, but I found his name intriguing. It wouldn't be the first time Dell or Citibank or some other random company's phone system shuffled me off to India, but this was an overseas contracting company and I needed to straighten this system problem out. I knew I would get an Indian guy because it's an Indian company, but still -- when I saw the name, I realized I was suddenly ear to ear with someone who would have to buy four packages of rub-on vinyl letters just to put his last name on his mailbox. I think it was the sheer magnitude of letters that most impressed me.
As an aside, I think we could save ourselves a lot of aggravation if all telephone support people overseas dealing with American callers were required to use names similar to certain monosyllabic celebrities. Sting. Cher. Prince. Seal. Slash. Easy, right? I realize this would make e-mail addresses more difficult, but maybe we could use numbers. "This is Seal2378, how may I help you?"
After I finally got him entered into my e-mail contact list, I decided that I was going to do a little quick research on Indian names when I got home, because that's the way my stupid mind works. Honestly, I don't know what I did before I became the knowledge vampire of the Internet. Oh yeah, I went to the library and they had these things called books, and you would pay a dime to make a photocopy. Man, those book-things sucked.
Anyway, back to the names.
I realize that all names have literal meanings. Indian names in particular appear to be rife with the power of the gods, and it seems that Indian parents are not afraid to use them.
With that freedom of expression, however, comes much responsibility. The first name Akhilesh, for instance, means "Indestructible Lord of the Universe" and I am not even kidding.
I mean, holy shit. I could see where, as a parent, you would have hope for your child's unlimited potential, but you are setting yourself up for a complete fail right there. You have no shot. None. And think of your poor kid. The first time he loses a fight on the playground he's going to have a nervous breakdown. "How can this be? Am I not the Indestructible Lord of the Universe? How did Nirav sneak up behind me and strike me down?" At least if you named him Chinmay and he ended up working the customer service support line for IBM he would maintain some small measure of self-esteem.
The other thing that cracks me up are the e-mail messages we get from overseas. There is one popular phrase in particular that makes me laugh every time. About once a week I will get an e-mail asking me to fix a problem, and at the end it will say "Please do the needful."
I looked up the origin of the phrase on Wikipedia and it said "many phrases that the British may consider antiquated are still popular in India. The legacy of the East India Company and its practices still prevails in all official correspondence in India. Official letters continue to include phrases such as "please do the needful" and "you will be intimated shortly."
A woman I work with forwarded me a support request from overseas the other day that had the phrase in it. She wrote "Can you tell me how to fix this? I'm not sure what to do."
I wrote back, "You just have to do the needful."
A few seconds later, I received a reply that said, "Ha! Could you tell me what that would entail?"
So I sent her this:
Do the needful. Then click the button below. You will be intimated shortly.