Chakrapani - A namesake

Prangan Ligira was what my name was till my second standard. I still remember that day, albeit, very foggily. We were on vacation to our maternal grandparents' abode. Being a child who didn't talk much and who remained in his own imagined world, I remember, or perhaps imagined at that time, for memories play foggy tricks of their own when they are layered with two decades of multitudinous experiences, a fight that was taking place between my parents regarding something very important which, I assumed, was related to me.

I looked at my father as he was arguing with Ma. He looked back at me with moist eyes, or so I like to believe, and asked me to come towards him. I happily landed myself on his lap.

"How would you like a new name for yourself, my son?" He asked me with his caressing hand on my head. " It will be Chakrapani, Pranju Chakrapani"

"Now, do you know the meaning of Chakrapani?" He asked me in a soothingly quivering voice.

Every time I remember that day, I always imagine my father enduring a gloomy face equipped with a quivering voice, talking to me.

"My son, it means a person holding a chakra in his hand". My father is a religious person who still ardently worships Krishna, a god. It was years later that I got to know that Chakrapani means Lord Vishnu, of whom Lord Krishna is one of the avatars.

"Will I get to have a chakra after that?" It was my innocence which asked the question to him.

"Of course, my son. Of course. You will have one", laughed my father kissing my forehead. "Now go and play"

But it was never that easy for me to wear my new surname. Of course, he taught me the spellings of my name, asked me to practise writing  it more often than needed, but never told me the reason for the sudden change of my name.

It was the lack of reason, a definite reason, which never allowed me to just "go and play" in my childhood. With each new friend and with each new teacher, I was asked the same question about my surname.

"Why is your last name different than your father's?", they would ask.

And my reply was always a silence.  Behind my back, I would always hear a few laughs. "Oh! he must have been adopted", a few of them would remark.

Why would a father feel the need to deprive his child of his surname? It was obviously a question which would come to anyone's mind.

It was also a question that remained in my mind, unanswered. Of course, not that I didn't try to bring the topic in front of him. And of course, not that he never answered my query. It was always a god. Always.

The answer to all the problems was God to him. It was because of his love towards his god that he last-named me so, he would say each and every time.

But I hated his explanation. It was vague, just the way the concept of god is.

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It was not only because of the writing style that I grew fond of the book Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It could never be because of the writing style. Although her writing is always captivating but the story of the book held my attention more than her writing. Gogol, the protagonist always hated his father because of the odd name that he gave to him. The explanation that he, the father, gave to him was that Nicholai Gogol was his favorite author and so he got inspired in naming him, his son, as such.

My story draws a parallel, although a weak one, with Gogol.

It was only when I came to my second year of graduation, that I realized the story behind my surname.

If Gogol's father, by naming his son Gogol, tried to acknowledge the presence of a book written by Nicholai Gogol, in saving his life in a train accident, my father tried to evade his own family name and the abased and despicable history attached behind it, by acknowledging a protective mythical God's presence in and as my surname.

I no longer hold any grudge against him for depriving me of his family name. He gave me a new identity, a new life, a new legacy, my own legacy to carry forward.  

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. A namesake of chakrapani, can it be more oxymoron to my being! However, it is just a name and what is in a name, as they say!

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  2. You have captured the child’s perspective exceedingly well. You are a gifted writer.

    Your story resonated deeply with me. My name was also changed when I was perhaps about the same age as yours. I used to have a myriad pet names before that, but I was tentatively christened Chandra Kant or Chandra Bhushan. Suddenly, on a one not-so-fine day, I was slapped with Uma Shankar, an exercise in which my mother had an upper hand. It was only much later that I realised that the new name was in synch with the name of the son of my maternal uncle. I used to have a hate-hate relationship with the new name, I loved the sound of ‘Chandra’ in my earlier name. When I grew up to be a lad, I insisted that the old name be restored to me, or I be renamed Chandan or Deepak or Samir or Tushar which was more the norm in those days, but my entreaties fell on deaf years. Late in my life, it doesn’t matter to me any more. I guess I have internalised the sound of Umashankar, or Uma, as some of my friends call me, even though it is a feminine appellation, but my heart responds to the same.

    You have an exquisite name, and the story behind that is even more beautiful. You write with a breathtaking frequency, and my prayer to you is that carry on in the same vein.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you umashankar ji for such a warm and encouraging comment. I am so glad that you can associate your past with this story.

      But,personally, an uma when pronounced gives more affection to your name when compared with a chandan or deepak.

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  3. They say- "Everything happens for our own good". So glad that you have accepted your name.
    May Lord Krishna be with you. Jai Shri Krishna!

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    1. Yes. I have accepted my name. The acceptance comes with understanding and a maturity. And optimism starts with thinking that everything that happens does happen for our own good. More power to this optimism and acceptance.

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