Home Columns Anantha Narayan Sheila to Shakeela – when your namesakes come to haunt you

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    Let’s start with an experiment. You’re a young, eligible lady. You’ve got two job offers. The job description is more or less the same. The pay packet is almost identical. You hear that your boss in Company X is going to be Tarun Tejpal. And in Company Y, it’s Alexander Wilberforce. Which offer will you take up?

    Your answer is a no-brainer. Eleven out of 10 people would pick Alexander Wilberforce over Tarun Tejpal because somehow being stuck in a lift with Mr A sounds so much safer than hanging out with Mr T. You may not change your mind even if you were told that this Tarun Tejpal is no way related to that Tarun Tejpal. The ‘why take a chance?’ mindset is at play here. It’s the same stupid mindset that makes many Americans suspect all men with turbans!

    Another little game. You flip for a stranger. She’s good looking, smart and is everything you imagined. You don’t care about her religion, language or nationality. You just want to propose to her. Just when you’re about to go down on your knees, she tells you her name is Shakeela. Would the name affect your final decision?

    To many South Indians, Shakeela is a B-grade actress best remembered for movies you can’t watch with your family. Marrying a Shakeela would mean opening yourself to taunts from everyone. So what would you do? Bold men would just brush aside the jibes and get on with life. But not all of us are bold. In a conservative society, names develop their own reputations. And namesakes have to live with that reputation, like it or not.

    The Aarushis of the world will have to bear with jerks who keep recounting the murder of Aarushi Talwar. Your friendly neighbourhood Smitha will have to put up with the ‘Silk’ Smitha nickname all her life. Every Nathuram will have to live with the ghost of Nathuram Godse. There will be no escape for the Sheelas from Sheela ki jawani. The only way out is to either change your setting or name.

    - Anantha Narayan

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