Home Columns Anantha Narayan Numbers By The Dozen

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    With one stroke of mathematical ingenuity, an unsung Doordarshan newscaster took revenge on the Chinese president Xi Jinping for all the unwarranted incursions at the border by referring to him as ‘Eleven Jinping’. And for her serendipitous act of bravery, the anchor was packed off to the doghouse instead of being awarded a Shaurya Chakra. Poor thing.

    Perhaps the mandarins at Doordarshan are not aware of the great Indian tradition of embedding numbers in names. Had they known about it, at least we could have trotted out a face-saving explanation that the blooper was not an insult but an honorific.

    Because it’s quite common in our country for names to be woven around numerals. Eknath Solkar, India’s best ever fielder, bore the Shaivite appellation Eknath (meaning one lord). BJP’s proto economist Jay Dubashi’s surname alludes to a person who is an exponent of two languages. Renowned percussionist Trilok Gurtu used to proudly tell people that his first name meant ‘king of three worlds’.

    Just to complete the count-up: Chaturvedi is one who knows the four Vedas; Panchapakesan is the God who has five rivers trapped in his hair; Arumugam is the six-faced deity; Ezhumalai is the master who resides in the seven hills; Ashtalakshmi is the lady with the gunas of eight goddesses; Navarajan is the ruler of nine planets; and Dasaratha is the man whose chariot can move in 10 directions.

    If Mr Jinping needs international examples to be assuaged, there’s plenty. The Quentin in Quentin Tarantino actually means ‘fifth born’. Similarly, Octavio in Octavio Paz is the Spanish way of saying ‘eighth’

    Since the entire controversy started with Roman numerals, the curious case study of Beyonce’s baby girl, Blue Ivy Carter, should keep the Chinese happy. Ivy on the face of it is a beautiful vine. But there’s more to it. Phonetically, it’s the letters I and V. When put together, that’s IV.

    To those who think like the Doordarshan woman, it’s the Roman number ‘four’. And what’s with the four fetish? Apparently, Beyonce and her hubby Jay-Z were both born on the 4th. What’s more, they got hitched on April 4. To commemorate the date, they chose the quaint middle name.

    So Eleven Jinping is in ‘bootylicious’ company. Next time he says ‘Ni hao’, pull that number on him.

    -Anantha Narayan

    Know any more numbers masquerading as names? Mail to anantha@albertdali.com.

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