To sur­name, with love

Mid Day - - OPINION - Rahul daCunha

IT started out like any build­ing so­ci­ety meet­ing — merely to dis­cuss ex­ter­nal re­pairs. As we all signed the reg­is­ter, I no­ticed a mis­take in the spell­ing of my sur­name.

“Um, Mr Sec­re­tary, Madam Pres­i­dent, it’s DaCunha, not D’Cunha. Can you not read the name­plate? It clearly shows the cor­rect spell­ing of my fam­ily name.”

Suresh Vora, from Flat 15C, was quick with the quip: “Same thing, maka pao. Why you are get­ting touchy? You’re from Ban­dra orig­i­nally, na?” “Dad’s from Goa.” “Huh, your papa is from Goa, and your mom is from where then?” Vora asked, with the gen­uine sur­prise of a man who be­lieved mixed mar­riages could not ex­ist. “From Gu­jarat,” I an­swered. Stunned si­lence, as Vora’s beady eyes stopped blink­ing for a beat.

“Oh, you’re half-Hindu,” he asked with a new­found ac­cep­tance of me.

“Yeah, like you, Suresh, my mother is a Gu­jarati. Her maiden name was Pa­tel, like you’re Vora.”

15C’s silly smile evap­o­rated, he was gen­uinely an­noyed, steam em­a­nat­ing from his ears.

“Hey, hey, hello, hello, gen­tle­man, be care­ful what you say. I’m not Gu­jju, un­der­stand, I’m a Panju — Pun­jabi, and it’s Vohra with an H, not Vora. Big dif­fer­ence. Gu­jjus are Vora, Pan­jus are Vohra.”

“Ubaro ubaro, what’s wrong with be­ing Gu­jju, huh? Af­ter all, our Prime Min­is­ter is Gu­jarati, Modiji is great,” said Jig­nesh Jhaveri from Flat 8B, stick­ing his pa­tri­otic chest out, like a rooster at day­break.

“Arre, non­sense. For ev­ery good Modi, there is one bad one who makes di­a­monds and steals money from the coun­try worth `11,500 crore. Ni­rav Modi — what do you say about Ni­rav Modi? Bolo,” said Naren Baxi from Flat 12F.

“Yes, but he is from Su­rat. Su­rat Modis are dif­fer­ent from Karam­sad Modis, samjyu ke?” Jhaveri said point­edly.

Build­ing re­pairs had taken a back seat as caste pol­i­tics took cen­tre stage.

“To me all Gu­jjus are dodgy, from Su­rat, Karam­sad or An­twerp. All they think about is rokda,” said Ra­jesh Mi­tal from Flat 6C.

“What you know, saala Maadu,” Jig­nesh barked at his neigh­bour.

“Hey, hey, bl***y Gu­jju, I’m not a Maadu, I’m a Ba­nia, samjhe? Mar­waris are Mit­tal with two Ts. I’m a Ba­nia, I’m Mi­tal, sin­gle T from Meerut, Ut­tar Pradesh. Samjhe na, bloody an­pad, Ra­jasthan and UP are dif­fer­ent states. You have ever seen the In­dia map? Dif­fer­ence be­tween Mi­tal and Mit­tal is like, um, like…,”

Mi­tal searched for an ad­e­quate anal­ogy.

“It’s like Mus­lim Khans and Parsi Khans,” said the ‘chin­gari’ of the com­mit­tee, Pa­van Han­sraj, look­ing point­edly at Pheroze Khan (Flat 5B).

“There are Parsi Khans? I never knew that,” Mi­tal said, ‘What are you, Pheroze?”

“I’m a proud Parsi,” Pheroze said, sound­ing like Prince Harry.

Mrs Ila Ch­hater­jeee sat qui­etly in one cor­ner while may­hem reigned.

“And you, Mrs Ch­hater­jeee, you have three Es in your sur­name. Is that a spe­cial com­mu­nity in Ben­gal? With three Es, not two?” I asked. “No, just me,” Ila said with bite. “Oh just you. Does the name go back sev­eral gen­er­a­tions, your great-great-grand­fa­ther, per­haps?”

“No,” she said, “My well­ness guru. He added the ex­tra E for good luck.”

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