My Name Is Khan” is a 2010 Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol starrer Indian hit film. In the cine world, plagiarism is the name of the game, and sure enough Dhallywood followed suit in 2013 with a romantic action movie by the same name with local heartthrobs Shakib Khan and Apu Biswas doing the honours. And here am I at curtains of 2018, being rather original; the last name has been changed.
Surname is important, as has been aptly demonstrated in the run up to party nominations for the forthcoming national elections. Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and wives of course found themselves in an advantageous position simply because their parent, sibling and husband were once elected parliamentarians.
Admittedly politics does run in the blood. We have seen several gifted politicians, who have carried the family torch with glowing luminosity. But, that cannot be true for every human vein entering the hallowed Sangsad Bhaban. Just because someone's dad was an empee of exemplary political wisdom and oratory prowess, in no way should imply that his child would be able to carry the responsibility with even near equal dexterity. But, in reality (for instance) the big Khan is replaced by junior Khan, who may have been settled in Saskatchewan for the past two decades, and speaks fluent Filipino Tagalog. That is because hereditary politics is the main politics in the subcontinent, and to some extent some parts of Asia.
The baap ka beta passing of baton is rare in the developed world. In the USA there have been exceptions: Little Bush of Walker fame, who won the 2001 elections, albeit controversially and, despite a second term, later was much less successful than his dad, the just demised 41st US president, and the father Adams (2nd President) and his son (6th). In the UK, William Pitt, the Elder, was prime minister during 1766-1768, and his son William Pitt, the Younger, between 1783-1801. In modern times, nahhh.
Whereas a policeman's son is not guaranteed a job in the force, nor a general's daughter in the army, nor a professor's brother in a university, how is a politician smugly poised that his son will inherit his constituency? Or, his wife. A movie star's child occasionally does don a parent's makeup, but some have had their careers (if any) nipped in the bud and head dipped in cow dung. A star footballer cannot hand over his No. 10 jersey to his daughter, nor can a crooner substitute herself with her son because her voice is broken one crucial evening.
The fact on the ground, however, is that when a politician, for example Chowdry, has gone home, all beneficiaries of the departed are eager not to rock the boat. Collectively, they remain in control politically and economically by reaching out to a descendent or Bhabi. “Wherever will be Bhabi Chowdry, we are there to serve the country”, the air and the sky are mukhorito with such poetic slogans.
Not only to seek election nomination, the name-dropping is useful at busy ticket counters, after a traffic violation, and when promoting a suitable boy to prospective in-laws. No wonder we are not allowed to write our name on an examination answer script. Bhabi would get all the marks.
In the days of printed telephone directory in the UK and perhaps North America, there was a nasty egoist tussle to be the last entry in the list. So names like Zamarach stood no chance when someone named himself Zzzachry.
My predicament is at the other end. I get close to five calls a day from call centres of various products ranging from readymade apartments to lakeside land fifty miles away, from availing health facilities abroad to purchasing rice and daal, not because I am a valued customer but because I have a surname with initial A. In my case, it is not name-dropping but it has now come to dropping my surname under a daily barrage of phone calls. Mind you, they are polite with pretty names, and there are no calls after five.
Irritating yes the callers are. Initially, I used to get extremely perturbed, and was accordingly vocally and rather unprintably expressive. But, realising they were just doing their job as part of their hard-earned employment, I now respond with civility and even call some of them “Baba”. Only they cannot see the fume in my hair.
People whose surname initial is halfway down the English alphabet and beyond can consider themselves truly fortunate. By the time the caller reaches L or M, it's time to pack shop at the call centre. Come the next midmorning, they start calling again from A, and I have the pleasure to address them with parental respect. This New Year I plan to gift every call centre a few bookmarks, and address them as Uncle/Aunty. That should settle it.
Me Lord! There should be a law against unsolicited phone calls at all hours that are infringing on our privacy. Interested advertisers should pay for newspaper and TV adverts. The media should commence an all-out war against imploring over mobile telephones because they are losing money.
Me Lord! Hang on, that's my cell phone ringing.
Dr Nizamuddin Ahmed is a practising Architect at BashaBari Ltd., a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.