Name changer, game changer: Captain Awesome
When a 26-year-old Scottish computer science graduate, who recently moved to Mumbai, introduces himself by saying “Danger is my middle name,” he really means it. Born Lewis Taylor, the Edinburgh University student decided to change his name to Captain D Awesome in 2008. “I was at a store and I liked this T-shirt with Captain Awesome written on it. I thought it would be so cool to have a name like that,” laughs Captain, who works at an advertising firm in Santa Cruz. He officially changed his name to the amusing moniker back in September 2008 when he happened to hear of someone who changed his name to Spartacus in London. “The process is pretty simple. You just log on and fill in papers and soon enough, you are a new person,” he says. The first reactions to his name change were definitely not the ‘Aye Aye Captain’ that he expected. “My mother asked me to stop doing such idiotic things, later she just got quite mad when she heard I already did it.”
He confesses that he was unaware of the tele-series Chuck, which stars a protagonist he shares his name with. “I would like to think they named him after me. But yeah, I found out about the series after I changed my name.” At social occasions and otherwise, Mr Awesome proudly flashes his re-baptised name on his credit card. “It’s funny because when I get calls from bank employees, they do not know how to address me. When they do call me by my name, I can always hear a snigger in the background.” And does all the awesomeness ever get to him? “A lot of people just stare at me when I tell them my name. They do not believe it. And the downside is girls at bars do not want to strike a conversation with a person who has a loony name.” We agree. Especially if ‘Danger’ is your middle name.
Mumbai’s very own Anthony Hopkins
To share your name with a man synonymous with Hannibal or a psychotic serial killer is no mean deal, but for Bandra resident, Anthony Hopkins, the answer lies in feigning obliviousness. “I usually introduce myself as Tony when I meet new people,” he smiles. The 59-year-old bicycle shop owner was baptised as a young lad, after his mother passed away. “I had to convert when I was quite young. My foster mom gave me that name. I don’t think she or anyone knew of Anthony Hopkins at that time. I was barely a teenager,” he adds.
Having worked as a mechanic in Dubai and Yemen, Hopkins also had a short stint in Australia, before he moved back to Mumbai in 1986. So has the namesake raised eyebrows around the globe? “Yes. Some people find it amusing. They keep telling others of my name and even ask for identity proof at times. I think it may be because Hopkins is not a very common last name.” So has he grown to be a fan of the Academy award winning Brit actor? “Not really,” he retorts. Any favourite movies? “In fact, I haven’t seen any of his movies yet. And seriously, I don’t even plan on watching them,” he retorts. And that’s enough to silence the lambs.
Bird? Plane? Our coolio’s star auto!
The city’s auto rickshaw drivers may be better known now for refusing fares and nudging their way forward with harsh overtaking maneuvers, but Deepak Kashinath Shevale defies this hostile generalisation. The 32-year-old is known to drive around town in a souped-up rickshaw, offering a host of amenities that one wouldn’t dream of getting in the most basic mode of transport. He even ferries around the handicapped and underprivileged at lavishly discounted fares.
“Many people have asked me about it, and I’m happy to oblige,” grins Shevale, who has spent his own money to modify the vehicle that boasts of two fans, a TV, mobile charging point, list of emergency numbers, calendar, medicines, tissues, newspapers, magazines and even chocolates for his passengers. He even appeared on Hindi TV show, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma, and pictures of him with the cast are displayed on either side of his auto.
Ask him if anyone actually watches TV in the rickshaw and he muses, “Some do get CDs to watch their own films, but the view from the backseat gets blocked a bit.” But Shevale has figured out a way to put his TV to good use. “I’ve installed a camera that’s connected to the TV and helps me while I reverse,” he grins, pointing at his high-tech device that even several fancy cars in town wouldn’t have.
Next on Shevale’s wish list is an air conditioner. Point out that it may not be a feasible option and he interrupts confidently, “I can get those transparent curtains that are thick and will block the air. Many of us use them only during the rains, but I’m sure good-quality ones will work in this case as well.” Whether or not he succeeds in his air conditioner plans, we’re already his fans; and he is cool all right.
Santa Cruz senior citizen who rides a bike made of waste
It’s the blue tarpaulin canopy over a bicycle ridden by an elderly man that catches your attention. Closer, you realise that the rickety two-wheeler carries myriad other things. A placard attached to the handle-bar says ‘Thin Plastic Bags Kill The Earth’ while four posters at the rear urge viewers to give up tobacco, citing the statistic ‘104 people die every minute’ which is attributed to NDTV news. And the cycle doesn’t bear the usual tyres either.
“I’ve fitted it with wheels from a wheelchair because I wanted to find a permanent solution to the frequent punctures I would encounter while riding,” says 70-year-old VR Iyer, who had bought a cheap bicycle frame from a scrapdealer 15 years ago and modelled a unique ride around it. “This cycle is made up entirely of waste, so it sends out a positive message of environment conservation, besides sensitising people against tobacco use,” says Iyer, who is the chief tennis coach at Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana, Santacruz (W) and a retired mechanical engineer. Ask him whether riding in chaotic traffic is tricky, and he replies, “Even in traffic, people respect me because of the messages my cycle carries.”
Adept at transforming almost any waste-item into utilitarian objects, Iyer also entered the Limca Book of Records in 2004 as a ‘Recycle Wizard’ for creating 475 replicas of trophy of 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup out of discarded mineral water bottles.
At first glance he looks like your everyday uniformed waiter from one of the hundreds of cafés crowding the city. Look closer and you might notice the difference— his intense gaze as he takes customers’ orders, or the quiet way in which he brings you your coffee. The efficiency, with which Sunil Sahu serves customers, can leave you speechless if only you knew that he is hearing-impaired and mute.
Sahu has been whipping cream and serving coffee at Costa Coffee in Phoenix Mills, for two months now. He takes orders, makes coffee and serves them without even giving you an inclination of his impairment. Ask his co-worker how he does that, and he spills the beans, saying, “While taking orders from customers, Sunil lip-reads. He also writes or gestures to communicate. We all were trained in sign language by our company to interact with him smoothly.” So how does that really work? “We have our own signs to indicate things. For example, we touch our cap to tell him to make a Cappuccino; or make the L-shaped sign with our fingers to indicate a Latte. He is very attentive and till date has never mixed-up any orders.”
Jhakaas usher at Gaiety
Most people know of Naveen Rathod. They may not know his name, but they are aware that Bandra’s popular G7 multiplex employs an usher who shares an uncanny resemblance with Anil Kapoor. And while some may think he has a tough time coping with his appearance, Rathod is weird like that. He enjoys every minute of being called a ‘duplicate’. “Sometimes, people buy film tickets just to see me and take pictures with me at Gaiety,” says Rathod, who has been working there for decades now.
G7 is his home, office and support system. “Coming to work is the best part of my day. I belong here, and people find me here if they need me. That’s how I got my break in Bollywood,” he says, adding that he played Kapoor’s body double in films like Lajja (2001) and Calcutta Mail (2003). “People saw me here and told me I look like Anil Kapoor and I should act. Initially, when they came to me at the theatre and offered me roles, I thought they were kidding, but it was for real. Anil ji is a friend of mine now.”
Rathod has also played roles in movies like Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya (1998) and Chalo Ishq Ladaaye (2002) with Salman Khan and Govinda respectively. His last lead role was in Ramgarh Ke Sholay (1991). Currently, he’s looking forward to his next big release. Rathod will be seen as the second lead in Hamar Love Story, a film in Bhojpuri, Telugu and Hindi.