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Importance of being Govardhan

Reports say that Govardhanji is a late entrant to what is increasingly becoming the fashion among British kids to take Indian nicknames, just as we used to adopt the English ones, writes Manas Chakravarty.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2007 03:12 IST

Hindustan times, London, 16 November: Wearing marigold garlands around his neck and a bright vermillion teeka on the forehead, Britain’s prime minister was anointed Govardhan Brown on Wednesday by a large crowd of cheering Asians celebrating Diwali in the heart of the British establishment.)

There’s no stopping the Indian juggernaut now. That we had arrived on the world stage had been whispered in nooks and crannies and in the business pages. Our billionaires had quietly celebrated the victory over their Chinese counterparts. But deep in our hearts we carried the old colonial stigma, even shortening our names to resemble those of our former masters. Sunil had become Sunny, Avinash had become Nash and Sandeep had become Sandy. Not any more. The British Prime Minister, in front of a crowd of MPs in the House of Commons, beamed as he was anointed an “honorary Hindu” and re-named Govardhan Brown by the general secretary of the Hindu Council of Britain.

Reports say that Govardhanji is a late entrant to what is increasingly becoming the fashion among British kids to take Indian nicknames, just as we used to adopt the English ones. Why, a recent story in a London tabloid pointed out how Susie Murgatroyd, Murga to her friends, aged 8, had learnt the entire Rig Veda by heart and how Sam Smith, affectionately called Shanmugavadivelu by his classmates, has mastered the Great Indian rope trick. Detractors allege, however, that many of the honorary Hindus are applying to Indian universities claiming reservations under the OBC category. One of them, Tom Brown of Sheffield, has filed an affidavit claiming that he used to be a Gujjar in his previous incarnation. Hordes of medical students in the UK are anxiously praying for a favourable outcome for his case, so that they can apply for post-graduate studies at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Incidentally, the increasing fascination for all things Indian is not just confined to this side of the pond. Sources tell me that across the Atlantic, the most powerful man on earth, the President of the United States himself, has become an honorary Hindu. At a secret but impressive ceremony on the lawns of the White House, witnessed by the Indian community in the US, George W Bush changed his name to Jairaj W Bush. The W, of course, stands for Walchand. Unconfirmed reports also say that the middle initials of Jairaj’s father, George H W Bush, stand for Hirachand Walchand. After the ceremony, mingling with the guests, Jairaj-ji spoke of the great love he had for Indians ever since he was a boy. “I really like a lot of things about your great and ancient culture,” he told his guests, on condition of anonymity. “I particularly like your tomahawks, your wigwams, your squaws and the fantastic way you guys scalp your enemies.”

Meanwhile, reports have started coming in about other celebrities also adopting Indian monikers. The name of Aussie pace bowler Bharat Lee comes readily to mind, as of course does Anju, formerly known as Angelina Jolie. What’s more, the trend is being extended to fictional characters as well. Hari Puttar, formerly Harry Potter, is an obvious example. Reports say that James Bond is next in line.

Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig are currently practising saying, “The name is Bandopadhyaya. Janmajeya Bandopadhyaya.” Our cup of joy runneth over.

By the way, sources in the know also point out that, after the ceremony in the House of Commons, Gordon Brown made his way to the Chinese embassy to attend a function. No sooner had the Chinese ambassador announced, “I am so ploud to intloduce our guest today, Goldon Blown,” that the Prime Minister got up and said that he was extremely honoured to be given the Chinese name of Golden Blown. His enemies snidely remark that Gordon had one eye on the Chinese population of London and another on a lucrative defence deal with China. Later, to reporters’ repeated questions whether his next stop would be at a hip-hop event organized by the black community at Leeds, Brown merely said, “Yo.”

(Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint)