The Failure of Human Taxonomy

Filed Under (People) by Rajesh Kumar on 31-07-2008

Lekhni evaluates the profound stupidity of naming someone as “Tallulah does the hula from Hawaii" and moves on to the implications of imperfect nomenclatures.

It isn’t too long ago that the Canadians famously decreed that their computers cannot distinguish one Amrit Kaur from another, and hence they would not entertain visa requests from ladies having Kaur and Singh as their surname. Thankfully they reprogrammed their computers and retreated.

Fortunately God was not a database admin, else he would have shouted "imperfect unique key" at the sight of such simple and oft occurring names such as mine. Why, most possibly we human beings would be all be reduced to numbers. The simpletons would say "Hi, I 897364926, call me 89". They more style concerned ones would introduce as "Hi, I am 89. 897364926". Idea Cellular guys even perceived this as a great opportunity to get rid of caste and religion differences and ran a very humorous TVC.

Then the Indian politician would almost certainly invent the VIP quota in that too. All numbers ending with two zeroes would either be allotted to ‘VIPs’. For four zeroes you would need some real clout, and not just be another ‘VIP’. For one paltry zero at the end you would need to pay some extra premium at the name registry. Of, course the recommendation from the local ‘leader’, would make sure you get it for sure. In Gulf countries, their would be confusion galore as they read-write left-to-right. When you greet someone as "Hello 43 Sheikh", he’d quickly retort that he’s Thirty-Four Sheikh, not Forty Three Sheikh.

Of course, those numerologically discerning would fight for numbers that add upto 9. Consider Amitabh Bachchan not as as Amitabh Bachchan but 99. (Namaskar 24-36-24ji, Kaun Banega Crorepati se main 99 bol raha hoon. Aapke pati 548266 hamare saamne hot seat par baithe hain") I am quite certain names such as 900009, 636300 would be reserved by parents even before the series is opened. Why, name squatters would do roaring business on Ebay.

The usual icebreakers in Chennai – and I love them – would have to morph and mutate. Today when I meet someone whose name I should know but I don’t, I just greet him as "Hi Bala, Paddy was mentioning about your new house". It turns out to be right, or the person responds, "I am Paddy, you must be meaning that Bala told you about my house?". I quickly grin that I took the names mixed up and get away. Either way you are not sure what his name is, since Bala could be Balamurugan, or Balasubramanyam. And if he’s Paddy, whether he’s Padmanabhan Chelapathi, or Padmanaban Ramamurthy. Either way, I remain completely confused. And wait. In eight out of ten cases Bala or Paddy turn out to be Venkat, actually!

But then I am not complaining. When I was growing up in Delhi, a friendly sardar once introduced himself to me as, "Hi I’m Balwant, you can call me Lovely".

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    About Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh is based in Chennai, where he works for Defiance Technologies in Marketing. The views on this blog are his own. Rajesh Kumar