What’s In A Surname?

My full name, given to me after birth is Roshan Gopal Krishnan. Now, peculiar to almost all other states in India but rather common to the state of Kerala, I have no surname! My father’s name is C. Gopalakrishnan, which is what he was named at the time of birth but when he moved to Kuwait, the Kuwaiti embassy wanted a full name, i.e 3 names. To avoid a problem & confusion he did the reasonable thing that could be done without a drastic change in names. He expanded his initial C as Chakambath (which is a family name for the area his family has) and split Gopalakrishnan to Gopal Krishnan. And Krishnankutty Menon is his father, my grandfather’s name. Now when I was born, the Kuwaiti authorities had a rule that you must have 3 names as your official full name, with your dad’s name & granddad’s name following your name in case you didn’t have the Arab name format or the Christian name format. So it was easy for my dad when naming me – Roshan (my name) Gopal (my dad’s name or atleast part of his name) Krishnan (which is my granddad’s name). The same applied to my sister.

Fast forward many years later and I am at times referred to Mr. Krishnan by non-Keralites who do not understand the naming style of our state. And it is a stupid style; a lot of people have just a first name and an initial, which is usually the family name like Roshan R. (where R would be the initial of the family name) or R. Roshan! If you are lucky you get two initials, like R.O. Roshan or Roshan R.O. Too simple and the problem is there will be many people with the same first name and same initials. Complicated? Well how do people formally refer to you – Mr. R or Mr. R.O.? Silly right?

The proper way to refer to me formally is Mr. Roshan Gopal Krishnan and not Mr. Krishnan. If you want to shorten it, Mr. Roshan is appropriate. I know, I know it’s not how names should be. I have very often criticized this naming style for us Malayalees as it is rather dumb. Some people may like it, I do not. My opinion! Now, I can actually easily use Menon as my last name and that would be appropriate. Menon refers to the caste that my family belongs to and therefore my name could be used as Roshan Menon or Roshan Gopal Krishnan Menon. I have seriously though many times of officially having my name changed to Roshan Menon or Roshan Gopalakrishnan Menon to make it easier for me but somehow I just never got round to doing it.

The reason I posted this is because I had 3 calls today from non-Malayalees; two were regarding job applications and the other was regarding my cancellation request of the Reliance Netconnect+ USB device & connection that I was subscribing to. Each of the persons who called me referred to me as Mr. Krishnan. I could only sigh and say ‘Yes, speaking’! resigned to the fact of being called erroneously. However, 2 hours ago I was called from another business enquery and I was called Mr. Roshan! Thanks buddy!

One thought on “What’s In A Surname?

  1. I do a lot of registrations of people from abroad and it is often a bit of a problem filling the right name in the right box.

    I had a guy the other day from your area I believe

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