What is so inscrutable about the name Tony? Why do people invariably roll their eyes in disbelief when I introduce myself. Is your real name Antony, they ask. No, it's not! It's plain and simple Tony. Nothing more, nothing less.
Haven't they ever heard of British PM Tony Blair, cricketer Tony Greig, television character Tony Soprano and the like. What about the Tony awards, eh?
For God's sake, even the new White House Press Secretary is a certain Tony Snow. Our desi Jassi was the brainchild of television producer Tony Singh. Not to mention the innumerable other Tony Singhs wandering around in the wheat fields of Punjab. And don't you dare forget that the gun used in the Jessica Lall murder case was found in the house of a certain Tony in Chandigarh.
Granted that Christians are a minority in India but I have never heard of anyone getting flabbergasted by the presence of a Michael or a George in the workplace. Then why this fixation with Tony.
And it's not even a rare moniker. In school, there was another Tony in the same class and teachers usually got flummoxed when both Tonys responded to their bidding.
But somehow when I moved on to college and the workplace, people didn't take too kindly to my name. They would inevitably cup their ears to make sure they heard it right. Tony? It was almost as if they felt they could deal better with a Sony, Ronny or even a Dony.
Their next question - what does Tony mean? In the great Indian tradition, every name has to mean something and I am usually ashamed to admit mine doesn't stand for anything. But I never fail to point out that in the English lexicon, tony as an adjective stands for someone stylish, fashionable or elegant.
Not that I am claiming anything by that but Tony is certainly a better appellation than my dad's name John which has various unpleasant connotations - a toilet, a prostitute's customer and an elongated piece of underwear.
Now that you have patiently listened to or rather read my harangue, let me clarify that Tony is indeed derived from the name Anthony or Antony. And that my parents named me after my maternal grandfather.
Why maternal? Well, it seems that to do his bit for India's population crisis, my dad wanted to limit the number of his offspring to ONE. When I was born, Dad gave Mom the privilege of naming me after her father.
But three years later, when my obnoxious brother appeared on the planet, Dad gave the new born babe the moniker Jose to honour my paternal grandfather Joseph.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Dad had stuck to hierarchy when it came to naming unsuspecting babies after their grandfathers. I would have been named Jose and my brother would be Tony instead.
Nah! I like Tony much better. Jose is such a common name in South India. In fact, if you throw a stone in Kerala, you can be pretty certain about it landing on a person named Jose, or someone having a friend or a sibling named Jose. Now just don't start throwing stones at me.
(This blog post first published May 16, 2006)
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