Thursday, June 25, 2009


Halfway through the roll call session at the inaugural lecture, the anatomy professor found himself on the brink of a sneeze. And sneeze he did with a resounding 'Hak...ack...shee...'. During the ensuing silence, a chinese student in the class stood bolt upright and blurted out, "Present, Sir."

The bemused professor quizzically peered at the student as if to charge him with insubordination. But when the apologetic student muttered, "My name is Hak Aak Shee, Sir," a ripple of laughter spread across the lecture hall.

This was one of many guileless gags involving the names of the Chinese at our cosmopolitan college campus in the late sixties which spiced our student days with spontaneous humour sans rancour.

Take the case of a Chinese name 'Ng', the phonetics of which was beyond description in written words except that the sound (as explained by Mr Ng himself) bore an uncanny resemblance to the tight-lipped groan of an intractably constipated chap straining to attain deliverance from his 'motion sickness'!

And being bitten by the Chinese (name) bug, the innovative inhabitants of the college hostelry took it upon themselves to nick name anyone (irrespective of ethnicity) having some idiosyncracy with a Chinese-sounding name. So, a foul-mouthed guy became 'Mr Tongue Too Wrong' and one who ate like a horse was called 'Mr Junk Chunk Chew.' Similarly 'Mr Stunk Lek Skunk' was a 'hydrophobic' who took a bath once every leap year.

The Chinese too sportingly joined the frolic with their own versions of Indian names. Mithun Choksey, for instance, became 'Mein Chop Suey' and it was 'Gung Ho Rum' for Gangaram. An innocent bystander like me too had to put up with a 'Cage-hey Shen Hoy' (for K J Shenoy).

Even though the the Chinese baptism entailed a highly evolved methodology, Mr Shambu (alias Sham An' Boo), our hostel's wit and racounteur, had his own theory. He postulated that christening of a Chinese newborn was a very simple ritual: the baby's father would merely fling a coin on to the cement floor and from whatever sound it produced - Ting dong tunk or Ding tonk deng - a name would be 'coined'.

"Then huccome my name has no coin ringing in it?" retorted Duk Tok Chee, a Chinese boy, taking exception to Shambu's hypothesis. "In your case," chuckled Shambu, "the coin might have fallen on the wooden floor producing the sound 'Duk Tok' which prompted your dad to exclaim 'Chee' with annoyance."

At that, Duk Tok Chee's embarassed face looked a spitting image of 'Ing Tind Mang', which in Kannada means a monkey that had swallowed a lump of asafoetida (a bitter spice).

TAIL PIECE: During the visit of the Chinese President Mr Hu Jintao to New Delhi, seeing the security drill on the streets, a man asked a policeman "Who is coming?" To which the cop replied, "Yes."

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