"What is your name?" Asked the official.
"Chandu," I replied humbly.
"Really?" He was amused.
He was the umpteenth person asking me whether Chandu was really my official name. For some reason, it is given the status of a pet name.
Actually, I have met not more than ten "Chandu"s in my life. As I said, most don’t prefer Chandu as their children’s name as it is considered a pet name.
This naming game began when I was hardly two. My mother’s name is Shyamala and father’s name is Gopalakrishnan. So they opted for the combi "Shyam Krishnan." But my Unni Mamam (maternal uncle) and Thambi Kochachan (paternal uncle), close friends, stood for the name Chandu.
The reason they said was that they want their nephew’s identity to be something different. And they chose a real oddity to highlight my identity. They were very dear to my parents, and thus they became my Godfathers!
Alas! There was a villian in a famous Malabari ballad with the name Chandu and, without any doubt, he is the most (in)famous Chandu in Kerala, popularly known as Chathiyan Chandu (Chandu the cheat).
Then came the Hariharan movie Oru vdakkan veeragadha, written by MT Vasudevan Nair, in which Mammootty played the role of Chandu. The movie was an adaptation of the old ballad, but the story was how the good hearted Chandu was termed a cheat. He won his first national award for that.
I still remember my mother calling me to go for the movie. I said "NO," because Mammootty is playing Chandu as a Chathiyan (cheat).
From my first week in school till last week here, many asked me Chathiyan Chandu aano? (Chandu the cheat, are you?)when I tell them my name.
My friends from the North may not understand this situation, as names such as Bunty, Chintu, Babli, Munna and such are equally popular there as high sounding names like Prithviraj or Javed Khan.
But then, this is Kerala. Here the name, as an official one, is odd for sure. This oddity is my identity!