Calling out names in Meghalaya

The assembly election results for three important north-eastern states of India, namely, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya are just in. And surprise, surprise, the incumbent BJP has come up smelling of roses in all the three states. They won by a comfortable margin in Tripura and Nagaland, bagging the requisite number of seats, along with their allies and romped home. In Meghalaya, however, they could barely scrape together two seats off their own bat, and still ended up on the winning side! As one BJP foot-soldier was overheard stage-whispering to a friendly (is there any other kind?) television reporter, ‘You win some, you win some!’ They are a winsome lot, the BJP party workers. And why not? It appears all they need to do is turn up for an election and the results are virtually a foregone conclusion, barring in a handful of states. I am stretching a point here, but what the hell, in politics exaggeration is the name of the game.

Mind you, it was strongly rumoured that the erstwhile Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad Sangma, had a run-in with one of the BJP bosses and decided to part company prior to the assembly polls. However, when the results came in and the guitar-strumming Conrad found himself a few seats short he, like any astute politician, decided to make nice with the BJP and they are friends again. Politics throws up strange bedfellows, even if the lay public feels like throwing up now and again. Still and all, in the words of that lovely Burt Bacharach song, That’s What Friends Are For. Bottom line, ‘the double-engine sarkar’ is enjoying a lip-smacking, flavourful triple sundae in the north east and it will stay that way for the next five years. To the victor go the spoils.

Meanwhile there are more assembly elections on the anvil. Word on the street is that bell-weather state Karnataka will be difficult to hold on to by the ruling dispensation, and with stacks of cash being found recently under the beds and floorboards in some BJP MLA’s home, the opposition will get its chance to rub it in, good and proper. Time for some good, old fashioned whataboutery to fill the airwaves. And Rahul Gandhi is helping the BJP in that regard with some strange statements in Cambridge, of all places, about seeing ‘eye to eye’ with militants in Kashmir, his stunning discovery of harmonious China as a force of nature, Pegasus spyware in his phone et al. Wonder who his speech writer is. In passing, I must say the now not-so-young scion’s decision to trim his erstwhile, outrageously straggly beard is a welcome change. The optics just went up a notch. Contrarily, it’s a bit rich his branding the BJP as a ‘suit-boot ki sarkar.’ He was dressed to the nines at Cambridge, suited and booted to the gills. Spiffy. Savile Row, Rahul?

That said, let me get back to the north-east. Like most other people in our country, I plead guilty to not knowing very much about this bountiful and beautiful region. Evidently, even most of our political parties in the past paid scant attention to the ‘three sisters,’ Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland. Now that politics has seen to it that these almost-forgotten states are dominating, at least for now, dining room conversations in many parts of India, we are all frantically searching websites to learn more. However, what has caught my attention is not so much the unspoiled beauty and grandeur of the region, though that alone is worth the price of an air-ticket to Shillong, but the evocative names of the people who belong to these states. In elaborating on this somewhat unusual theme, I leave out Nagaland and Tripura for now, and concentrate instead on Meghalaya. This is because most people’s names in Tripura are of familiar origins from other parts of India, and those of Nagaland, while interesting, don’t quite have the exotic magic or music of those who have been christened in Meghalaya. Christened, incidentally, being the operative word, given the Christian dominated nature of the state. My observations include names of some of the small constituencies as well.

Let us then, you and I, dive in and examine these names that I, for the most part, have not come across before. To employ that horrendous present-day expression, ‘my bad.’ First off, let us get the common or garden Sangma and Lyngdoh out of the way. It appears that you cannot hurl a brick in Meghalaya without beaning a Sangma or a Lyngdoh. Rather like a Chatterjee or a Banerjee in Bengal. Not that one wishes to, heaven forbid. Hurl a brick, I mean, but you get my drift. Instead, let us feast on some of the other incredible names, shall we? For starters, there’s Dr. Wanweiroy Kharlukhi, which is such an evocative name. Had I been on first name terms with him, I would probably have called him ‘Wanny’ or perhaps just a vanilla ‘Roy.’ Incidentally, I cannot blithely assume that the name belongs to the male and not the female of the species, for there’s no way of telling until I come across a picture. We move on to Prestone Tynsong and Hamleston Dohling, whose names put me in mind of church bells chiming. Come One Ymbon must surely vie for the top three spots if one were to rank these names in terms of favourites.

Not that it is easy to pick favourites. One is spoilt for choice in Meghalaya. Take Matthew Beyondstar Kurbah or if you must, Brightstarwell Marbaniang. Clearly the stars are propitiously well aspected for these bright candidates. They will go far. The stars are the limit! Methodious Dkhar reminds me of American jazz legend, Thelonious Monk and don’t ask me why. If you know your jazz, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Methodious trumpets his political success most melodiously, with Conrad Sangma accompanying him on guitar. Politicians are expected to be ardent and keen about their work and who better than Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit to deliver, whichever portfolio he might be offered. If the CM needs some heavy lifting to be done on his behalf, he need look no further than Heaving Stone Kharpran to do his bidding. The Red Indians of yore had names like this.

In case you thought the Lalus of the world came only from Bihar, Meghalaya says ‘what the heck, we have our own Alexander Lalu Hek.’ Legend has it that revered Greek statesman Demosthenes was one of the world’s greatest orators. Who is to say that Meghalaya’s very own Sosthenes Southun is not inspired by the oratory skills of the ancient Greek? Questions, questions. I am not betting against Walmiki Shylla being named after the great Indian sage, Valmiki, who gave us the epic, Ramayana. I love Gavin Miguel Mylliem and Gabriel Wahlang, whose names remind one irresistibly of colourful Latin American and Spanish flavours. Remington Momin’s ancestors may have introduced the first typewriters to Meghalaya, but that is just an educated guess on my part.

Those are just a handful of glorious samples of the names of the beautiful people of gorgeous Meghalaya, and let us just take a quick peek at some of the constituencies that these worthies represent. Sutnga Saipung, Mowkaiaw, Mawrengkneng, Pynthorumkhrah, Nongthymmai, Rambrai-Jyrngam, Chokpot, Mawthadraishan, Bajengdoba and Rongieng. Those are just a brief soupçon mined from a field of infinite, if unpronounceable, riches. A vowel or two, casually thrown-in between the consonants, would have helped but hey, we shouldn’t be fussy. I am sure the Meghalayans will be similarly up against it with Madal Virupakshappa, the BJP MLA who is drowning in his own, ill-gotten hard cash. By the way, just to show there is no ill-feeling, Nagaland’s likely Chief Minister is called Neiphiu Rio. Not bad, but wouldn’t stand much of a chance against his Meghalayan neigbhours in an ‘exotic name’ competition.

That said, it strikes me that the BJP can consider themselves fortunate that their representation on the Meghalaya cabinet will be barely skeletal. Had it been otherwise, the likes of our Prime Minister and Home Minister attempting to wrap these amazing Meghalayan names round their tongues would have been a task well beyond their levels of articulation. It is well beyond mine! They will do well to stick to ‘Good morning, Mr. Sangma. Would you like another airport?’

In conclusion, I would like to share an amusing, personal anecdote, entirely true, of my own experience with an unusual north-eastern name. I made an appointment with my local salon for a much-needed haircut a few days ago. They gave me a pleasant, industrious, young lady, clearly from the hilly regions, to take care of my grooming. I have to say she did an extremely competent job – hair-cut, shampoo, head-massage, the works. I felt like a million dollars at the end of it all. Out of courtesy, I thanked her profusely and inquired as to her name for future reference. ‘So So,’ she replied.

‘I beg your pardon?’ I responded, somewhat baffled.

Once again, she repeated the words, ‘So So.’

‘Ah so, I get it. Your name is So So, but your hair-dressing skill is anything but. Glad to meet you, So So. My name, as you might have gathered from the booking slot, is Suresh Subrahmanyan, but you can call me Su Su.’

So So merely giggled as I strode confidently out of the salon.

Published by sureshsubrahmanyan

A long time advertising professional, now retired, and taken up writing as a hobby. Deeply interested in music of various genres, notably Carnatic and 60's and 70's pop/rock. An avid tennis and cricket fan. Voracious reader of British humour and satire. P.G. Wodehouse a perennial favourite.

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  1. Suresh, there’s no end to the rib ticklers you can write, week after week. Well done old chap.


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