‘WHAT IS IN A NAME’
By: BILAL AHMAD NAIK
As we were discussing the downfall of our business unit and the necessary requirements for the recovery thereof, Gull Kaak arrived on the scene. Unwelcome- everybody`s face read in reaction but he was unwilling to leave. To our satisfaction he chose to remain silent- a seemingly positive sign for all of us. After a threadbare discussion and immense argumentation it all seemed waffling and we had miserably failed to arrive at a conclusion. After a lot of moaning and groaning all eyes were on Gull Kaak, the unwanted and uninvited one, but he was adamant to remain silent. One of our friends lit a Four Square cigar and after taking a few quick and long puffs he turned to Gull Kaak, “Hey man, have a say. Come on, you can`t sit silent.” “What am I supposed to say?” “Anything, something, whatsoever… but no silence. I mean it. I really mean it. Pardon my naivety, you can`t watch us getting ruined and say nothing. Hey, at least utter a word or two so that we can check whether you have completely gone dumb or not. A word that you can utter, mutter, murmur or stutter…,” he ended up stuttering himself. He was just pleading for some suggestions but the desperation made him lose his temper for which he later felt humbled.
“Change the name of the unit”, hollered Gull Kaak.
He said nothing more. Nobody would have given heed to this old man, who inter alia lacked gregarious instinct, had there been an alternative. It was a situation where we were left with no option but to ponder over his saying that was contrary to Shakespeare’s famous quote “What is in a name?” This quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet always consoled me whenever I felt bad at some nomenclature type of thing concerning me.
But it was only when I decided not seeing through the lenses of Shakespeare, that a new world of names, reflecting various material things and ideas captured my attention. Gull kak`s words compelled me to revisit the quote. Is it that I have misunderstood it? There are plethora of chances of being so for I hardly remembered anything beyond that quote from Hamlet. Fortunately through some association with the scholar in me succeeded in recollecting the succeeding line of the quote from Hamlet: that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Though I was just contemplating and I don’t know which association helped me to recollect it, my ego wanted me to showoff and not to miss the opportunity. With a light smile and an evident arrogance in it I softly mentioned the aforesaid quote. Considering the repute of the man I was quoting I thought I should take pride in even mentioning him. But all went opposite to my expectations and I had not anticipated what followed. A tight-lipped and reticent man became explicitly vocal. He pounced on the words as soon as they had come out of my mouth. “Could you please repeat it? What exactly did you mean? Nothing in a name?” Gull Kaak`s ferociousness knew no limits. His anger was unprecedented and his eloquence unparalleled. He kept posing questions and answering himself unabated.
What is in a name? Wanna ask me? I shall reply- everything. With due respect to Shakespeare, the quote should have been ‘what is not in a name’.
Gull Kaak continued and the harshness kept fading away positively with every successive sentence that followed. The first thing that we know about a person, place, object or an idea is its name. We are living in a fast world. We try to perceive things quickly because we have got a little time as we need to move on to keep pace with the ever changing world. In the meantime we also have to capture and preferably impress upon the mind what we have perceived from the instant circumstances and encounters. While the time for accomplishing it is always limited, it becomes imperative to jump into conclusions faster. While doing so it is the name that has got the pivotal role in arriving at a conclusion, judgment or just passing a comment. It is these decisions, conclusions and the positions we take that determine and affect our future leanings, perspectives and sometimes actions. Ask an RET teacher and he will tell you what the tag RET means to him. Imagine yourself as an RET teacher. People will ask you, “What do you do for living?” “Teacher,” the instance you utter the word teacher expect a second question in queue, RET or general line? And as soon as you pronounce RET, the tone of the enquirer and his expression changes drastically.
Study the body language of the enquirer and you`ll get it all. Suddenly his respect for you when you had claimed to be a teacher does not remain the same after he hears the name of the category of teachers you belong to. You are now a mediocre teacher, kind of dabbling at this profession, rather apprentice and not an eminent one as he had guessed it in the first place. It is not because you have not got the ability and capability required to be a teacher but it is just a name based prejudice. The story does not end there. I have seen shopkeepers in villages asking about whether the particular teacher is a general line, normal, SSA or RMSA teacher.
Later I have observed their different behaviors with the different categories of teachers rather with respect to their names. The nomenclature based discrimination that gets highlighted in different media circles in this context at upper levels would have been endured but it has far more serious repercussions at ground level and they are more evident. Students these days have got access to everything happening around them. Don’t tell me that they don’t speculate on the performance of a teacher on the basis of this nomenclature. Recently I overheard a class 8 student saying that there’s something about this RET name that if I explicate on it it’ll hurt the sentiments of my 65000 teachers. ‘What is that specifically?’ asked his companions. Even big media houses don’t dare to ask such questions for it is sort of rocket science for them. So dare not to. There’s something wrong in the name- I guess.
Author teaches at a government middle School