Too many Rahuls on earth

Shanghai from the 16th floor room of the hotel I stayed in

MOHAMMED, I am told, is the world’s commonest male name. Ali comes next, followed by James and Jack.

Rahul, I assure you, isn’t far behind. And I am not counting those who go by variants – Ruhul, Raul, Raulo, even Ralph…

Seems there are quite a few Rahul Karmakars too.

Having majored in statistics, I tend to think probability. But I never thought about the odds of others carrying my given and family names. That was until I logged on to Facebook.

Friend requests from people I never came across or communicated with made me suspicious. Some were half my age and some had profiles chemically incompatible with mine.

Did they ask the wrong Rahul Karmakar? Google told me they probably did, without taking a closer look at my mugshot.

The search was appalling. The first click revealed Mumbai police held 240 youths for ‘doing drugs’ in a Juhu pub and one of them was a Rahul Karmakar with a crime record. God!

The second click took me to a Rahul Karmakar who’s a member of I believe in increasing my friend’s circle, but not via this enterprise.

Then came rockingrahul6972, a gamer at Ibibo, rahulkarmakar840 on YouTube and rahulkarmakar6 on Twitter. Numbers can be misleading, but there may be at least 6971 more Rahul Karmakars at Ibibo, 839 on YouTube and five on Twitter. Unless the same gamer uses a different ID on YouTube and/or Twitter, or vice versa.

I also Netted presumably non-gaming, non-tweeting namesakes. They include a Kolkata-based advocate, a Jamshedpur-based school student into modeling, an Asansol-based student of higher studies, a New Delhi-based computer networking professional and a Sydney-based project manager at Dell.

When my grandfather named me 43 years ago, he probably had Lord Buddha’s son Rahula – the nirvana-seeking Vishnu avatar thought up this name to mean ‘relationship’ – in mind.

Buddha’s son relished the exclusivity of his name if we suppose he was unaware about contemporaries or earlier Indians inspired by the Upanishads, which give the earliest meaning of Rahul as ‘conqueror of all miseries’. The name, Sanskrit and Pali scriptures say, means ‘moon’ and ‘able’ or ‘efficient’ too.

At the Qutab Minar, the Mughal idea of an inland lighthouse?

Rahul, Google educates me, also figures in Arabic to mean ‘traveler’.

As far as I am concerned, Rahul is a combination of two words – Ra, meaning the ancient Egyptian sun-god and hool or sting/prick as in Bengali. Minus the god bit, Rahul thus means hot prick or, if you may, prickly heat.

Nevertheless, friends in school and college told me ‘Rahul’ was trendy. So trendy, almost every other insignificant male in the saas-bahu TV soaps got this name. And he was invariably a rapist, molester, wife-beater, two-timer, conman or wearing other negative shades.

But life became hell after a kid wiggled his butt in the bath to promote a now-forgotten soap while his mother shouted, “Rahul, paani chalaa jayegaa!”

I don’t wiggle while showering, but I do indulge in bathroom singing. The songs cold water educes are often those that Rahul Dev Burman composed.

Burman Junior’s golden oldies on my lips assure me that I am in good company. That my name also belongs to a topnotch historian-philosopher-polymath (Sanskritayan), a leading industrialist (Bajaj), a strong actor (Bose), an ace archer (Banerjee), an able scientist (Sarpeshkar) and noted American author (Mahajan).

And that it belongs to someone (Dravid) who captained the Indian cricket team, and to someone (Gandhi) who might shepherd India.

A chain email said the real name of Gandhi is Raul, not Rahul. That perhaps proves how convenient a name Rahul is in case of conversion. You can be a Hindu/Buddhist Rahul, an Islamic Ruhul or a Christian/European Raul – derived from the Latin Raulus meaning ‘glory of the nation’ – without surprising anyone.

Karmakar, I guess, isn’t as flexible globally. In India, though, you can be a Bengali Karmakar or an Adivasi (aboriginal) Karmakar, and with an ‘r’ inserted, you can transform into a Marathi Karmarkar.

But something you can’t change is that there are too many Rahuls on earth.


About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
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