Friday, December 1, 2006

The Game-of-the-Name

There are some people who are really good with names - they can see a face and immediately know what to call it.

And then there are people like me.

Names have often proven to be the bane of my existence. And not just others' names, mind you - my own nickname has been a cause of trauma during my formative years, and no, I am not going to tell you what it is. Anyway, this is not about names that I would like to forget - it is about names that I forget to remember.

It happened again last week, at the tea & coffee machine in office, a place that I often tend to embarass myself.

I was sipping my tea dreamily and peacefully, when a girl with a familiar face came up to get a drink. Never one for small talk, I nevertheless thought it would be good to practice.

Me: Hi!!
Girl (Smiling in a friendly manner) Hello.
Me: How've you been?
Girl: Good! Pretty good!
Me: Haven't seen you around lately, you been Travelling a lot?
Girl: Uhh..No...I've been coming here everyday for the last three weeks.
Me: Really? Well, I haven't seen you.
(Pause as we both sip and look around)
Me (To break the silence) Your hair looks great.
Girl (Pleased, but looks a bit uncertain): Thank you.
Me (Continuing to push it): You've grown it a lot, haven't you?
Girl: Uhhh -'s always been like this only..
Me (Now confident in the chatter, thinking this is going unusually well - I clearly know her better than she knows herself!) What are you saying! It was sooo short earlier (gesturing with hand above ear)
Girl (A little less friendly now): You're talking about someone else. I don't think you know me.
Me (Truly shocked by this twist in the tale): What? Aren't you Neha from Accounting?
Girl (A little icily, maybe she doesn't like Neha) No, I am not. I'm Asha, I work in Training. We met three months ago at the course in Bangalore.
Me (Trying to salvage the situation): Ohh..heh heh...this is a little embarassing. You really look like Neha though. Do you know Neha? Short hair like soooo ..(can't stop myself from gesturing again)
Girl (Bugged, clearly not flattered by the obvious resemblance): Yes,I know her.
Me (Trying to get out of this): Well, I'm Y and I am bad with names, as you might have guessed. Ha ha.
Girl (looking like she wants to throw her coffee on me): I know who you are. We've met before.
Me: Well, gotta go! It was nice seeing you again.... (Sudden wave of hopelessness)...What was your name again? I'm sorry...
Girl (Fiery hatred in her eyes) It's ASHA.
Me: Ok, bye....Asha! (Escaping into nearby bathroom, cautiously emerging only after I am sure she has gone)

Author's note: Please note that the names in this incident have been changed, to protect the identity of the characters - and also because I have subsequently forgotten them

But, in my defense, I would like to say that I know for a fact that this kind of thing happens to a lot of people. Take one of my best friends, Richa.

So Richa knows a lot of people, is one of those popular kinds. But one day, after having had a long conversation with a familiar faced fellow, she realised that she had no idea who he was. She could probably have managed to get away with it, but her curiosity got the better of her at the end of the conversation, and she thought she had cracked a really smart way to find out his name.

Richa (Super casual): So listen, yaar! Just tell me...I was having this argument with my sister...about the exact spelling of your name do you spell it?

Guy (nonplussed):
t ??

Stunned and embarassed silence all around.

I know how you feel, Richa. I know it.


  1. one has to give you credit for confidence in the face of having no clue.. remember aparna's wedding?
    Mona Bua: We've spoken so many times on the phone, do you recognize me beta?
    Y (never been so sure of anything before in her life): Bela Aunty!!!

    Of course, it wasn't really your fault that you didn't know who she was.. neither did I.. but it didn't occur to you just say no did it?

  2. tahahaha - what a duh duh.

    actually let me inform the whole world that my name isn't really ganju. why would anyone be called ganju? its just that lal can't remember my real name!

  3. Ganjface

    a. nice try
    b. if each and every one of your comments is going to contain the words 'duh duh', you may refrain from commenting altogether.


  4. ohhhh .... pore the duh duh ... oops ... i mean ... i'm sorry duh duh ... i mean lal ... i mean ... errrrr .. okay bye!

  5. It's one thing to forget names of faces you've met before.

    But it's quite another, to know the name.. and even know the face - the difference being that you know the face only in theory - not in practice. And when you are presented that face (in practice), you fail to match the face with the name!

    One such interaction, with a 'theoretical' face, will help explain what i mean...

    The story goes like this -
    I land in Bombay, most delighted to be invited for the Channel V Pop Stars launch-a very fancy 'do'. Coming from Chennai, and being the lone representative of my Chennai based company, I knew NOBODY at that fancy 1000 odd 'Everybodys a somebody' party. My spirit undeterred I flowed thru the crowds with my blue cocktail, wearing a friendly smile, batting my eyelids at all the cute men that i occasionally encountered. Having figured that I had made little progress beyond batting my eyelids, even after a good 2 hours into the party, my ad sales exec from [V], (Aparna) decided to take pity on me, and introduce me to some "happening sorts".

    We ambled thru the crowds, with her flying kisses (accompanied with all appropriate sound effects) to just about everybody, until we bumped into our first prey:

    A portly greying man sporting a very slim, pretty arm candy, half his age or younger, who was introduced as.. god knows what. Never mind that.
    Some incomprehensible conversation, punctuated with gurgling giggles, takes place between this roundish man and the 2 women.
    Then Aparna introduces me with fair degree of flambouyance & flourish:
    This is Vani. Brand Manager Fa. Blah blah blah.. and I went on to offer some more pieces of pompous irrelevant info.. it was after all the first time that I was engaging in a conversation at this party!! And why would I let go of it as a lame 2 line intro...
    Then .. came the most memorable quote of the party:

    Vani (with much new found confidence and cheer): And I'm sorry I didn't get YOUR name.. you said you are working at STAR TV?

    Deathly silence..everybody froze.. including the arm candy who was till now fluttering despite her super tight LBD (lil blck dress)..

    Then Aparna spoke. Her words well considered and deliberate. Her tone aloof bursting with disdain. Her manner evident of great restraint..

    "Vani, this is Peter Mukherjea. (Pause. Long pause.) CEO STAR..."

    I have not the vaguest recollection of what happened after - I must have surely fainted. I hope I did.

  6. Vani

    We can continue to hang out at home, go for walks on beach, movies and plays. But please remind me never to go to a fancy party with you,


  7. sure... I don't wanna go with me either. So much easier blasting the music at home and dancing.. can't really see the fuss over these silly fancy desig pot bellied types

  8. Hi! I stumbled to your blog about 20 mins back and am going through the archives. I thought that I will leave a comment of appreciation when I reach 2009, but well, I had to stop (laughing) and tell you right here in 2006 about how much I am enjoying your writing!

    I shall now continue my reading.. :D


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