When Usha knocked on the door and told me about the call from Calcutta, I walked into their flat like a zombie. Someone from the other end said something. I mumbled a response and cradled the receiver. Usha said, “Congratulations.” Even then it didn’t register: For I was sozzled.
I had every right to be. My stint at the IIM, Ahmedabad, was coming to an end. My paper won the registration the day before. Padmakumar, now the HR Director at one of the multinationals in India, had this bright idea to celebrate the occasion. (If you are wondering as to how in a state under prohibition I could get drunk, I will say only this – it was never an issue.) Not that we needed one. But Padmakumar was a clever one about excuses.
To run a long story short, my wife was in Calcutta expecting our first child who was supposed to be born sometime in December but merrily dealt a surprise by deciding on 25th November to be his birthday. Those days you had to book a call and wait for the connection to materialize. Lightning calls charged a bomb and urgent calls had no urgency to connect though they also cost a packet. So the day he was born, my parents and hers were busy with the grandkid. Sometime along the way they remembered my existence and the call materialised the next day in the morning.
One good thing about inebriation is that you are not fuzzy all the time. There are moments of lucidity as well. As I entered our apartment that moment of lucidity hit me. Usha, the daughter of our neighbour Prof Jain and my wife’s close confidante, congratulated me on my becoming a father! And the lady talking to me was no other than my proud mother-in-law! Broke the news amongst my friends littered across the floor, and again it called for celebration and so on and so forth. That’s how I landed in Calcutta to the realisation that I was a dad!
But no sooner had I landed than my father handed a diary to me saying, “Go through it and take a call. You need to get his birth certificate fast. Time is running out.” There we were with a diary full of hundreds of possible names to choose from. His nickname though was fixed. He was his grandparents’ Tartar. I am Suparna, she is Shubha so what about Shinjan! And it went on and on. Cousins chipped in. Uncles had their own views, aunts would, of course, have a different opinion. In short, there was no agreement. My logic was simple. Pathak is given. Both my wife and I have had the bitterest of experience of always being last in the queue because of our names. We wouldn’t like our son to suffer the same way.
Thus determined I walked into the Corporation office, filled in the form and named him Abhishek. The clerk took a glance at the form, looked at me and smiled. I wondered why and it took my father to clear the reason. Amitabh Bachchan’s son was also called Abhishek!
With hundreds of Abhishek around and with Pathak as his surname, he still comes almost last in the queue!