Whoever said, “What’s in a name…,” was absolutely clueless about the psychology, and the art and science of naming. I bet there’s everything in a name. Everything! Else, why would Indians perform elaborate religious rituals while giving names to their new-borns. Ask me! And, I’ll tell you what’s in a name; none knows it better than I do.
In some weird state of mind, Mahabir Prasad Shukl, a Final-Year Mass Com student from Darbhanga, called me, “Sampain.” Mind you, he is very particular about not writing an ‘a’ at the end of his family name, Shukl. He explains, “It is to ensure that my name is pronounced properly. Exactly as it is written and read in Hindi.” Now, just watch––one so particular about his own name wouldn’t care a fig about mine. His colleagues, including his girlfriend Partibha, who knew that communication was the handicap of this Mass Com student, understood that when he said Sampain, he actually meant: “Champagne.”
So, that name, Champagne has stuck with me. Actually, this guy must have been high on the cheapest of the cheap country liquors, else what similarity did that Gen-Nexter find in me, an unkempt street dog and that bubbly French wine of the same name. Ever since he gave me that oh-so-European name, people have been expecting a much sophisticated behaviour of me.
Earlier the students used to call me Jhumru, a name given by a Management (General) under-grad of Jhumritillaiya domicile. Back then, with a name that brimmed with affection, they cared for me. They tossed leftover rotis, puris, halwa, eggs, biscuits, and what have you, towards me without expecting anything in return. Some students who were governed by their hearts bought food specially for me. Oh my, it was such carefree existence; I cherished that life. Trust me, it was the envy of every dog in the area, as also of some freshers on the University Campus. Now, in my avatar as Champagne, they expect me to behave and perform acts like that guy who lives on the farmhouse yonder, and who travels in shining cars sitting in the lap of a glamorous girl who comes to the campus, more to show off her parents’ stinking richness, than to study. Not that I can’t do what he does, but I am averse to bartering my freedom for bread crumbs. It is certainly not a case of sour grapes. Just that I have some self-respect and I live for it. Period.
Agreed, I am a dog, and I lead a dog’s life. But then, that’s my destiny. And, if I may say, “That’s my choice, too.” Let’s be very clear. None has the right to mess with my name, and my life. That guy who re-christened me, actually ruined both.
The more I have thought about this name business, and the treatment meted out to me because of it, the more miserable I have felt. So, one day, after much deliberation, I took a big decision. I even consulted Laila and Shera, the other guys who share the territory with me, and they too thought, enough was enough, I needed to pay back this Shukl guy.
What best can a dog do to punish a guy? Bite!
So, I was determined to take my revenge upon Shukl. A near perfect plan was afoot. I had chosen a date, a time, a place and the manner in which I was going to dig my sharp canines through his Levis Jeans into his right calf. It was going to be a day before the Convocation, in the evening, in the sports ground where he would be taking a walk with Partibha. I had heard him tell his beloved that that’s when they would plan their party to celebrate their degrees. Laila and Shera would help me corner him.
That dude, he thought he was too hip; he’d remember my bite for life.
On the D-Day, everything had worked as per plan and with clockwork precision. A cheerful Shukl with a smiling Partibha stepped out of the Radhakrishnan Hall exactly at 5:00 pm. He had a document folder in one hand; the other hand rested on Partibha’s shoulder as if she were his property. She was looking into his eyes coyly. Or, maybe she was pretending to be coy. There’s a basis for that doubt; I had seen her behave even more coyly in the presence of three other guys (of course, with one at a time). That doesn’t really matter; now she was with him. She had a bottle of Fanta in her right hand. From the moisture collected on its outer surface I could make out that it was chilled. In the other hand she was carrying a box of Dominos Pizza. Under normal circumstances, a piece of it would be thrown at me once they are through with their snacking. They walked lazily towards the sports ground; to its farthest corner, to their favourite bench from where they’d have a good view of the ground.
Laila and Shera had taken positions and had nodded readiness.
“Hum soch raha hoon ki, kal party me tumko propose kar doonga (I think, I’ll propose to you tomorrow in the party),” suggested Shukl, with a big smile.
Partibha became even more coy, nodded, “Theek hai, Ham Anita, Nusrat, Neena aur Gopal ko party mein inbhite kiye hain. Cake bhi arder kar diye hain. Saath mein samosa le ayenge (Okay, I have invited Anita, Nusrat, Neena and Gopal for the party. I have ordered a cake too. In addition I’ll get samosas.”
Listening to Partibha, I started wavering. “Should I harm this guy just a day before he plans to propose to his sweetheart?” I asked myself. But then my dog-sense told me that Shukl deserved the punishment I had decided to inflict on him. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind, nodded at my colleagues, and moved closer to the two love birds.
I went over my plan again. It was time. I could hear the gears change, and the cogs move in my head. I had bared my teeth and was about to strike when Shukl said something which made me give up my plan for good, and change my opinion about the guy. “Hum Sunil, Arjun, Arif aur Akriti ko bulaye hain. Thode aur snacks le ayenge. Aur soch rahe the ki Sampain ke bina party adhoora rahega. So saath mein Sampain bhi le ayenge (I have called Sunil, Arjun, Arif and Akriti. I’ll get some more snacks. And, I was thinking that the party would be incomplete without Champagne. So I’ll get Champagne along.”