To surname, with love

Sep 16, 2018, 06:11 IST | Rahul Da Cunha

As we all signed the register, I noticed a mistake in the spelling of my surname

To surname, with love
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rahul da CunhaIt started out like any building society meeting — merely to discuss external repairs. As we all signed the register, I noticed a mistake in the spelling of my surname.

"Um, Mr Secretary, Madam President, it's DaCunha, not D'Cunha. Can you not read the nameplate? It clearly shows the correct spelling of my family name."

Suresh Vora, from Flat 15C, was quick with the quip: "Same thing, maka pao. Why you are getting touchy? You're from Bandra originally, na?"

"Dad's from Goa."

"Huh, your papa is from Goa, and your mom is from where then?" Vora asked, with the genuine surprise of a man who believed mixed marriages could not exist.

"From Gujarat," I answered.

Stunned silence, as Vora's beady eyes stopped blinking for a beat.

"Oh, you're half-Hindu," he asked with a newfound acceptance of me.
"Yeah, like you, Suresh, my mother is a Gujarati. Her maiden name was Patel, like you're Vora."

15C's silly smile evaporated, he was genuinely annoyed, steam emanating from his ears.

"Hey, hey, hello, hello, gentleman, be careful what you say. I'm not Gujju, understand, I'm a Panju — Punjabi, and it's Vohra with an H, not Vora. Big difference. Gujjus are Vora, Panjus are Vohra."

"Ubaro ubaro, what's wrong with being Gujju, huh? After all, our Prime Minister is Gujarati, Modiji is great," said Jignesh Jhaveri from Flat 8B, sticking his patriotic chest out, like a rooster at daybreak.

"Arre, nonsense. For every good Modi, there is one bad one who makes diamonds and steals money from the country worth `11,500 crore. Nirav Modi — what do you say about Nirav Modi? Bolo," said Naren Baxi from Flat 12F.

"Yes, but he is from Surat. Surat Modis are different from Karamsad Modis, samjyu ke?" Jhaveri said pointedly.

Building repairs had taken a back seat as caste politics took centre stage.

"To me all Gujjus are dodgy, from Surat, Karamsad or Antwerp. All they think about is rokda," said Rajesh Mital from Flat 6C.
"What you know, saala Maadu," Jignesh barked at his neighbour.

"Hey, hey, bl***y Gujju, I'm not a Maadu, I'm a Bania, samjhe? Marwaris are Mittal with two Ts. I'm a Bania, I'm Mital, single T from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. Samjhe na, bloody anpad, Rajasthan and UP are different states. You have ever seen the India map? Difference between Mital and Mittal is like, um, like…," Mital searched for an adequate analogy.

"It's like Muslim Khans and Parsi Khans," said the 'chingari' of the committee, Pavan Hansraj, looking pointedly at Pheroze Khan (Flat 5B).

"There are Parsi Khans? I never knew that," Mital said, 'What are you, Pheroze?"

"I'm a proud Parsi," Pheroze said, sounding like Prince Harry.

Mrs Ila Chhaterjeee sat quietly in one corner while mayhem reigned.

"And you, Mrs Chhaterjeee, you have three Es in your surname. Is that a special community in Bengal? With three Es, not two?" I asked.

"No, just me," Ila said with bite.

"Oh just you. Does the name go back several generations, your great-great-grandfather, perhaps?"

"No," she said, "My wellness guru. He added the extra E for good luck."

Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at

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