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Of storms and names.

The chairman of the SNC was excited. It was a big day for him. All his expertise would be put to the test today. And twice over.

It all started two months ago when the Prime Minister had made a fresh list of things which India had to do to emulate the rich and developed nations of the world. and Item number seven on the list was “We should give names to storms and cyclones”. He had put it down the day he heard of Florence, Victor and particularly, Georgina. It all sounded exotic and somehow seemed to give a kindly human face to what was a ravaging monster. The SNC was born – Storm Naming Committee and a distinguished public servant ( of the 1979 cadre ) was appointed the Chairman.

It was this chairman who with an air of great self importance, took the chair of the first meeting of SNC. He had just returned from a five week tour of USA, UK and a few other developed countries to learn all about the naming of storms. He had learnt that boys and girls names were used alternately and that a strict alphabetic order was followed . He had also learnt with great interest that the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z were left out for, for… oh, for reasons best known to the American and European metereologists.

No sooner had he returned with this wealth of knowledge (and almost all of the items in the shopping list his good lady had given him), the Met Office had informed that not one, but two storms were imminent – one on the West off the Arabian Sea and the other in the Bay of Bengal with the epicentre likely to be around Nellore.

It was a grave looking bunch of faces that looked towards the learned face of the chairman on that humid June morning at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Each face belonged to a member hand picked for their expertise. In a tremendous show of unity in diversity, they came from all religions, regions, caste and creed.

The Chairman began by outlining the job facing them – they had two storms approaching and keeping with the tradition of world storm naming, they had to christen the storms with names beginning with A and B, one a male name and the other a female one. He proposed that the first storm be named after a boy (A) and the second one after a girl (B).

An audible female cough was heard and the lady who was a champion of women’s rights put up her hand. “With due respect, Mr Chairman” she said, “I would like to express my anguish at this proposal. In this day and age, women are not behind men in any way and I propose that the first Indian storm be named after a woman. And I propose the name Anita” she concluded.

“Ye kya male, female kar rahe ho app?” – this came from the gentleman from the cow belt of the country. “After all, we call the first step in any task as ‘Sri Ganesh’ and by this tradition, it should be a name signifying the elephant god. So, I propose the name Alampata.”. Looking at the blank expressions on most faces he explained "Alampata means forever, alwayz, eternal."

The gentleman with the long beard shook his head vigorously and stood up. “I object”, he thundered. “This is another case of the majority imposing their will and mercilessly crushing the minority sentiments”, he continued. “I propose the names Akbar and Afreen.” With that he sat down triumphantly.

The representative from the North East finished his scribblings on his notepad and stood up. “Let us have a third opinion” he said, “after all, this naming is a Westen concept and thus has deep roots in our religion. Since Adam came first, it is only appropriate that we christen the first storm Adam and I say the female name should be Anne.”

The Chairman was quickly realising that this was not going to be easy and turned towards the member clad in khadi, the leader of the secular movement. This gentleman, who was due to appear in a grilling by a well known TV host that night, had a brainwave. “With consideration to both religions, I propose the name Arnab. It means the ocean which is associated with coastal storms and the origins can also be traced to both Muslim and Hindu sources.” - “Phew – hope that will curry some favour with the TV host this evening”, he thought to himself.

The rustic gentleman clad in dhoti stood up now. “Aarakshan,” he said and looked around the table. “I want to know what percentage of names you are going to allot to members of SC, ST and OBC. And to make sure that you don’t go back on your promise, I want the first two names to be ours.”

The Chairman could feel the beginnings of a headache and massaged his temples with the thumb and middle finger of his left hand. “How can we tell the caste of a person by his name ?” he queried, looking at the dhoti-clad through the gap between his non-massaging fingers. “After all, the same name is shared by all castes.”

“Surnames”, the secular champion piped up, “we can use surnames instead of first names. This will be a trend-setter to the rest of the storm naming world and will also help in identifying the caste of the storm.” He concluded with a smug look on his face.

“Oye, ye ki hondha” – this was the tall Sikh gentleman from the far corner of the table. “We have only two surnames, Singh for men and Kaur for women. I propose that the names be taken from the place, like we Sikhs do. So, the first two storms should be Amritsar and Bhatinda”.

The Chairman’s patience was wearing thinner as the throbbing in his head was getting stronger. “Nothing doing” he thundered, “names should be after persons, not places. And that is final”, he said in a tone that was both final and dismissive.

Sikhs are fighers and do not give up easily and our member was a true Sikh. “Ok then”, he said. We will name them after nicknames. There is no rule saying that nicknames are not allowed. Here I give you some, you arrange them in alphabetic order”. He then proceeded to rattle off “Happy, Honey, Bittu, Kammo, Sukhi, Tittu, Ponty, Lovely, Pappi, Jappi, Gulabo, Guglu, Makhna, Chakna, Santa and Banta” he concluded breathlessly.

All hell broke loose. Some members of the committee were seen rolling on the floor with laughter, others started arguing with the nearest standing member and a couple of them with previous Assembly experience started looking for microphones to hurl and realised that there were none. Of course it soon dawned on one of them that he had access to the second favourite Assembly-grade weapon and with a triumphant whoop he took off his chappal and hurled it in the general direction of the Chairman. As if on cue, others began to follow suit and soon the Chairman was facing a barrage of assorted footwear including a razor sharp stilletto from the champion of women's rights.

When the aforementioned stilletto caught the chairman square on the face and the heel almost gouged his left eye, it caused his throbbing headache to explode and turning crimson red in his face he stormed out of the meeting room, leaving the battleground to those more suitably inclined.

P.S. The Prime Minister received a recommendation that the Committee had unanimously decided against giving names to storms because it was an alien concept and went against the rich, diverse and multi-cultured nature of Indian society.

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