Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ego-surfing: What is in a name?

".... That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
William ShakespeareRomeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

In my case, this excessively quoted Shakespearean words of wisdom is often forgotten when I introduce myself to people. Some of them try their best to hide a frowning forehead when they ask me whatever on earth my name means. Some of them wonder if my name is another unfortunate product of the hilariously notorious Mallayali habit of creating an acronym for a name out of the parents' name. They wonder if my dad's name is Solomon and my mom's name is Jolly, if you know what I mean. No, my dad's name is John and my mom's name is not Jolly. My Family History goes that my name is a clever contraction [that's what my dad always thought] of the proud phrase, 'Son of John Varughese'. That was as far as I could go earlier, trying to explain the meaning and background of my name.

My brother is a clever guy. My dad gave him a name, as weird as mine, when he was born. Unlike me, he  did not like it. He was too patient a guy to reveal his dislike and raise hell at home. So he waited till he was old enough to go to school. The first thing he did on his first day at school was to walk up to the teacher as she was marking attendance and tell her he wanted his name to be changed to something else. He got that done telling the teacher the name on her register was his 'pet name' and his official name was something else.  He was clever enough to get his name changed to what he liked before it would become officially difficult to change it. Since I did not have the kind of 'long-term vision' he had, here I am, always trying to convince people that my name has a meaning.

What is in a name? Well, looks like psychologists think Shakespeare is wrong. According to Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Bellevue University "Your name is one of the main anchors for your self-concept." According to me, your name is also one thing based on which others form their first impression about you. I always wonder how my name sounds to other people. And I always used to think my name is special and unique because nobody else has it. I remember how angry I was when one of my uncles christened his son after me because he liked my name. I was angry because he just thoughtlessly destroyed the uniqueness and rarity of my name. Now there were more than one 'Sojo' at home whenever my uncle's family came home or we visited them. I remember being confused about who is calling who.

Confusions at home apart, I lived most of my life thinking that I have a very rare name. I didn't know I was about to be proved wrong by a failed actor turned poker player turned film director from Los Angeles, CA USA. Watching "Google Me", by Jim Killeen , the Director in question, made me curious enough to send me on a late night ego-surfing trip on Google and changed my idea of my name forever.

Jim Killeen, like many of the wannabe actors, came to Hollywood when he was very young. He could act in a couple of films. To survive what turned out to be an unsuccessful acting career, Jim Killeen launched a company that offered chair massages for poker players in Casinos. Frustrated and in late 30s, Jim wanted to do something that would leave his mark in the world. He typed 'Jim Killeen" into the Google Search Bar to find out what the world says about him.

What Jim found on the web changed the rest of his life. He found at least 25 different Jim Killeens in the Google Results. And an idea struck him. How about meeting the Killeens living around the world to know what kind of life they lead? How about making a Documentary  Film based on that theme?

Jim, with the help of his friend and employee Jeannie Roshar, set out on an incredible journey of reaching out to those people and figuring out if they had anything in common. They launched the project in 2006. However, many Killeens did not agree to be filmed or interviewed. And Jim had to finally settle for interviewing 6 Killeens.

Jim met the Killeens. One of them was a Parish Priest from Ireland who thought the purpose of life was to love one another and to love God. The second one was a retired Police Officer from New York who thought the purpose of life was to reproduce and to keep the world going. The third one was a sexual swinger and a tranny chaser from Denver, who also liked playing poker, who just couldn't tell what  the purpose of life was. The fourth one was the Vice-president of a company in Mississippi who believed the purpose of life was to serve others. The fifth one was the CEO of a Community Health Service in Australia, who thought the purpose in life was to practice what you believe in.  The sixth one was a Traffic Engineer from Scotland who believed his purpose in life was to  be the best person for his family. And then we have Jim, who has the saddest story among the Killeens, who believes the purpose of life is to leave meaningful marks in the world. And Jim will seriously be leaving his mark in the world. He made a beautiful film that is fun to watch and thought provoking. And when the Killeens met in the City of Killeen in Texas, USA on its 125th Founding Day, the Mayor of the City renamed the Founding Day as 'Jim Killeen Day'

Watch Google Me by Jim Killeen

Now, that made me go on an ego-surf  myself, using Google. What did I find? In Slovenian Language, Sojo means Soybean. [I used Google Translation to figure that out] Again, Sojo is a Java Framwork that converts JavaBeans in a simplified representation. Sojo is pronounced as SOE-ho in Spanish and it is the name [Louis Sojo] of a baseball player. Sojo is also the name of a private Japanese University.  And then there is a guitarist called Arno Sojo. Sojo is also an FM Radio Station in US. There is a marketing and brand management company called Sojo in Georgia. There is a processed food company called Sojo Foods in Washington. Toba Sojo was a Japanese Buddhist priest and painter. Emilio Sojo was a Venezuelan Musician. If you live in Korea, Sojo is an alcoholic beverage. [Just kidding, don't trust Urban Dictionary and don't go around asking for Sojo in Korea. :P]

It makes me happy to know that my name is associated with so many good things in the world. Perhaps it is the dash of narcissism in me that makes me invest a lot of emotional energy on my name. Freud would call it cathexis. No wonder I am a blogger. All of us, bloggers are narcissists and we cathect on blogging because we love ourselves a lot more than we would love anyone else. Er, I don't mind doing that as long as it makes me feel good.

Okie!  Have you ever googled your name to see how it looks online? Have you ever gone on ego-surfing like I did? What did you come across? Let me know, I would love to know.


  1. And I thought I was the only one happy to have a unique name...! My name's apparently taken frm a Mills & Boons' novel. I've never been able to find the novel. My mom too doesn't tell me what character my namesake was... She says she doesn't remember although I feel she doesn't want to tell me.
    Besides what you said about the narcissism issue rings true... Liked your blog.

  2. @MrNarci, thanks for reading bro.

    May be, googling can help you find out who exactly your namesake character was. Try it and let me know what you found.

    A big smile about narcissism :)

  3. We almost always never like our given name as kids ! Mine was all too common -- had 5 people by the same first name in college. So little fun in googling :-) . But I do understand the irritating part of people trying to deduce the reasoning behind your name ".. but Madhu can be a girl's name ! .."

  4. Thanks for reading madhu.

    Madhu in Mallu means honey :)

  5. Simply brilliant post.
    Just amazing that you wrote a post based on your name.

    Loved the story of Jim Killeen......and also loved the story of "Sojo"...lols.

    Have you ever googled your name to see how it looks online? Have you ever gone on ego-surfing like I did?

    i did and had some good finds.....and some obnoxious ones too....lols

    Loved reading it.

  6. hey sojo Madhu in tamil means alcohol and maadhu means women :). My name VENKATADRI is one of the most uncommon and unpronounced name in the world. No gets my name right. When i googled i found there was telugu film, a king and train named after me. Incidentaly my father say he named after his friend whom he studied with when he was little.

  7. Sojo is a nice name btw. My only problem (rather it gives me entertaining moments) with my name is that people get confused about my gender if they hear my name before seeing me :P Ofcourse, that has lead to some interesting episodes in my life.

    nice entertaining post :)

  8. Note: "Read more" button is not working and the video is not displaying too.

  9. Punditji,
    It was something there in my mind for a long time. And then Jim came along. So much for ego surfing :)

    Venky, no wonder Madhu's blog is 'intoxicatingly' good :)

    Lakshmi, even I got confused about your name. :) [Thanks for brining it to my notice. Changed back to my old template. By the way, are you using IE6?]

    Thanks for reading guys :)