'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Ustad's Evidence

I just had a post here on how I had to struggle with my own name; there I had observed the North Indian style of pronouncing my name would lead to writing my name in English characters as 'Nand Kumar' or 'Nandkumar' (actually the former is not quite right since the name is a compound - 'samaasam' - and NOT a mere join - 'sandhi' of two words and hence should be written as a single word in any case) with no 'a' in the middle.

Anyways, thanks to old pal Ravindra, I just got to listen to a Thumri in Bhairavi sung by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan; the way the Master, a robust Punjabi (pardon the cliche, but it is absolutely apt here) and thus as Northern as a Northie can possibly get, keeps articulating the refrain of the Thumri can only be transliterated as "Suniyo Nandakumar!". The 'a' in the middle is certainly as clearly pronounced as the one after the first 'n'.

So, one probably need not appeal to an unfortunate 18th century Bengali Zamindar and to Bengali phonetics to justify the way my name is in English.

A speculative remark: it appears that chopping off the 'a' at the end of a Sanskrit word can be done naturally only if the last letter is 'ya', 'ra', 'la' and perhaps 'na' and 'ma' (and that too only when it is at the end of a compound word). I guess that is what Bong phonetics does. So, 'Kumara' can become 'Kumar' but 'Nanda' stays that way and does not turn into 'Nand'. This is of course, a bit of gas!


  • At 3:45 PM, Blogger Vishnu said…

    This is completely off-topic, but this has been daunting me all day today! Take the letter 'na' (the twentieth consonant, the first letter in 'Nandakumar'). It is strange that in Malayalam, we pronounce 'na' in two different ways (compare the first syllable of 'Nandakumar' and 'locana'). Sometimes it happens in the same word, as in 'Nandanan'! I think that the difference depends on the position of 'na' in a word. If it is in the beginning, we pronounce it as in 'Nandakumar', otherwise, we pronounce it as in 'locana'. Am I right?

  • At 9:29 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…


    I guess you are more or less right. The 'na' of my name is differently pronouned from the 'na' of 'locana' primarily because in my name it comes in the beginning. Indeed, Tamil script actually has two 'na' letters, one of which is used only at the beginning of words and the other in other places (there seem to be exceptions to this rule: 'Srinivasan' as written in Tamil uses the 'beginning 'na' -maybe because it is a compound name). There is a close one-one mapping between the difference in Mallu pronunciation and the difference in Tamil script.

    Oddly enough, Tamil pronunciation does not distinguish between their two 'na's and so Mallu sentences like 'Aana nannaayi nananju' ("the elephant got properly drenched") can be more than a handful to the Tam. See that even in this Mallu sentence, the 'beginning na' pronunciation occurs in the middle of the word 'nannaayi'. So, the rules are not that neat - perhaps for 'double na's everywhere in the word, one needs to use only the 'beginning na' pronunciation.

    Yet another oddity: Marathi, which has only one 'na' character in its script, tends to use both pronunciations (like Malayalam) but the 'beginning na' pronunctiation tends to occur even in the middle of words: note how a proper Ghati pronounces the English word 'general'.

  • At 10:43 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    seems the two different pronunciations of 'na' is messier than i initially thought, when the letter is in double form. for example, the double na in the two words 'panni' (pig)and 'pannan' (someone from trivandrum can perhaps translate it better than self) are different!

  • At 6:06 PM, Blogger Vishnu said…


    Thanks a lot! I guess it is all complicated! The 'na' of 'Nandakumar' is used in many of the compound letters (kootaksharam) too, as in 'sindhu' etc, while the other 'na' is used in words like 'ente'. I do not know about the Marathi script, but have heard many Maharashtrians use both 'na's.

    I am from TVM, but I don't think I can translate 'pannan' better!


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