So, what's in a Name?
A World War 2 Trilogy - By FRED NATH (Novelist and Neurosurgeon)
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Fred's Blog

So, what's in a Name?

All my life I’ve introduced myself as “Fred Nath N-A-T-H”. Why? It's because you learn quite early that there are people who, for the love of them, cannot hear ‘th’. It’s a sad fact my wife, my ex-wife, my three sons and my daughter all suffer with the same ‘speech’ impediment when introducing themselves.
It’s all my Dad’s fault. He was Indian – from Kerala. Before he settled in England (after the War) he was called Vishwanath Iyer. He felt it was too much of a mouthful so he became Dr Bishwa Nath. I never heard him spell his name out, mind you – maybe it’s the pronunciation.
Good chap my dad. When he was six he had a pet tiger. He recalls how it bit him. He was doing some reading at a table and the cat was playing at his feet. It bit him and cut his foot. My Grandfather immediately pronounced that a tiger ‘who ever tastes the blood of man’ will become a killer and took the pet away. It was destroyed.
Some years later Bishwa was sent to England and spent a miserable year at Eton. When his mother died, a he was sent home again. There followed many years of squabbling with his rather draconian father. When it came to careers, my dad wanted to be a doctor like his uncle, not a banker like his father. In the end he went to live with his uncle and qualified in Madras (Chennai).
When it came to betrothal, Bishwa refused. He didn’t like the girl and said no. There followed row after row with not only his father but he fell out with most of the family. When he read an advertisement in a newspaper ‘Elderly woman seeks personal physician for trip around the world’ he jumped at it. The trip took him away for a year and he told me he never regretted it. He had a year’s free travelling and the old duck was fit as a fiddle.
Cold-shouldered on his return, he left India and went to live in Singapore. I have his first driver’s licence. He worked as a Medical reporter and local physician for an Asian community. After three years there, I think boredom must have set in. He left and went to Japan. He learned to speak fluent, high-class Japanese and met a beautiful actress. Within a few weeks he discovered she was married and the man he had assumed was her brother turned out to be her husband. A quarrel ensued. The husband left. Within a year, the actress who was pathologically jealous, left too, leaving the young Indian doctor living alone in a wooden house, with rice-paper walls and a love of Japanese culture.
He became a lecturer  in Chest Surgery at the local University, a subject about which he knew little, but I suppose he must have picked it up as he went along. If a patient of his needed treatment, he bartered. He could visit a patient who would make him a suite; he could dine for free at a patient’s restaurant or night-club. I think he had the time of his life until there were rumours of war and the Japs threw him out in the late thirties.
He met my mother in Japan in the mid-thirties. If you’ve a mind, I’ll tell you about that next time. I can’t vouch for the truth of all these stories but they always amused me!
Stick around.
 

7 Comments to So, what's in a Name?:

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Barbara on 17 February 2011 07:16
I love stories like this. What a culturally rich life your father lived.
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Fred on 19 February 2011 15:38
Keep coming back, lots more to come!


Greta on 18 February 2011 06:37
Fascinating stuff, Fred. I'm doing something similar ona personal blog separate from my main website. 'What's in a name?' is part of my history, too, where we Clogs (and not just Clogs) anglicised our names to fit in. The TH is interesting, too. My husband's name is THain. You'd be amazed how many people say 'Tain'. Must be a brain thing.
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Fred on 19 February 2011 15:40
Not a brain thing but thain bring??


Lesley Winograd on 19 February 2011 01:06
I remember your father as a quiet, kindly man in a noisy Swedish household; I would never had guessed he had such a colourful past.... Why is it that British people cannot pronounce my surname yet other nationalities get it first time? It is spelt exactly as it is pronounced, here they try to complicate it. It is Winograd. Win-O-Grad. NOT Windgrad or Winograde or Whineograd. SOOOO annoying.
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vivica on 25 February 2011 10:25
- why not pronounce it simply Nat (with an h)? What´s wrong with Nat?
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Fred on 25 February 2011 14:46
But it isn't my name. I suppose you might have been called Brom but you ren't from Birmingham I guess! :-)

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