At a wedding on Sunday in a Tamil Nadu village, expect jokes about how the Left has met its match in Mamata Banerjee.
To the innocent, it may sound like a straightforward reference to the past few Bengal elections, where the Trinamul Congress chief has first defeated and then decimated the communists.
But what will help turn it into a double entendre is a custom among many parents in Tamil Nadu to name their children after famous politicians and communist leaders.
At the wedding at Amani Kondalampatti Kattur bordering the steel town of Salem, 335km from Chennai, the bride will be Mamata Banerjee, 19 — an English literature graduate from a local family that has been a huge admirer of Bengal’s Didi.
Tying the knot with her will be A.M. Socialism, 25, son of a CPI politician from the same village who had in true communist style put ideology before individuals while giving his children’s names a Red tinge.
Naming children after Karl Marx, Lenin or Stalin — the last of them being the given name of Tamil Nadu’s chief minister — is common in the southern state. A similar practice endures in neighbouring Kerala, which once abounded with Jyoti Basus and Subhas Chandra Boses who spoke not a word of Bengali.
However, naming one’s son Socialism is unusual, Salem CPI district secretary A. Mohan conceded. But he had an explanation.
“In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many including the popular media declared that communism was dead,” he told The Telegraph over the phone on Friday.
“This prompted me to reflect, and I was convinced that communism and socialism would remain relevant as long as humankind exists.”
So Mohan and his wife Lakshmi decided that if their first child was a boy, they would name him Communism and if it was a girl, she would be named Cubaism after Fidel Castro’s island nation.
“Our first child was a boy, and so we named him A.M. Communism; the second child, also a male, was christened A.M. Leninism. We named our third son, a BCom graduate who is to be married now, A.M. Socialism,” Mohan said.
Mamata, the bride, belongs to a family that has for generations supported the Congress. Her father K. Palanisamy said the family had admired the “courageous leadership” of Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee since her
Congress days and the adoration did not dim when she left to form the Trinamul Congress in 1998.
So when their daughter was born a few years later, they couldn’t think of a better name.
However, Mohan’s Moniker Revolution faced resistance.
“Initially, there was resentment in the community over my family naming its children after ‘isms’. Elders would advise me, ‘Why don’t you give them the proper kind of names like Marx, Engels or Lenin? Drop the ‘isms’,’” Mohan said.
Mohan met with “a lot of difficulties” while registering his eldest son with the local panchayat office, which was unsure whether it could issue a birth certificate in the name of “A.M. Communism”.
During the boy’s admission to the local Kattur Panchayat Union Elementary School, Mohan again faced “light-hearted” jibes and had to do a lot of explaining.
“When my first son fell ill at the age of three, a hospital in Salem refused to register him under his own name. It began the treatment after registering the baby in my name,” Mohan said.
“When I heard about it, I told the doctor to register the name given to the boy by my family or discharge him.”
Well-wishers advised Mohan to desist from such naming, saying his children would otherwise not find jobs when they grew up.
Mohan said he had stood firm, telling everyone: “I’m a Communist Party worker and so I have named my children thus.”
To critics who persisted, he said: “My children will not seek jobs, they will be self-employed.”
Eventually, the resistance and the scorn died down. A.M. Communism is now a lawyer while his two younger brothers run a workshop that makes silver anklets, a traditional craft popular in and around Salem.
The wedding, to be held at Mohan’s home, will have a gathering of just 50 in deference to Covid norms. Among the guests will be senior state CPI leaders R. Mutharasan, K. Subbaroyan and Perundurai Periyasamy.
It will be a one-minute ceremony, with the groom tying the thali (sacred thread) around the bride’s neck, followed by lunch. There will be no rituals — it will be like any “self-respect marriage” popularised by the Dravidian Movement, Mohan said.
How does it feel for a communist to acquire a daughter-in-law whose very name would remind him every day of the Left’s pulverisation in Bengal?
Mohan was poker-faced: “It’s slightly disappointing for us that she (Trinamul’s Mamata) defeated the Left parties, but that has nothing to do with this wedding.”