Panty is a very coy word. At least, in India. It’s not to be bandied about in public. But if you’ve ever been to any of the IITs, chances are you’d have heard the boys talking about ‘Panty’ excitedly as if it were their chaddi-buddy. That’s because anyone with the surname ‘Pant’ is often addressed with this nickname. Scandalous, smart and striking nicks are a common feature at the IITs. If you’re skinny, you’ll probably be called ‘Paper’. If you look undernourished but have a prominent rump, you’ll be christened ‘Paperweight’. A little obesity may earn you an ‘Appu’ (remember, the Asiad elephant?). A lanky fellow may become ‘Ganna’ (Hindi for sugarcane). A rather well-endowed girl gets ‘Oops’ (Out of proportions). A typical thayir-saadam case may be branded as ‘Fruit’. And the one who gets the most moist-eyed is ‘Senti’ (short for sentimental).
Apart from these usual suspects, sometimes your name decides your nickname. If you happen to be Badrinarayanan, expect to be hailed as ‘Battery’. The Prabhakarans of the world can’t escape the ‘LTTE’ tag. G Ram Prasad may get zipped into GRamP or just ‘Grumpy’. Ram Bhaskaran will be reduced to the geeky ‘Rhombus’. A Bhoopalan may be surgically altered into ‘Boobs’. An Aravind Kuttan may get a firang makeover with ‘Orkut’. But the Balakrishnans have, for centuries been, blessed with the same old ‘Balls’. Mannerisms and behavioural traits also have a say in the choice of nicknames. Gadget freaks attract the label ‘Q’ (the man behind the crazy weaponry in James Bond flicks). Flatulent blokes are given missile names such as ‘Scud’. Those who butter up get ‘Soap’. The one with access to colourful reading material is ‘Pondy’. The sleepy ones get ‘Charasi’. And the rote champions are always ‘Maggus’.
Campus sobriquets with stories are the most liked. There was once a lad from Goa. During ragging, he was mocked as ‘Son of a beach’. Someone saw the potential in it and hit upon the name ‘Marina’! Another chap had a hairdo that resembled a porcupine which incidentally sounds like porukki payan (or rascal in Tamil). From that day, his hostel mates termed him as ‘Porki’. Although these may sound like name calling, the fact remains that nicks are always meant to be taken in the right spirit.