Bavitra could settle her name mixed-up out of court with her fav Starbucks coffee on the house

Letter to editor

ONE can understand the anger of Bavitra Ramachandran who wants to sue Starbucks whose barista had misspelt her shortened name “Bavi” as “Babi” (pig).

I couldn’t stop laughing while typing this letter. As a lawyer had opined in FocusM, it could be an honest mistake as names of Malays, Indians and Chinese are very different and could cause confusion especially to those unfamiliar with the names.

People make mistakes when it comes to remembering or spelling names. In fact, another person quoted by the same news portal, Shamsher Singh Thind, pointed out in his comments that the name “Babi” is not unusual for Indians as Hindi actresses have names like Babita and Parveen Babi.

In fact, 1970s Bollywood glamour actress Parveen Babi who passed away in 2005 was a Muslim. The name “Babi” does not raise an eyebrow among Indians as it does for Malay-Muslims.

I would even say that Bavitra’s name has been, phonetically-speaking, misspelt. It should be Pavitra which is the usual spelling and not Bavitra.

One remembers the Hindi movie during the 1970s – Pavitra Pappi – which featured Kishore Kumar’s most memorable song, Teri Dunia Se. Even if Pavitra is shortened to “Pavi”, a Tamil or a Malayalee will hesitate to write it on the cup as the word “Pavi” means sinner, a hint even worse than “Babi”!

Many Hindu names are spelt wrongly as some parents refer their selected names for their new-born to the astrologers and numerologists to choose the spelling based on the ‘science of numbers for alphabets’.

This is the reason why names are spelt differently from what they sound like. A lot of Hindu names during the colonial period and even after Merdeka were wrongly spelt with some were even embarrassing to the name holder.

Locally, there is a lot mix-ups and confusion about names. Remember the year end festive greetings displayed in a banner at the Kota Bharu airport a few years ago. It read “Mary Christmas and Happy New Years”!

The person who wrote the message must be really confused and perhaps he must have thought that there is no Christmas without Mary (or Maryam in Islam)!  As for the ‘New Years’, Malaysians celebrate many New Years – Chinese New Year, Tamil, Sikh, Telegu, Malayalee and Islamic New Years. It was an all-in-one greeting! One can call this a comedy of errors.

In Malaysia, the word Bhai refers to Sikhs but in India it refers mainly to Muslims. The term Bengali and Singh have added to the mix-up. One remembers the ex-Pakatan Rakyat Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin – in conveying Vaisakhi greetings in 2008 – referred to the Sikhs as Bengalis and this created a furore.

Luckily, the late DAP leader Karpal Singh defused the situation by stating that the Menteri Besar had made an honest mistake and should be excused. Even Indians are confounded by the term Singh as various Hindu communities use this name also as the name pre-dates Sikhism. It is not exclusive to Sikhs.

Even women have names such as Supriya Singh, Neetu Singh and Amrita Singh.

The term Bengalis strictly refers to those from Bengal who were also some of the earliest traders in Malacca. The Portuguese who also sported beards like the Bengalis were mistakenly called the “white Bengalis” when they arrived in Malacca.

The Sikhs belong to the state of Punjab which has since 1947 been divided between India and Pakistan, hence they should be called Punjabis instead of Bengalis.

The Bangladeshis are Bengalis but after the birth of Bangladesh, they are now officially called Bangladeshis. Therefore, now only those in West Bengal in India are termed as Bengalis.

In Bavitra Ramachandran’s case, it will be better for Starbucks to arrange for a dialogue to settle the issue instead of the lady opting for legal action. She could be served her favourite drink with the name “Bavi” written on the cup which she can keep as a memento to remember this humorous episode. – May 22, 2023


V. Thomas
Sungai Buloh

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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