Vantage point

Friday, August 31, 2007

Marathis and Austrians!

It is not surprising that non-Indians here hardly ever say my name right. My name is pronounced differently in different parts of India, so expecting foreigners to get it right is asking for a bit much. In Maharashtra where I came from, the pronunciation is a sanskritized "Ga-oo-rav". In North India, it is pronounced "Gaw-rav". And I have noticed South Indians pronouncing it as "Gav-rav".

Though I grew up being called "Ga-oo-rav" by friends and family in Pune, as I moved to other parts of the country, I started introducing myself as "Gaw-rav", the Northie way, because it seems the easiest to pronounce. Even when I came to the US, that's what I would pronounce it as.

Of course, none of the non-Indians got it right. Variations include gurav, guraav, garav, etc. I am amused at how even a 6 letter name is considered so hard to pronounce., and had almost given up on the hope that any non-Indian will ever pronounce my name right, even after my corrections.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when a non-Indian professor from my department (well, the Chair of the department really) actually pronounced it "Ga-oo-rav", like the Marathis. And it wasn't just a fluke. He said it like that throughout the class. But later as I thought about it, I realized it was not surprising at all.

He is an Austrian named Baumgartner. I have heard everyone pronounce his last name as "Bawm-gartner", whereas I know it should be "Ba-oo-mgartner". My knowledge of his correct pronunciation has less to do with my deep knowledge of the German language and more to do with the fact that there was a Formula-1 driver by that name, and that's how commentators pronounced his name.

Since the "au" sound in his name is similar to that in the sanskritized pronunciation of mine, the first non-Marathi to pronounce my name that way turned out, actually to be an Austrian. Fascinating!