What's in a Name?
Most often, when I meet a person, I am asked where I come from! It may sound like an intrusion into a stranger’s background but it is also a good icebreaker when two people meet for the first time and a helpful memory peg!
I am never offended when am asked where I come from… and always glad to explain! When in reply, I say, “I am from India,” people say, “Are you, really?” Many people think I am from Brazil or Spain, or from one of the former colonies of Portugal, namely Goa or Mozambique.
Often I spend a few seconds clarifying that I not only come from India and that I am a native of Mangalore (and not Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore, also known in the IT industry as Silicon Valley of India), located in Karnataka State on the West Coast of India.
Those who know and have heard of Bengaluru and Chennai (formerly known as Madras), two South Indian cities can easily locate Mangalore on the map of South India! All one has to do is draw a horizontal arrow from Chennai, located on the East Coast of India, through Bengaluru, located in the central part of South India and extend it to the West Coast of India. It will certainly pass through Mangalore!
Occasionally, I also clarify that I come from one of the oldest Catholic communities in the world, having my ancestors converted to Catholicism from the native Hindu faith in early 1500’s by the zealous Portuguese missionaries who also bequeathed their last names (e.g., De Silva, or Da Silva, which got anglicized to D'silva during the British Raj!) to the newly converted faithful to distinguish them from the majority Hindus!
At some point in history, most likely between 1560 and 1763, perhaps due to the Edict of Goa Inquisition and other events like Portuguese Adil-Shah wars and Portuguese-Maratha wars, members of my clan, the Kamaths of the Konkan Gowd Saraswat Brahmins of the Konkan region on the West Coast of India, migrated from Portuguese-ruled Goa to the southern parts of the country, mainly to the trading port town of Mangalore (Mangala-Uru/Mangala-puram, meaning an auspicious town) and its suburbs.
I must warn my friends that the name Kamath (or Kamat, as some prefer to spell it) has nothing to do with Kama Sutra!
According to Wikipedia, the word Kamath originated from the type of occupation of my ancestors. They were supposed to have been landowners and were engaged in cultivation, or work of the soil. In their native language, Konkani, they were known to be occupied in "kaam mathichen", where "kaam" meant work, or occupation and "mathichen" meant "of the soil". Over the years, orally, the two words got combined to be known as "kamthichen", or "Kamath"!
Being proud of my ancestral roots, I have recently assumed Kamath as my last name! Yet, as a global citizen, I no longer call myself a GSB (Gowd Saraswath Brahmin) but a GHB (i.e., Good Human Being)!