Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, the latest Indian Tambram to hit the global media with his Nobel prize which he won with two others, is known by his short nick name Venky to most of his friends. Within his family however, I believe that he is fondly called Ambi.
This post however is not about Tambrams. It is about the nickname that Sri. Venkatrman Ramakrishnan has been saddled with – Ambi, pronounced Umbee as in umbrella and beehive.This pronunciation is important to differentiate from another ubiquitous Amby, peculiar to India, pronounced Am as in America and by as in biscuit. It is the Ambassador Car, much favoured till recently by our Politicians and Bureaucrats . It looks like this:
Coming back to Ambi, there simply cannot be a Tambram family without a few Ambis in them. In fact, it could get so confusing that very often, recourse to using prefixes like periyambi, chinnambi and naduambi, meaning, big Ambi, small Ambi and middle Ambi respectively. Other differentiators like prefixing the name of the village or town from which that particular Ambi comes is also used, say like Bombay Ambi, Madras Ambi, Boston Ambi, Chicago Ambi etc. Another way to differentiate is to attach the relationship to the name like Ambimama, Ambiathimber, Ambiathhan, Ambithatha for maternal uncle, brother in law, cousin grandfather respectively.
Ambi, is a term of endearment in Tambramese. None of the other Tamil speaking communities or castes use it. There is nothing quite like it in any other Indian language and I should know. In the north, they use words like Munna, Lalu etc, but the impact is not quite the same, nor does the Malayali Unni come anywhere near Ambi for all that it evokes.
In my life there have been many Ambis and I have had my share of being confused about which one was the particular Ambi being referred to. The one inescapable fact about any Ambi however, is that he is loved beyond normal loving by a whole lot of family members, irrespective of whether he deserves such love or not. In fact this is one common denominator for Ambi and the Amby as both are much loved and cherished.
There are also many jokes about Ambis as somehow real life Ambis become so adorable that they keep getting into jams which result in family lores and jokes. Some of them are quite risque and no stag party for Tambram stags will be complete without a few Ambi jokes.
Now, I am sure that, in Venkatraman Ramakrishnan’s family and circle of friends, there must have already been some great jokes about the Nobel Ambi.
Nobel Ambi, from an admiring Tambram, here is congratulating you and wishing you all the very best that life and science can offer.