Dubai resident’s explosive name creates buzz at airports around the world

by randallwoolacott

Despite its oddity, the family name has been a boon for the expat, who uses it as a hook for customers to remember him

Photo: Supplied

Photo: Supplied

Published: Wed 8 May 2024, 2:53 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 May 2024, 2:24 PM

Dubai-based entrepreneur Madhur Bomb knows all too well the impact a name can have. Originally from Rajasthan, India, the 53-year-old finds himself repeatedly flagged down at airports, all because of his surname.

Bomb recounted a vivid memory from one of his early visits to the US: “The immigration officer took my passport and disappeared into the back office. Moments later, he returned and asked me to follow him. In the back office, a senior immigration officer sat across from me and inquired, ‘Mr Madhur, is that your real name, Bomb?’ I confirmed, and he smiled. He then said, ‘My officer showed me your name, and I insisted on meeting the passenger.’ So, there I was, explaining the origin of my name, which all my family members share.”

On another occasion, while randomly checking passports, a security officer at a US airport said aloud in jest, “Hey, Mr I wouldn’t be walking so freely at an airport with a family name like that.”

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Bomb provided insights into the origin of his bizarre surname: “In our native language, our family name is spelt as Bumb, but our ancestors decided to change it to Bomb when writing in English. Our reasoning goes back to the colonial era in India. Had we retained the spelling as Bumb during British rule, they might have dropped the last letter by oversight, leaving us with an awkward family name. Therefore, by changing it to Bomb, even if the last letter is omitted, we still retain our identity as Bom.”

He explained how his unique family name proved advantageous when he began his career as a salesperson: “Despite its oddity, my family name has been a boon for me. I used it as a hook for customers to remember me. Each time I handed over my business card, I made it a point to say, ‘I bet you will never forget my name.’ This led customers to look at the card again, and almost invariably, they would ask questions like ‘Are you sure this is how it’s spelt?’ or ‘Is this a shortened version of a longer family name, like Bombaywala?’ or ‘How did you get this name?’ What it did was ensure that no one forgot me; everyone knew me as ‘The Bomb.’ People often save my name simply as ‘The bomb’ in their phones. The same goes for my brother Maneesh.”

The siblings went to the same school in Chennai, south India, where they grew up. Recalling his school days, Madhur shared an amusing incident: a bomb threat by LTTE terrorists from Sri Lanka prompted authorities to send everyone home. Later, the school newsletter lightened the mood by jokingly reporting that they had discovered two ‘bombs’ in the school — only to clarify that they were just students, not the real bombs.”

During one of his travels, Madhur found himself at Coimbatore railway station in south India. As he waited in a queue for a ticket, a colleague spotted him and shouted his name ‘Bomb.’ Instantly, the reservation area fell silent.

Bomb said when he was applying for his business license through an agent in the UAE, the licensing officers at the free zone called to confirm his name.

Madhur Bomb played a crucial role as a key member of the Rain Support Group, rallying resources and deploying them to areas devastated by last month’s floods.

He said his first name, Madhur, means ‘sweet’ in Hindi. “So essentially, I am a sweet bomb — I can be sweet when I want to and a bomb when needed. My name is a testament to my balanced nature.”

Madhur said his son Rohan, a pilot, often jokes about the reactions he gets when making announcements as the First Officer: “This is your first officer Bomb speaking.” The phrase never fails to evoke stares or chuckles from passengers.”

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