When a child is born in an Indian family, one of the biggest events that takes place after few days of his/her birth is Name Ceremony. (Naam Karan in Hindi) In this ceremony, a bunch of nosey relatives are invited apart from a priest with a fat pot belly, who plays one of the biggest roles then. His most useless-unquestionable job is to perform some calculation in the birth chart of a baby and comes up with a first alphabet for the child’s name. Also, there is name that is allotted to the child according to his birth chart calculations, and parents are free to assign the same name to their child. My name according to my birth chart is ‘Suruchi’ meaning good taste; I have no clue what has taste got to do with my birth. Thankfully my parents applied some brains then and decided not to take this name. For that matter of fact, my dad decided no to go with the alphabet as well that was told by the priest, and he gave me the name he had thought for me long before I was born. I am glad he did. The name ‘Suruchi’ sounds so spooky to me; I would have really drowned my self in the lake had I been asked to live with it.
To take it further, names have literal meanings as well, and many a times they are the names of Gods and Goddesses. I am sure that you must be aware that there are 6,400,000 Goddesses and Gods in Indian Mythology so, the options are vast. Whether the child is living up to his name or not, is the matter of least concern. ‘Sagar’ is one of the very common names among Indian boys. Sagar means sea or ocean. I have no idea what depth or sea or ocean people see in their one feet long boy that they name him Sagar. Or has it something to do with the colour Blue? Talking of Blue colour, we have name for that as well ‘Neel’, it means blue. You are free to draw your own conclusions.
In the book Shantaram, the guide adorns Gregory David Roberts(GDR) with a name Lin Baba. Lin literally means penis and baba is used as a token of respect against someone’s name. So when GDR introduces himself to someone saying ‘Hi! I am Lin Baba’, he literally is saying ‘Hi! I am Mr. Penis’. But it is actually a name of one of the Indian Gods, Lord Shiva.
One of the most brutally painful names from either South Indians or East Indians. South Indians take the longest names from the Gods and Goddesses and then complain endlessly that no one remembers their names. They follow a format – ‘Family name- Given name-Caste’. For example Kannoth Karunakaran Maarar, interpreted as Karunakaran of the Maarar caste from the Kannoth family or Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan. Swaminathan is the name of the person, Sambasivan is the name of the father and Monkombu is name of the village from where they have originated. You are left with no option other than either listening to their high pitched complains about pronouncing their names wrong or if you are polite enough you can address them with their initials.
This funny nomenclature is not confined only to India, it has strong association with celebrities as well. An article here states that a New Zealand judge ruled that a girl named “Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii” by her parents will be renamed, declaring that the bizarre name would “[Make] a fool of the child and [set] her up with a social disability and handicap, unnecessarily.” Then how about Sylvester Stallone keeping his son’s name as Sage Moonblood or Arthur naming his daughter Camera? For Celebrities and Indians, all bets are off.
Last night I received a mail from a friend with words ‘The story of 20 Toes Told in 20 Minutes’ in a subject. But there’s a lot in a name.