I have always been fascinated by the names that people conjure up for their children. In an effort to make it unique, they sometimes come up with something so difficult that even the child has a hard time pronouncing it. Some such names are those formed by the combination of family names. Neil Nitin Mukesh is one such example that most of us are familiar with. For those who are not, let me expand it. Going backwards, Mukesh is the famous Bollywood singer, Nitin is his son and Neil happens to be his grandson. This is a relatively simple form but when you start combining too many things into names like the honors bestowed upon the person, it becomes very difficult. We can find such names right here in Nepal.
The former king Birendra’s name was one paragraph long. ‘Shri Panch Maharajadhiraj Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev’, and this is the shorter form! When it comes to shortening names, the westerns do a good job. Elizabeth becomes either Liz or Beth and Rebecca becomes Becky. Similarly, Robert becomes Bob, Benjamin becomes Ben and Sam could be either Samantha or Samuel. In Nepal, Saraswati often becomes Saru and Niranjan becomes Niru. Even here, there are plenty of examples of people shortening their names.
Naming someone is something we do to provide an identity, to put a name to a face. Then again it does not stop here. You will find people naming dogs, cats, fish and even a gecko. It does not just stop there either. I have come across people who name their cars, bikes and houses. I am sure you have heard of naming of hurricanes, storms and wild animals (for the purpose of scientific study). There are simple common names like those of the deities, seasons and days of the week but then there are more complicated names that seem fairly complicated when explaining its meaning to a foreigner. I have come across many amusing names like Bomb Bahadur, Top Bahadur and Tie Bahadur. Often, I found that the parents of people with such names worked in the army.
I am sure most of us know the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan. What if I told you that was not his real name? His original name was Temujin and Ganghis Khan was his title. It means “great conqueror” in Mongolian. I am sure by now quite a few readers are already analyzing each other’s names. Some might be stuck with names that could be either male or female. Recently I was on a trip to Bangladesh with a group for a conference. I just wanted to find out if there were other females in the team besides me. I was told there was one more female called Pushpa. I was happy that there was another woman and was waiting eagerly to meet her. Later I found out that the person was in fact a man and not a woman! The name fooled not just me but others too. We all had a good laugh.
Something else that makes me laugh all the time is what one of my father’s friends used to say. “You know laal tin should be baal tin and baal tin should actually be haal tin.” His logic satisfied me as a child. In response I used to say, “Kaka, machhar daani should actually be maanchhe daani” and we would laugh together. My logic as a child was that since bhool daani is used to keep flowers and musa daani to trap mice inside, machhar daani that is used to keep people inside to protect them from mosquitoes should be called maanchhe daani. Names do not always reflect the real picture. It is entirely possible that a person with a name Nayan Shukh is blind and a person with a name Lakhapati is very poor. All this, however, is the lighter side of names. There is a serious side to it too.
Naming someone is something we do to provide an identity, to put a name to a face. Names, however, can often be unrelated and misleading.
It is usually women who are at the receiving end of the name game. During the long marriage ceremony, there is a ritual when the girl is given away as ‘Kanya daan’ and the groom has the option of giving the bride a totally new name. It might be fun for some people but for the girl, it is actually a difficult time. I still know a few women whose names were changed during marriage and are now known by their new names. However, the number of such women has drastically gone down. This is mainly because most men no longer feel the need to change the bride’s name to exhibit their superiority, thanks to the new generation who doesn’t want to demolish the girls’ identity just for the sake of dominating her.
On the other hand, we do give special names to people we love most. So you see there is nothing much to a name. Then again, it’s relative, depending on how much you know about the person with the name.
Another example is the famous Indian singer Mukesh. We all know him well and have loved his songs, but do we know Mukesh Chandra Mathur? What if I told you it’s the same person and Mukesh is just the shortened name we have been so used to for decades?
So folks, the next time you come across someone new, don’t try to analyze the person just by their name. As we have seen, names can be misleading and devoid of any real connection with the person. After all, it is just a name!