Saturday, January 9, 2016

What’s in a name?

Everything. I strongly believe that your name has a great effect on who you are as a person; it is indeed your identity. Not too sure of the thing people have with spellings. That’s another philosophy that I don’t want to get into now. Today I just want to talk about names and pet names.

I love names that are meaningful and uncommon. I can’t imagine having a name like a Pooja or a Neha (how can a name become SO common? Everybody wanted to name their kids that?). My name, which starts with the letter S as you know, is quite unique. All through my childhood I was the only person with that name in all my schools. Personally, I have met only 2 other people with the same name. And I just hated them (one of them was a 1 year old baby!). I had no valid reason except that angry feeling of someone snatching away something from me – something that belonged ONLY to me. I don’t think I have been more possessive about anything else in my life.

My name means 'serenity' in Sanskrit. It also means 'charismatic' and 'smooth', but I identify more with the idea of peace and tranquility. There is a story related to my name. I was not always named what I am called today. In fact, my original birth certificate also has a different name. That name also started with the letter S. It was a little more common, and it meant 'memories'. I am glad my mom decided to change my name after a few months. Now as I write this, I wonder, was I adopted?? :O I never thought about that, ahem, ok I’ll think about that later.

Apart from my ‘good name’, hehe as we Indians call it, I also have several pet names. Being a Bengali, I have enough and more nicknames that are embarrassing for me and funny for others. Bengalis should be awarded for the most onomatopoeic names in the world, like phultushi, tultuli, babai, papai, tukai, goltu, poltu, boltu, laltu, bhuton, khokhon, jhinti, jhontu . . . Perhaps, that is why Bengali kids like Tintin comic so much, maybe they think he is one of them. I am not kidding, these names actually exist, I have not coined any of them. How can you have a nick name like that and be taken seriously? Perhaps that is the thing with bongs, they give you serious sounding ‘good names’ like Sayantan, Sharmishtha, Subroto, Sreemoyee, Mithun, Ushashi, Anindita, Devashish, Indrani, Debanjon, and then they balance it out with the nicknames. “Why so serious?” Joker asked the bongs, and thus started the trend of daak naam.

Jhumpa Lahiri, in her book, Namesake, said “Pet names are a persistent remnant of childhood, a reminder that life is not always so serious, so formal, so complicated. They are a reminder, too, that one is not all things to all people.” I used to hate it when people shortened my name, but now I have become more tolerant. Somehow, I can’t use endearing words like sweetheart, darling etc. At best, I can use them while messaging :P What I prefer instead is to create a name for that person, a nickname that only I call them by, and it may have nothing to do with their real name, but perhaps something we talked about. There is a creative spontaneity in that love. 

And then comes another question. About last names. After getting married, I don’t want to change my last name. I don’t use my last name in my signature, anyway. I don’t want to identify myself with anybody’s last name. Neither my dad’s, nor my husband’s. There was an ad I watched sometime ago, where the husband changes his last name to his wife's last name, and they called it very feminist or progressive. I completely disagree. Why does anybody have to take somebody else’s name? Why can’t we all design our own identities based on who we are? Last names were made to signify your class and place in the society – whether you are a Yadav, milkman or Chatterjee, Brahmin, or Kashyap, warrior. Do we need that anymore? Why cant we just do away with our last names? The lineage will not continue, is it? So you want your children to carry on the legacy, the burden of your legacy sometimes, to the generations ahead? If you want to pass on something, pass on the knowledge, the culture, the values, maybe that antique heirloom (I don’t mind hehe), but not a name that does not add anything to their life, except a label to be judged by. I just don’t want to be a part of this game.

Or we should have names like S****** ghoomnewali, or  S****** bookworm. That still holds some amount of truth to who I am.

What do you guys think? I definitely want the heirloom *wink* 


  1. That's such a lovely post on names! Having an uncommon name myself, I can relate to your feelings about not liking people just because their parents chose ur name! The Bong nicknames r so cute! And yes a lot of problems in this world would b resolved if people just dumped these nicknames!

    1. Haha yea it's annoying when you share your name with people, you call out one person and another person responds :P

  2. I can't believe you wrote so much, just on names. And everything made sense! Bang on about Bengali names and pet names. I know someone with the pet name of tatai. Total onomatopoeia!

    Preeti is a fairly common name. So I cringed a bit in that para! :D

    1. Hehehe, you can make all sort of changes in your spelling to make your name unique :P like Pretty :)


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