Everything is in a Name

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Thus said Juliet Capulet in Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet”, arguing that it does not matter that Romeo is from her rival’s house of Montague and named after it. This frequently referenced saying of the Bard is used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are.

I totally disagree. Names do have a bearing on the personality and attitude of a person and especially others’ perception of them.

I also am a tad intolerant of persons who do not pay adequate attention to choosing a name for a human or pet or even for that matter bestowing nicknames, whether for romantic reasons or as we are all wont in India to have a ‘ghar ka naam’ & ‘bahar ka naam’.

My parents named me after the Goddess Durga. My Ma told me that she wanted her daughter to be fearless and strong. Years later, an ex-boyfriend, feebly had asked me why my parents had not considered names like ‘Sita’, ‘ Sulochana’, ‘Ahalya’ etc that are epitomes of calmness, gentleness, humility etc.This was after I had ‘accidentally’ spilled hot tea on his crotch for slyly checking out the college hottie. I had told him that he should have had the guts to openly lech. His hoarse reply had been ‘Please, I don’t want to be be-headed, Durga Ma’. Possibly, images of me riding a tiger with terrifying looking weapons cropped up in his mind.

We Indians also tend to have ridiculous nicknames for our beloveds. Sometime back I was at ‘Kamala ‘sweets in Chittaranjan Park, deciding the rather painful existential dilemma of whether to buy ‘mishti-doi’ or ‘shondesh’ . A newlywed, and thereby much in love and lust, Punjabi couple were being given an emotional lecture on ‘mishti’ by the Bong manager, who I suspect is diabetic. The pathos in his voice and moist eyes made the girl coo ‘Ladoo, Ladoo’. The Bong manager was affronted at this North Indian impertinence! ‘Ladoo’ over ‘Roshogolla’ ? I was appalled because I realized that ‘Ladoo’ was the affectionate, romantic, come-hither-thrill-me nickname for her husband. Somehow I cannot imagine feeling very sexy, flirty and womanly with a man called ‘Ladoo’.

That gets me to the crime parents commit while infinitely damning their kids with devastating nicknames. My Dad and his three brothers are called ‘Babaji’( bearded , homeless mendicant) ,’Bairagi’ ( mad man), ‘Sanyasi’ ( has no possessions) and the worst ‘Kangali’ (irretrievably doomed scrawny beggar), which is Dad’s moniker. The names were apparently given to ward off the evil eye! I remember the time of my late teens when my cousin sister and me believed the/a perfect man exists and that we would fall madly in love with each other for eternity. Well, she chanced upon a lovely tall, handsome man from Kolkata. The chap loved rock n roll, wore clean underwear daily, made intelligent conversation after 8 tequila shots, and was a radical kisser. We cheered because he was called ‘ Karna’, our favorite character in the Mahabharat. But then we found out that his mother had lovingly named him ‘Thobla’ because of his erstwhile ‘cho-chweet’ baby fat. ‘Thobla’ in Bengali means not only fat, but the fat that shakes, quivers and rolls. Unfortunately, the name stuck and everybody called him ‘Thobla’. I warned my cousin sister that her sex life would be severely compromised when in moments of deep passion she would possibly cry out ‘Thobla! Thobla’. The relationship ended. But she was doomed. She married a Bihari guy whose unbelievable nickname was ‘Nunu”, which apparently means a guy with a little willy! She hastened to tell me that this was not the case.

Barnes & Nobles had devised a quiz which tested the degree of your book ‘nerdism’. One indicator of true nerdism was if one named pets after literary figures, authors, books, etc. I guess I am a hardcore nerd for I have had dogs called Rousseau, Rupert of Hentzau, Neo, a rabbit called Thomas Hobbes, cats called Nabokov, Tom Sawyer, Zorba the Greek, Machiavelli, a donkey called Socrates, homing pigeons called Scarlett O Hara, Mr Darcy, Shakuntala, Miss Marple, Sherlock, Virginia Woolf, a rooster called Atticus Finch, a tortoise called Maxim de Winter. The point I am trying to make is that I paid deep loving attention to my pets’ names. I have known Philistines who wouldn’t go beyond ‘Tommy’ ,‘Tiger’ for their dog’s name. A strange fact also is that we Indians tend to give our dogs/cats ‘English’ or foreign names. I am yet to find a dog named Siddharth/ Raunak or Priya/Pooja. Truly, we suffer from a colonial hangover! It is also very annoying when people name their pooch after their alleged enemy and gloat over silly commands to the dog. Why, I would consider it a deep honor if any one names their pet after me!

Enhancing the problem of unsuitable, careless names is the craze these days, of adding an alphabet to it for luck and good fortune. My sister has a friend called ‘Asok’. The good chap, under the influence of some numerologist, add another ‘s’ turning himself into ‘Assok”. I itched to ask him how he had ensured that all was ok with his a*** ?

Alright, the rant is over. José Saramago in ‘Blindness’ says “ Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are”. I think I believe him.

 Ta, guys! Tomorrow is SATURDAY! Oh ,yeah!