Gulzar saheb is much in the news these days. Reading an article on him on a social networking site, I discovered that his actual name is Sampooran Singh Kalra. I flinched a little. The name "Gulzar", which means "garden", tied into his general poetic appeal for me - his rather common real name did eclipse his magic a little bit. After all, I have a Kalraji as my neighbour and he has a hugely successful auto parts shop in Karol Bagh!
Many would argue, like Juliet Capulet did about Romeo Montague that, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." This frequently referenced quote is used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are.
I tend to disagree. I feel names do have a bearing on the personality and attitude of a person and especially others' perception of them.
Somehow I cannot imagine feeling very sexy, flirty and womanly with a man called Ladoo.
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 asked me why my parents had not considered names like Sita, Sulochana, Ahalya, 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 told him that he should have had the guts to openly lech. His hoarse reply had been "Please, I don't want to be beheaded, 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. Some time 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 "mishit" by the Bengali manager, who I suspect is diabetic. He spoke with a tremor in his voice and moist eyes. The newlywed lass suddenly cooed, "Ladoo, ladoo." The Bengali manager was affronted at this North Indian impertinence! Ladoo over roshogolla ? I was appalled because I realised that 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.
I am yet to find a dog named Siddharth or Raunak or Pooja. Truly, we suffer from a colonial hangover!
That gets me to the crime parents commit while 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 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 then Calcutta. The chap loved rock n' roll, wore clean underwear daily, made intelligent conversation after eight tequila shots and was a radical kisser.
We cheered because he was called Karno, our favourite character in the Mahabharata. But then we found out that his mother had lovingly nicknamed 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 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.
I am also a tad intolerant of persons who do not pay adequate attention to choosing a name for their pets. I suppose I'm a big nerd, because 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 or 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 or Raunak or Pooja. Truly, we suffer from a colonial hangover! Oh yes, 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 honour if any one named 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.
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 was so sure that all was ok with his ass. Get it?
José Saramago in Blindness says, "Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are."
I guess that is true despite my rant. After all Frank Zappa named his kids Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin and they all turned out fine.
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