“I wish parents asked their kids what they would like to be called?” she said and took a sip of her black coffee. I was sitting opposite her, admiring the way she was spiffily dressed, her tinted, straightened hair tamed with her CC sunglasses perched on the widow’s peak hairline. Her pointed chin signalled a resolute, strong woman who knew where she was coming from and going.

“Hmmmm…the mandatory birth certificate demands a name within a month of birth….or it was when my kids were born”, I murmured.

“Then…legally we should be able to change our name easily….when we are 18, shouldn’t we?” she asked with irritation lacing her comments.

Frankly, I did not know what all this was in aid of. She was my favourite niece. “Aunt! I am talking about….my name!”she growled. “I dread to introduce myself. Immediately people expect me to give them a shoulder to cry on or to bring out my cheque book and write a handsome amount with a flourish and a full stop”.

Ping went my mental bell. I could see where this whole conversation was heading.

“Why did my parents give me this name Karunya? They just don’t have a reasonable answer than a puerile…We loved its uniqueness for our darling daughter!!!”

“You know Aunt..parents should not give value based names to kids. It is a huge rden on them. I have this friend Shanthi….and she is a lesson in hyper reaction…more a quick gun Murugan. And, my cousin Dharma is one of those proverbial crooked-as-a-gem clip guys that I have in my contacts list. Many of my colleagues have these holier than thou names and hate it. Mridula is as prickly as a cactus, Anandi is the worst cynic ever who always moans and groans, Swetha is upto all kinds of hanky panky….the list is endless”.

In my generation we inherited names of grandparents. The first grandkid took the paternal grandparents name; the second child, names from the maternal grandparents. In the joint family, children’s names were shortened as ladies dared not utter names of elders or the husband’s official name.  It was safer to be a Kamala, Vimala, Meena or Bama than have fancy names meaning a quality. Nicknames were Angichi or Dandu, Subbu, Gopulu or Kunju, Raasham or Reghu. Some kids were called by attributes like Chottu or Lambu, Dindi (glutton) or Shoni (thin), Pappa or Thambi.

Nowadays, there is fierce competition among parents to give obscure names to kids. A whole evening can be spent at a party discussing kid’s names, the origins and sources. My family has names that we oldies cannot recall easily especially out of syllabus ones like Ahiri and Avyukth, Niharika and Naajy, Sadik and Satatya. What these names mean….please don’t ask.

Then, Karunya looked up from her Iphone and said in a bewildered tone. “Look at this Whatsapp message from Anna. His new born twins are Arjun and Sita!! What must he be thinking?”

Published in Deccan Herald


About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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2 Responses to WHAT’S IN A NAME?

  1. rummuser says:

    Nice to see you blogging again. I hope that you will continue to regularly.

    I am expected to be like my namesake the Maharishi. I have managed to survive that!


  2. blackwatertown says:

    You can never predict with children’s names. The innocent moniker may later become associated with a serial killer. The rare name may become common if a pop star shares it. The seemingly ordinary name may actually be a shortened form of something special. I know a Kim who is really a Kimbryan, which I think means some form of zephyr.


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