13 May, 2010

What's in a name ?? - Part 1

What’s in a name ?? we ask.

The answer, surprisingly, is different from what most of us would imagine.


Yes. There is indeed a lot to a name.

And I can vouch for that statement myself. For, I had a name that was a mile long.

Among many Indian families, especially families which have their roots in the South of India, the practice that used to persist was one of naming ones kids after ones parents. Oh !! Not that they named their daughter after the grandfather and the son after the grandmother. Thank the Good Lord for small mercies there !! They used to be careful about the naming their kids with the name of the grandparent – of the right gender.

Daughters were named after their paternal grandmothers, sons were named after the paternal grandfathers. If one more son or daughter happened to “happen” ….. they were named after the maternal grandfather or maternal grandmother …… depending on the gender of the child. Did I not say earlier on that parents were careful about that aspect ??

I was one among those children who have had the good fortune to be bestowed with their grandparents’ name. I got my paternal grandmother’s name. Nothing wrong with that, actually. Just that it proved to be inconvenient. Because you see, my grandmother’s name (no disrespect meant) was about a mile long ….. give or take a few centimeters.

You can just about imagine my predicament when I started school. While most of my school mates had names like Anju, Manju, Indu (one syllable or two syllable names), my name stood out in all its four syllable glory Bha/gi/ra/thy.

There have been plenty of times when I’ve been embarrassed – simply because my name was so long and so “not in sync” with the times. There have been plenty of times when teachers have absolutely struggled with my name, making me want to dive down under the bench. The only reason why I did not dive under the bench then was due to the fact that had I dived under the bench, crawled on my knees under four or five benches and come up at the sixth bench or so and the teacher would still have been struggling to complete the pronunciation of my name – mile long that it was !!

My friends at school, however, had a rather simple solution to the “problem”. They used to split my name right down the middle and they would simply call me “Bhagi” !!! The situation used to get side splittingly funny when new kids joined the school, especially when they ended up in the same class as Yours Truly !!

I still vividly remember an incident when a new girl had joined our class. Our class happened to have our P.T that day and the whole class was out playing. The girls were playing dodgeball. The game started and as the ball found its mark on the girls inside the ring, other girls would join the group of dodgers within the ring. Since it was my turn next, one of the girls, without turning her head, screamed “Bhageeeeee Bhaaaag” (Bhageee was the first half of my name and Bhaag is “run” in Bambaiyaa Hindi). Now while the other girls knew what Bhageeee meant, the new girl was blissfully unaware of the fact. She took Bhageeeee to mean “she’s running” and Bhaaag to mean “you run as well”. Wanting to impress her classmates, off she went, like an arrow speeding from a bow …… she ran all the way to the gate of the school ….. only to realize that the other girls were standing where they had been, wondering why this girl ran all the way upto the gate.

I knew !!!!!

And no, the earth did not split open and welcome me with open arms. That happened only with Sita !!!
My entire face flamed as though it had been smeared with pure habanero but no …. nothing other than that happened.

My “issues” with my name just compounded when I reached college. Firstly, when you are in your teens, you desperately try to “fit in” and “merge” with the crowd in college. Very rarely does one try ones level best to stick out like a sore thumb. Turns out I did not have to try at all !!!

My name helped me stick out like a lighthouse on the shore !!!

My friends at college came up with another simple solution ….. they halved my name right down the middle again ….. and this time around ….. they used the second half of my name to refer to me. I began to be known as “rathi” in college.

It was around this point of time that I sincerely began to wonder if my parents actually knew what they were getting me into, when they named me after my paternal grandmother. I did not quite understand the logic either – one is not supposed to call one’s parents by name. Going by the same logic, if my parents were to call out my name at home, would they not, inadvertently, be calling their mother/mother in law, by name ??

Faulty logic, eh ??

I guess my parents did not really envisage the kind of troubles I would have with a name which was a mile long.

(sigh) Ask me. I know better !!!!


P.S : I can literally visualize the nutty siblings rolling on the floor, laughing their heads off, when they read this !!

1 voice(s) said so:

Random Thoughts said...

BHAGHIRATI ....bhag rahi thi!