… ask the parents-to-be or newly minted thus, on how important that decision is. Having scoured the internet for that-which-was-never-heard-of or meant in any name so far in existence, they spend hours creating long lists followed by shortlists, with polls running for THE decision that would change the life of that which was born unbeknownst to what exertion such an endeavor had caused.
Yes, I recently received a request from the parents of a new born baby to give my vote for a selection of names. Of course, the fallacy of the process that was being run via whatsapp was that it missed an excel sheet with criteria and adequately provided weightages on how one was to do the scoring and determine the vote. But then, when did we use that to select those we choose to govern us so perhaps I should pardon this error on the part of those who perhaps have not slept enough for days and weeks together. Mind you, I know of those who have not had a time earlier when they have slept as much- it’s all to do with the blessings of that which just arrived and his or her inclination to be kind to those at their service.
Anyways, back to the poll- not only was I asked to provide my vote but gather as many from those under my influence. So very diligently I performed my duties and shared the results of the majority votes, only to be later disappointed when my choice was not the one that made it to the winner’s position. I was only left to wonder, whether the new life, would ever (in its entire life) learn of the efforts of people in faraway lands in determining that which (hopefully) would stay with it for the rest of its life.
In fact, parents today are in a race to outdo the selection by going way beyond the languages of the land. The further away the land of origin of the language to which the name belongs, the more exalted the position of the name in the scheme of things. So in case the 120+ languages available in our country were not enough for figuring out a simple name, parents, with much information at their disposal relative to an era not long ago, run searches for let’s say- what was the Sun called in the Aztec language- because that is what should be the name of my boy thus born and meant to rule the world (Alexander 2.0 could have been just fine- but who shall explain that).
Compare this to a time, may be two or three decades ago, when we would have at least 3 if not more children in the overflowing classroom of a school in small town India, with exactly the same name, perhaps with differentiation on spellings thanks to the vowels at our disposal and the flexibility provided in creating variants (its amazing the kind of connotation this word “variant” has nowadays). Of course, spelling not being of much help while the teacher marked attendance, blaring names in a monotone manner, while enthusiastic learners awaited their turns, those lucky few with their namesakes around had the honour of having their titles used for making the distinctions (luckily the part of small town India I came from, did not have the necessity of middle names, else we would have spent majority of our learning time, just identifying each other!).
In case the creation of variants with Indian names had to do with just the selection of different vowels (as was the case in a time period not too long ago), it would have still seemed sane. What has been increasingly bewildering has been the use of consonants to create the variants not to forget the repetition of vowels! All in the name of numerology- that science which is understood by few, but wont to be practiced by many and followed by several more especially those entitled to stardom (or shall we say the lack of it! Or maybe the delay of it). And by the way, this has not been restricted to individuals only- it has gone way beyond that to names of several popular television series, businesses et al.
Compare this to our western counterparts – especially those to the extreme west of our nation. Life has been simple for them, no complication of spellings, vowels and consonants. Short names which most of the time, having rendered thus for sake of simplicity (as Thomas became Tom), have no stress for the one who tries pronouncing it. In fact, the very common question in our part of the world which serves as an ice breaker once we have gotten past the name sharing pleasantries, is “so what does your name mean”, is meaningless for those whose names don’t mean anything. They are simply just that- names! No connection to mythological characters, gods, nature, or anything of consequence.
Which brings me to the memory of a classic distortion that my name suffered when those further east to our land tried pronouncing it. You see, the particular combination of two consonants, very common to my mother tongue with a letter dedicated for the purpose, was unknown and hence untenable to folks of that particular language. What resulted thus were permutations of pronunciations which made me much flexible in responding to every call of hitherto unheard of manners of addressing me. It also taught me to not be too rigid about what my name was… after all, what’s in a name?
But then there is still perhaps merit in the question asked by the great bard. In fact, I have increasingly come to believe there is a lot of it! I feel the universe conspires to drive energies towards you such that you actually ARE what your name means. It is perhaps the reason the author can be very sensitive with her feelings or perhaps another one the author knows whose name means a princess, or the daughter of a great force to reckon with, does think of herself as thus! But then on further insight, several have not been so blessed, with their names having no semblance to what their true nature is. Maybe in times of fake identities, one should not give too much credit to the bard!