Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A rose by any other name

What's in a name, the bard wrote, but I'm sure there is no one in today's world who would agree to that. A name is the first element that gives you an identity, and that defines what you are to the world around you.
I have always been extremely possessive about my name. And have had to face quite a bit of enthusiasm from the world - not only about my first name, but also my last name. Picture this - You are walking down the corridor of your school, and there is this teacher screaming out for 'Saraswati' or 'Sulakshna' at the highest pitch possible. Obviously, this 'Saraswati' or 'Sulakshna' is either deaf or simply non-existent...:-). And the latter was the case. Besides these, I've always had to repeat my first name at least thrice when introducing myself. Well, this is not unique to me. It is an affliction for many traditional Indian names - be it from Punjab or Tamil Nadu or anywhere on this semi-continent. Coming t think of it, maybe that is the reason why most people are choosing to name their wards with more 'corporate' names like Raj or Amit and Komal or Sonal. The accent is on the name being short and sweet...(of course, that is another discussion).
Coming back to calling someone names, it is usually the case when you try to explain the nitty-gritties of the Indian naming convention to the global citizens. A soft 'd' is unrecognized by most non-Indians (read - Americans esp.) , a lilting 'j' sound is usually replaced with the 'j' of 'jarring', and of course the sweet 't' of Gita is replaced by the 't' of 'tea'. But now I'm digressing...
I wanted to actually talk about the variation in Indian names and how a mere change of syllable conjures different images. Let me demonstrate with some examples:
Bipin, is an Indian name which means 'forest', and has an alternative way of being spelt and pronounced as Vipin...and there in lies the difference. While Bipin invokes respect and an image of a strong, responsible, honest person; Vipin builds an image of a light-eyed playboy with a 60's hairdo and a bike. Similarly, while Priya throws up the idea of an intelligent woman who knows her brains and uses them, and is endowed with feminine beauty. Priyanka, on the other hand, a derivative of the same name, is a completely different name game. Priyanka invokes a rudeness or an impoliteness, a feminity of the tom-boy variety.
Before I'm prosecuted for such blasphemy, let me clarify that all these meanings that I'm attributing are images that have taken shape due to my experiences with the namesakes.
I continue with my name story. Moving on to Amits of the world...I feel the name itself spells fun, mischief, optimism, always the life of the party. Let me see now...more names...Nandini.
Lyrical, musical, like the tinkling of ice in a crystal glass.
I will add in more later. For now, this piece is ready to see the light of the day.