Thursday, 17 December 2015

What's in a name?

What's in a name?", asked a lovestruck Juliet. If she was Indian she would have said "Lot's in a name. tatabyebye." 
Dear friends, a name is not just a name. My mother will be first to attest to this fact. Mom's name is..wait for it.....Fathimathu Nazeera Begum Sherule. No, it's not a sentence, it's her full name. And she still hasn't come to terms with the consequences of this novel of a name. For one, filling her name in forms is a pain. The columns for letters will run out but her name won't end. So we are held back- in airports, banks, offices...waiting for the name to conclude. 
Secondly, since there are so many names to choose from, my mom uses different ones for different purposes. So her FB name is Nazeera Faz, her official name is Fathimathu Nazeera Begum Sherule. Her family and friends call her Nadeera. In school she was known as Nasira. It's so confusing now that she chooses her name according to her mood, trying out different permutations and combinations till she hits the right one. Often you'll catch her asking us which name she has used for which purpose. Now she says her name is causing an identity crisis...
My mammima was named Asiyamma, a name she didn't find fashionable enough after her marriage to a doctor, So was the case with Fathima's grandma. So these two Asiyammas decided to shed their old, unfashionable names and take on a 'hep' one- Ayesha. This was way before any records made names permanent, people could change names like coats. And so Kasaragod lost two Asiyammas and gained two Ayeshas. 
This dislike for one's own name skipped a generation and reached Fathima's sister, Sehar. Toddler Sehar disliked her name so much that she went around introducing herself as 'Blossom' (courtesy powerpuff girls) to everyone. One day her mother was asked about the wellbeing of a certain blossom by a neighbour. Poor thing was unaware of her own daughter's alias. 
It's not just the given names that cause grief though. Some names can be bestowed to you without your approval. My mother remembers a man from her childhood, the village gossip, who was fondly called 'Aakashavaani' (Indian equivalent of BBC Radio) much to his chagrin. Then there is modalaynde Aysinja (Crocodile Ayesha). I expected a grand story of a lady bravely fighting off a crocodile, but turns out it's just that Crocodile Ayesha's husband once skinned a crocodile. So he was named modala (crocodile), and she became the crocodile's wife. Thalekatt (Turban) earned his name because of his permanent headgear. And the village rage machine who went about fighting with everyone was simply called 'Ladai' (fight), probably making him even more pissed.
My mother also tells me there exist some scientific sex changing names in Kasaragod. Parents that had only female offspring and wanted a boy would name their last born girl "Pakkerchee". Similarly, families with only boys that wanted a girl would name their last born 'Baduan'. The idea is to name your poor child the worst possible name so that the next child is of the opposite sex. 
But there are aspirational names too! For instance, in Punjab, where soldiers are considered sons of the land and pride of the family, we have kids named Kernel Singhs (Colonel Singh) and Major Singhs. There is famous a story of a certain sergeant who was named Major Singh. Whenever officers asked his name it would cause quite some confusion as they didn't know if they should or shouldn't salute him....
You also have Happy Singhs, Lucky Singhs (no Happy Go Lucky Sings though) and a certain Yo Yo Honey Singh. In Kerala we have Sundari (beautiful girl), Sughunan (the one with all the good qualities), and the best one-Sreemathi (Mrs). I guess Sreemati sighed a sigh of relief after her marriage...
Considering all this name induced drama, I am glad my parents named me a simple 'Nazreen Fazal'. If possible, I'll give my children even shorter names. But since Ameen has been going on about naming our son (if we ever have one) Cassius Clay or Mike Tyson, I'lll probably have to act real quick.

No comments:

Post a Comment