Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Bumbling Mum Diary –III

We Bengalis take the art and science of nomenclature rather seriously – as if our life depends on it. Years of singing Robindro Shongeet, reciting Robi Thakur’s poetry and reading anything from Chekov to Chattopadhyay is effectively put to use, to name our progeny.

And taking it a step further, we have not one but two names for our offspring. A bhaalo naam and a daak naam. Bhaalo naam, the formal name to be used outside our friend and family circle will always have literary connotations – Porineeta, Madhumita, Charulata, Shashwati, Mridha – names intended to send an unsuspecting tongue into paroxysms. And the daak naam – the pet name will be as silly as silly can get – Ghochoo, Potol, Buri, Luchi, Natoo – just to prove to the rest of the world, when it comes to humour, no one can beat us.

When my baby girl was born, it was a historic moment for the Rays (the in laws) and the Bhattacharyas (the outlaws...the parents). And why not? She was the first born of their first-borns and also the first to arrive from the next gen. To put it simply, she was their first and for a very long time their only grandchild. Our younger siblings were just not interested in the business of procreation.

Now couple it with our literary leanings and the legendary Bong eccentricity and you have the makings of a disaster. A name can’t be just a name, it has to be like a whiff of fresh air, has to convey a thousand emotions, it has to be meaningful. Damnation awaits those who were naive enough to name their kid a frivolous Tanya, Pony, Goldie.... I remember a family friend who had a strange fascination for all things Russian and had named his son Pushkin. Pushkin was sent to Moscow for his degree in medicine but became a gangster instead (so much for fulfilling his dad’s Russian aspirations). A gent with French leanings named his daughter Monami. My Maa wanted a mouthful of a name for our German Spitz (we always accused her of favouring him over us) and wanted to call him....guess what? Buta Singh. It took a major tantrum from us to make her change her mind.

And so began the quest to name Baby Ray. Books were fished out, memories strained and long lists were made. Me, I had a very simple criterion for name selection. Growing up in Delhi I have seen many a Bangla name getting distorted beyond recognition. Shutopaa becomes a harsh Sutaapa, Shoibal becomes Cybal almost sounding like an erstwhile computer chip, Kollol becomes Kallol....Basically I wanted to protect my child from a lifetime of distress of having to explain the finer nuances of her name. I wanted a simple name which would easily roll of a toddler’s tongue and not intimidate a non-Bong sensibility.


The out-laws and in-laws refused to understand my point of view and insisted on names like Enakshi, Oindrila, Mrinmoyi. When I suggested simple names like Dwiti, Ishita, Rya, a thesis was presented on the unsuitability of it. Even the daak naam kept changing every few weeks. At eight months my baby had yet to get a name and I was maha pissed off. And then one fine morning while watching MTV, I hear Trisha Yearwood singing and wham I knew exactly what I wanted. Called the parents, informed them of the choice with an air of finality and no arguments will be entertained clause. There is one more Trisha in our family... Does it even have a meaning?...It doesn’t even sound Bengali.... were countered with the same logic I had been hearing for years “ I am the Mom, I know best”. Ha...for once I left them speechless.

Sixteen years later I see history repeating itself. My niece turned one last month and we had yet to settle on a formal name for her. This, despite my long printout of the most unusual names on Earth and my mum’s even longer list of unpronounceable names. Sadly they were all imperiously thumbed down by her parents and they stubbornly stuck to Gia. (I personally liked the name). Gia!!! Is that even a name! What if her friends change it to Ghia?? The family spent many an evening arguing, trying to shout each other out but to no avail. Last week while freezing in picturesque Ramgarh, my Mum informed me that the family had finally settled on a name that everyone likes Rayena - loosely inspired by Shaw’s Arms and the Man. You can’t just keep out a Bong’s literary proclivity out of a name. My relieved ‘thank God’ echoed for miles in the valley.


28 comments:

  1. “ I am the Mom, I know best”. Ha...for once I left them speechless.
    -This is the best part.. lol

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  2. Very interesting... couldn't stop laughing at " what if her friends called her Ghia!". A peek into the Bong mind :)

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  3. You're so right about our obsession with names related to well-known characters from literary works. My mom tells me....that while naming me she and dad used to engage in conversational battles every day. In the end however dad had to accept defeat and let her name me 'Samadrita'. But alas my name seems to be a mouthful for most of my friends..so yeah now I'm Sam and Sammy to most. :-(
    Love reading you like always! :-)

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  4. Nice having you back and getting to read the LOL posts :) Choosing a name can be really hard, isn't it? I had been stubborn about the names of my boys too - after all they had to grow up in the north and having a pan Indian name made sense. So Vikram and Vineet, they became!

    How was the hills? waiting to hear a-musing stories about them.

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  5. Well, I think all our groups of people are crazy and weird in their own ways...but begalis..yes i agree they are a little different

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  6. Us bongs sure have this terrible problem with names. Thankfully, someone else but my parents thought of my name and it has no Bong connections whatsoever! My grandparents would have me living a tongue-twisted existence had it been up to them! Of course, my daak naam still remains extremely humorous and beyond any comprehension!
    And I have a bengali friend with a Russian name because her parents are into things russian! :D
    We bengalis are certainly weird with names. :D

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  7. Bhavna...A foolproof line, it never fails.

    Abha...thank you

    Samdrita...Even I took some time to get your name right. It is some tongue twister.

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  8. Zephyr...The hills were stunningly beautiful but the road trip was very exhausting.

    Shahid.... we are all queer in our inimitable ways.

    D2..Your daak naam has piqued my interest ;P

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  9. And Senora is back with a "Bong". Beinvinido de vuelta a casa.

    Interesting names...though you cannot beat us Punjabi's with our names like Jarnail, Karnail, Candy, Sweet, Happy, Zoravar, Kharak, Balkar, Jujhar...........and the pronunciation makes them even more side splitting.

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  10. Hoho awesome....never knew naming a kid can be this difficult !!

    I am very amused by the average Bengali's sense of culture , literature and films...You will nvr see this awareness in any part of India

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  11. Prateek..Sweety, Happy, Pappu, Pinky I grew up with.

    Jon...It is, trust me. You'll know when you have one.

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  12. Heh heh heh.
    I think naming babies after literary characters is pretty cool.

    At least, way better than taking out a random name from a phone directory - one of the few things I'll never forgive my mum for.

    Oh, the long years of school, and the million-and-one nicknames. Traumatic, to say the least. :D

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  13. waaaodat was so apt ..my parents named me muktadhara aftr d famous tagore play...n ever since my school days ihave badgered them y dis name...y such a name dat no 1 can pronounce properly...but den i guess this name makes me diffrnt ..n being diff isnt dat bad.

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  14. Tee hee! You're back and on a roll!

    Among us Coorgs, we have a daak naam too. Mine got distorted to become Piyu. Got people singing 'Piyu Bole' to me at the drop of a hat!

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  15. Rindo...LOL, that's some idea. Now why didn't I think of that? Write a post on your "trauma"...would love to read it.

    vicious...Sweetheart, your URL has an in house Trojan. Can you do something about it?

    Muktadhara is a very unusual name, must have got shortened to Mukta now :)

    mazing...Piyu has such a lilting quality about it. And I love that song :)

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  16. Choosing a name for the child is a serious exercise.I know of a young couple who wanted name for their son which meant "god's gift" and the decided upon "DAIWIK"

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  17. being a bong myself, I envy other bongs who have relatively poetic names like Debabrata, devayan, Purbasha etc.. My parents did not have much poetic inclination and i have a very dull bengali common name.. However they were fans of a band called Abba and my sister is named after 1 of the singers.. Agneta.. which most of the bongs pronounce as 'Og'nita.. and relate it to fire.. btw 1 of the variants of may daak naam is Pushkin.. I am also called 'Phool'babu by the declining population of grandaunts.

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  18. BK...Daiwik is such a mouthful. A few years down the line, the boy will be rating about it.

    Puntopiper...Phool babu??? LMAO
    And I am a big fan of ABBA :))

    Debabrata sounds grandfatherly.

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  19. very true..I know the pain in selecting a name for my kids and ended up finally what my relatives kept ...

    Btw,Could you read this and vote to support me
    http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=34845

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  20. Lol at Ghochoo, Potol, Buri, Luchi, Natoo! I had a close friend named Dhanno. The professors would always double check her name.
    Btw, my name is from Tagore's eponymous short story.

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  21. hahaha what a rukus over a name :D
    mine sounds so ummm devi type :P i have stopped caring now :P

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  22. So this is where the phrase 'what's your good name?' come from!...Bhalo name...Ha Ha...now I get it! Khuub Bhalo!
    loved the 'in and out law' bit!!!
    There were Lahari's next door who had named their dog Apparao...we kids had a great time with that name!
    You found a great name for your babyray, Trisha...sweet!...loved Rayena too.

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  23. Umapoems :))

    Giribala...Dhanno! wasn't that a horse in some movie?

    Rajlakshmi... Add a Maa before it ;P

    Nalini...At least someone got the out law part!!(phew)
    Apparao is way better that Tommy, Tiger, Jimmy.......

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  24. I am NEVER consulting my parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/the whole jingbang, when it comes to giving my kid(s)( if and when I have them xP ) a nickname.

    I don't want them to hold a grudge like me and my brother do.....and I'm pretty sure we aren't the only ones....

    Haha.
    Loved it.


    http://sourcanvas.blogspot.com

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  25. excellant style of writng, gia, and ghia,
    well, i must say, what ever name is given friends will surely give in more comfortable name. which is tangy,

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  26. wow! I love Raina! or Rayina!!
    after reading 'Arms...' n falling in love with it, I wanted to be called Raina.
    atleast I though that was the only factual or fictional character having closest resemblance to me! :)

    hope the baby turns out as interesting as her eventually!! :D

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  27. Ujjwal...Nobody consults, we don't want to. The suggestions come freely, uninvited.

    Pramod....Yea friends have the tendency to shorten it up :)

    dreamer...Oh she is wild, naughty, vivacious. Absolutely smitten by her.

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  28. Shaswati here ;)...and it does send the world in paroxysms to pronounce my name..and i always have to correct them :p

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