Nobody names their kid Neha anymore. Yet, if I were to stand at the Rajiv Metro Chowk station and scream Nehaaaaaaaa, at least 67 women of all shapes and sizes will turn around and come running towards me. Add Mamta, Sanjay, Vineet, Preeti to that list. They are all part of a generation whose parents didn’t break into a sweat while naming their offspring. The ones that fancied themselves as ‘modern’, preferred Silky, Tina, Sunny, Honey, Bunny. The sanskari ones left the onus on the grandparents, who in turn would consult their family pandit, astrological charts and name the unsuspecting baby after their favourite God. So, if you had a Janardana, Bhavamochani, Dayanidhi in your class, you knew who to blame for their lifelong misery.
New age parents are different. Not only do they start reading up books on all the possible diseases their yet to be born baby can get, the mother prefers going on a gluten free, seed only diet to birth a conscientious future citizen of the world. Wiser from their own experience of being part of a flock, the Sameers, Sonias and Vineetas flick through pages and pages of ‘Unusual baby names’. Because their worldview transcends cultural and geographical barriers, Zeus it is for their baby who’s meant to rule the world. Once Zeus Chopra waddles to playschool, he meets Awesome Khare who loves peeing in his pants, much to the chagrin of the school ayah, Baby. Then there is Key-nah, who he is petrified of. The last time he tried to sneak a biscuit from her tiffin box, she knocked two of his milk teeth off. Muffin Malhotra has a constantly running nose that he loves wiping on an unsuspecting shoulder.
Interestingly, this penchant for giving their babies WTF names was once limited to snooty, good for nothing Bengalis. So, it’s not unusual run into a Canopy Chowdhury or Renaissance Roy at the local Durga Pujo and a Missile Dutta who you played ludo with when you were all of 10. Their pet names are even worse. The kind you can blackmail them with to extract state secrets and nuclear codes. So, if a Bongshell in a moment of tenderness confides in you that her parents call her Punchkee, it’s time for you to start looking for a ring.
Not anymore. This obsession for giving strange names is now a worldwide epidemic. Bengalis can yet again claim what Bengal thinks yesterday, the world does today.
A baby’s name is no longer about cute sounding and being easy on the tongue. Hell no. In fact the tougher it is to remember, the better it is. My niece is now 7 years old and I still can’t recall her bhaalo naam (the formal name meant for the school roll). It’s another story the final one was chosen after 47554 rejections and epic battles between grand-parents and parents.
The name selecting business is no longer a mundane job meant to be completed while you are switching channels. It requires careful deliberation and argument worthy of Newshour. It’s like thinking of a label for your designer baby. The kind that carries with it a whiff of class. It should instantly transport you to the world of clipped accents, bistros in Paris and hallowed corridors of Ivy League colleges. Something like Qabir – exotic yet perfectly suited to your multi-lingual, global citizen of the world child who earns in dollars and sips tea from Wedgewood crockery.
Naming follows an interesting hierarchy. While the BMW (Bartan majne waali) prefers Bobby, Pinky, Sonu, her upwardly mobile world-travelled Memsahib prefers Kaira, Shyra or a Shanaya. Meanwhile the celebrity class that needs to stand miles apart from the hoi-polloi thinks of NorthWest, Taimur or Bronx-Mowgli that no cattle class in their un-coked frame of mind will dare come up with.
The millennial city-bred parent abhors being part of the crowd. They equate conformity with boring and dull. Unlike their parents who were content with Beltek TV, Vimal Saris and boating at India Gate, the current set exposed to global cinema, art and trends, thinks big. No one wants their child to be another brick in the wall.
Sorry, Aartis and Amits: your reign is over. It’s time to give way to Kaira and Raisha and Wrohits. But here’s another funny fact. If I were to scream Mishaaa at the local creche, I’m sure at least 6 babies in chic frocks will turn around and drool.
Dear Mommies and Daddies, is it possible that the Divas, Vians and Kians are the new Neha!
But when there are millions parents are engaged in their quest to be unique, how much different can they be? Rather they unwittingly end up being part of the herd.
Didn’t someone wise once say, the more you try to be different, the more you end up being the same!
Maybe it’s time you started thinking extra-terrestrial. Are Aeryn, Kagin already taken?