It’s the same puzzled look, puckered eyebrows and the stereotypical reaction “sorry! I didn’t get you “, that has bothered me each me time I was asked “what’s your name?” Perhaps it’s that susmi isn’t a very familiar name for the south Indians or, it’s because of my incorrect usage of the “sh” sound (As observed by my best friend who feels that I always mess up with my own name),I always had to make a second clarification on my first name. As i grew up, my name became the most powerful weapon for me to accuse my parents. (Well, my name was an outcome of an extensive research done by my mother and unanimously approved by the family!!). Just in case you are wondering if a name could cause such hilarious roller coaster reactions, it’s time that you meet my neighbor Aslesha. Her name being a synonym for the word “hug” in most of the Dravidian languages, has always managed to win her many accolades ever since her high school days!
Thanks to a cousin of mine who is expecting a baby soon, I had this very urge to carry out a comprehensive investigation on Onomatology (Yp! that’s how the study of Names is called as). But I must tell you, my list of obligations never ends with her; instead it is extended to numerous people around me- for instilling an essence of curiosity each time I hear their name. The lesson I learnt was very obvious- there is a tale behind every one’s name. Aaliya, for instance got her name starting with a double A, simply because her dad wanted her to be the first in the school attendance list. The name Anit was derived out as a unique combination of the first letters of his parent’s names-Annie and Itoop. And now, would you believe that a boy was named “swathanthrakumar”(the independence boy), just because he was born on August 15th, the Indian independence day? I have strong doubts whether his parents were inspired from the traditions of the Yoruba community of Nigeria, wherein babies are named depending upon the conditions in which they are born. Well, I was told that the Yorubas are known for their crazy names such as Abegunde (Sunday boy), Bejide (rain boy) etc.
In the Swahili tribe of Kenya, the tradition is to give two names for a baby- the first name given at birth describes his appearance and the second is the adult name, given upon maturity. Interestingly, it is a tradition in china to give their kids ugly, meaningless name in order to confuse evil spirits. In the Navajo community, a name is considered to be utmost precious that they are used only during special ceremonies. In case if you are wondering about their day to day conversations, they manage to address each other as “mother”, “son”, friend”, daughter” and so on..
Weird I must say, the Wikmungkan tribe of the North Eastern Australia has an elaborate child naming ceremony that take place during the child’s birth. A nurse would call out all the child’s living relative’s name one by one. The name being called out when the placenta is removed from the mother would be the child’s name!!
With a multitude of websites and books featuring on baby names, this story never ends. As i said in the beginning, behind every name there is a tale- that of traditions, hopes, interests and beliefs. While it’s just a fact that nobody likes his or her name, everyone loves every other name. Out there, my cousin is still in an expedition to find a name for her baby. And i realize, many more Asleshas and anits are still waiting in the queue.