Being a Woman
What’s in a name ? According to The Bard, a rose would have the same effect on our olfactory senses no matter what it’s called. With all due apologies, Sir Shakespeare, I disagree with you. Imagine the rose being called a snarky or a thingummy. No doubt it would smell the same but I’d think twice about smelling something called a thingummy. Snarky sounds cold and unfeeling and sharp; not something I would like to hold close to a body part. When it comes to the importance of names, nobody is as qualified to comment on it as a Malayali, or a dweller of Kerala. We have been witnessing generations of parental cruelty in the guise of naming offspring. The true-blue Mallu looks sympathetically at people poring over tomes of baby names. We do not depend on Mr.Google for this nor do we resort to any complicated formulas or algorithms. We like to keep the process as simple as possible when it comes to creating names. Take a portion of daddy’s name, add a generous dose of the mom’s name and voila ! – completely unheard of name guaranteed to embarrass the child is ready. In fact our imagination has no boundaries when it comes to creating names. Some of the name holders even try their best to go incognito through life rather than be known by their given names. It’s so much less harrowing than to have to answer to something like Dolin ! The Malayali has a particular liking to the suffix -in. We have a plethora of names dripping with ‘in’s. Shijin, Tibin, Dibin, Sibin are just a few examples. Then of course we delight in choosing adjectives to address our children – Bright, Shine, Pretty, Smily etc. Of course if it’s a girl we promptly add a ‘y ‘ and so we have our Brightys and Shinys. We borrow liberally from any book containing words, and it really doesn’t need to have anything to do with humans. The mighty Mendelev would be struck dumb on seeing his cherished periodic table become the source for Mallu names. Enter Iodine, Neon and Xenon. In the seventies and eighties Mallus delighted in adding ‘mon’ (son) and ‘mol’ (daughter) to many a name – Sini mon, Xena mol et al are the results of this trend. But even I, a Mallu steeped in the eccentricities of Mallu land, felt slightly aghast when I happened to hear somebody mention a friend called X-mon. I wonder whether he and his siblings together formed the original X-men ! But even X-mon paled in comparison to a name I heard recently. A friend spoke to me in hushed tones about a name she had come across during the course of her work. I feel I’ll be adding to the person’s trauma by mentioning the name here ; I’ll just give a hint. It was six consecutive alphabets written together ! No rhyme or reason to it. To all the disbelievers who raise their eyebrows, I swear on my unwritten notebook that I’m not making this up. The friend in question still looked shell-shocked while describing the name and the harrowed expression of the gentleman who had to explain to a bemused group, the correct pronunciation of his extremely peculiar name.
Due to my constant exposure to strange names and the anguish of the holders of these names, I get quite agitated when I see a huge mismatch between the name and it’s holder. I’ve realised it’s not only we humans who have to bear the burden of ill-conceived monikers. If we take a step further and venture into the family of vegetables, we’re sure to find a disgruntled guy or two. Brightly coloured veggies seem to be getting all the good names. Take the tomato and aubergine; both are such beautiful words which slide like silk over the tongue. The polished, lush red tomato and the jewel toned purple aubergine have such exotic names. What about the elegant Mr.Zucchini ; an interesting name and a colourful personality to boot. Jaunty jalapeños and suave bell peppers nestle in harmony next to naughty chillies and the genial potato. On the other side we have the humble cauliflower and his cousin the cabbage. Each time I utter the word ‘cauliflower’, I expect a lil collie to come trotting up with a flower tucked behind each ear. The pretty white florets nestled in a bed of green surely deserves a better name. Why not call it a garden flower instead of the odious cauliflower ? And what about the cabbage ? Rhymes with baggage and sounds like luggage left behind in a cab ! The beautiful cabbage, with its fresh green leaves wrapped around itself deserves to be called a leaf basket at least. I’m not too enamoured by the onion too. The bright white onion encased in its pale pink peel would definitely be feeling upset over its unimaginative name.
I would definitely support the premise that there’s lots in a name. It gives the holder a sense of pride or despair depending on what it is. One of the most beautiful names I came across recently was Madhusmita ; so poetic and lyrical. It makes me want to know more about the person and find out if she’s as sweet as her name. Incidentally she’s a wonderful human being. So after careful consideration, and with all due apologies to The Bard, I declare my unending support for ‘There’s quite a lot riding on a name’ group. May your tribe flourish 🙂