Blame the namesake

If Munni from street A elopes, it is Munni from street D that becomes 'badnaam'.

Recently a sportsperson who shared his first name with a politician was in the news a lot. For a while this made me wonder when the politician entered the field of sports! Of course, this was an insignificant goof up that got cleared fast. Yet, the confusion and embarrassment that namesakes, and their swapping could create, is by no means insignificant! Even Shakespeare who said ‘What is in a name?’ would agree that a lot is there as far as namesakes are concerned.

Decades ago, the practice of naming  the offspring after those the family admired, be it politicians, religious icons, film stars or even a colleague, friend or neighbour was around. This was a way of respect to the admired and a blessing and a wish to the offspring that the latter would shape up like the namesake. Thus South Indian homes boasted of Nehrus, Gandhis, Netajis and even Bapujis. The problem started when parents picked up not only the first names but the second too. Thus Dalbir Singh was often called up on to explain how a Singh could be part of a Malayalee family and the fascination his father had for his namesake while in the North.

Commonplace names that each locality specialises in bear the brunt of most  confusions. While Sarojas, Bhagyas, Venkatas and Srinis abound in Karnataka, Ramyas, Thangams, Unnis and Kuttas grace every other house in Kerala. While Laxmis of all virtues – Bhagya,Dhana, etc, and Hariharans and Ramus are the pride of Tamil speaking areas, Chunnus, Sonus and Munnis play havoc with their namesakes in the North. Thus if Munni from street A elopes, it is Munni from Street D that becomes ‘badnaam’.

I still remember the incident in my high school when the news of Sita’s demise spread like wildfire making the whole class burst into tears. Half an hour later, Sita walked in hale and hearty much to our embarrassment and relief. A retired neighbour of ours once welcomed his ex-colleagues who had come to pay their ‘last respects’ to him! Their namesakes were to be blamed in both  cases.

Of course initials are supposed to distinguish individual names. Yet decoding them is laborious. Besides a street might have same initialed namesakes (SIN), much to the delight of the postman who drops all the post into one box to be sorted out by the namesakes. It is here that nicknames – complimentary as well as derogatory – come into play giving birth to Lata, the tall; Raja, the squint-eyed etc.

The modern parent’s attempt at choosing unique names for their offspring by scanning the  epics and history  texts is a way of steering away from this confusion. Let us wait and watch how long it takes for these names to create namesakes.
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