Picking the best fit

In the prevailing cacophony of naming and renaming cities, towns, monuments, railway stations, islands, many have asked “What’s in a name?” How does it matter one way or the other as the Bard said with more poetic fervour. While many on one side thought that no renaming should be resorted to as it is tantamount to tampering with history and the essential character of the place, those on the other side of the fence said names don’t matter and if the renaming has to do with nationalism, why not?

But in my view names are important for all the effort and exercise that must have gone into them. A name has character, it has significance, it is ‘me’. Take personal names. My younger sister and myself are nine years apart with four other siblings in between. While I don’t quite remember about the others, I do remember that when she was born, there was an argument over the choice of a name.

My mother rooted for Radha, the dusky, doe-eyed beloved of Krishna, the dark, handsome god in the Hindu pantheon. My father thought his youngest born should be called Kalavati, the repository of all art and learning. My mother made a feeble next attempt with Girija. Since I had finished reading an adaptation of As You Like It, I said Rosalind, which was immediately shot down by my father who said he preferred Indian names.

To resolve the issue, astrological charts were studied, planetary positions were examined and the learned Brahmin said something with ”Ra” would be perfect, the English equivalent being “R”. For further confirmation, my father consulted Cheiro’s Book of Numbers and according to him, numerically Radha was just fine. My mother won the war and Radha it was.

Cut to 15 years later and it was time to name my children. My son is Indranil and the name sailed through the consensus. I thought of naming my older daughter Srilakshmi as I had a particular penchant for the name but on quieter reflection, I thought the second part of the name would lend itself to various forms of pronunciation.

It would be Lokhi in Bengali, Lakhmi in Odia and Lacchmi in Northern India. To ensure uniformity, I stopped at Srila. My younger daughter, I thought, would be Laila but it did not find approval with my husband. So, she became Sripriya at his behest. Sri is a prefix for so many beautiful names in our country (Srikala, Sridevi, Srinidhi, Srilata etc) and I am happy Sripriya is one of them.

After crossing two generations, came the third with my granddaughter whom we collectively decided to call Laya. Laya is rhythm, the rhythm at the heart of dance, and the rhythm at the heart of the cosmos. Laya has turned three and owns the name with pride. So much for names and their sanctity.

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Picking the best fit

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