When a baby is born, the parents have a huge amount of responsibility to deal with. For first time parents it is even worse, because they have no idea of what they need to do, and they cannot stop worrying about what is the right way to do things. This is a baby, who you realise is more precious to you than life itself, the very first time you see him, hold him, and the entire responsibility of his life is placed on you. It would be alright if this were a walking, talking person, but this one does not do any of those things, atleast yet. So how do you fulfill his needs if he cannot even tell you what they are. He cries for everything, when he is hungry,sleepy,in a wet diaper or has air trapped in his windpipe from suckling too hard, and you need to figure out what the crying is all about, sometime it maybe just to get you to hold him. Its quite crazy, to be honest and add to that the responsibility of finding a good name for him. And that my friend, is not an easy task.
When the BB was born, I had a pre-selected boy name. Actually I had two, since I had wanted twins, but the ultrasound scans had dashed all my hopes, and I knew it would be just one. So one name was what I had in mind for a boy and and one for a girl.(I did not officially know the sex of the child, since it is illegal in India to disclose that, but I had a strong hunch from the second trimester that it would be a boy).However, when the BB was born, the name did not feel so good anymore, neither the GP, nor I wanted to keep it. And so began the hunt for a name. And it took us nearly a month to finalise it. And then we thought the job is done. But apparently not.
There are explanations galore that I have to give to people, who have a million questions to ask, about why we named him what we did. For those who don't know, the DH and I were born to families of different faiths, and hence the name could have been signifying either of the faiths, Christianity or Hinduism. We picked a name that is Greek in origin, because we both liked the name, its meaning and it sounded wonderful to us. Barely did I know the game had just begun, when I felt that it was actually done. Before the name was selected, there were strong hints and messages sent across to the DH by his relatives, telling him a Hindu name was not acceptable, and later I have ended up hearing no end to it.
To me a name is a word, belongs to a language, not any religion per se. So its the meaning and phonetics of the words that were important to me. I did not care to give him a name that is Indian so to say, because I had to, I just wanted something nice. I was not determined in picking any particular kind of name. I wanted something Egyptian or Greek because both the mythologies entice me and I find them very exotic. My own name is quite exotic, but quite a tongue twister, and I knew I definitely did not want that for the BB. All my life I have heard my name butchered and liked it a little less for that. The Hindu/Christian angle in a name just never occurred to me. With a high probability of not being in India all our lives, I found it a sensible thing to give him a name, which is easier to pronounce. The only thing I had decided on , was the first alphabet of the name, that had to be. It is the last alphabet of the DH's first name, because I thought of this as signifying that his son, would take up from where he leaves, had it been a girl, it would have been the last alphabet of my own name, same reasoning.
As is the case, when you tell someone you have had a baby recently, they ask the name. And so often I have had surprised looks and words from people for not giving him an Indian name. How could I not put a bit of my ethnic background in his name I have been asked time and again. An old colleague infact told me quite bluntly on the face, that India has great names to offer, and its only stupid people, who want to ape the west who go looking for non-Indian names. I was quite taken aback by his hostile reaction. And there have been more and more and more such incidents. I do not even bother to reason anymore.
But I wonder what is this mentality about Indian names. What is the issue here? That we cannot open up and accept new things, or is our culture not strong enough in itself? I have heard and known names formed out of Indian languages all my life, and hence the name I picked sounded more unique and exquisite to me. When people from other cultures can appreciate and adapt to our culture, why can we not do the same to theirs. What is the big deal? Does that not make us a richer culture, when we combine some more. And selecting a name from a non-Indian language, does not alter the culture of an entire nation so to speak. And the culture that people so wish to defend, also includes, sati, dowry deaths, spitting on the roads, wife beating and worse. So get off the high horses, people. Its my child's name. I choose what I want to, you have issues, move on, and name your own child, I don't need your censure.
The name has nothing to do with religion or culture, it is just something that I believe would sound good, and be meaningful. I don't believe in surnames either for that matter. I believe in individuality, and the burden of a family name weighs us down. I am what I am, not what my ancestors have been over generations. Every family name, carries an energy with it I believe, based on the people who have formed the blood line, and the heritage of carrying it scares me honestly. I want to be free, and do what I want to do, as I want to do it. Not carrying a surname, does not mean I am any less related to the people who are family, but it does make me feel free. In India, it is quite impossible to expect to survive without a surname, and even worse in a state like Maharshtra where the name has to have the father's/husband's name inserted into yours, else you lack credibility. I was actually questioned at my passport's police clearance, for not mentioning the DH's name as my middle name. Imagine, what would have happened, had I gone without a surname or even my maiden surname for that matter. The police officer would have probably fainted. It is just so pathetically regressive, that it is not even funny any more. So if I ever manage to get to a truly free land, I am getting rid of all surnames, and may just pick a fun last name, or maybe use the DH's first name as my last name, like Sushma Swaraj does. Would probably do that even for the BB, I don't need him carrying the burden of family names. Want him to grow up as a strong individual, a good human in his own right, without names shackling him down.
My name was selected in a lucky lot kind of way, traditionally. A few names were selected, (not based on particular alphabets or anything) written on the floor, like rangoli/aalpona and diyaas were lit, one for each name. The last one to remain lit was the chosen one. The BB's name came from a lot of googling, seeing baby name sites and constant discussion between the DH and me. The DH's was picked by his father. How was your's chosen, or your child's for that matter?