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How to name a baby

There’s little in a name, if you go by Shakespeare. But parents do make quite a fuss about naming a baby, and with good cause. Nivriti Butalia comments.

india Updated: May 09, 2009 23:29 IST
Nivriti Butalia

Flipping coins to name a child is not common practice in India. The ‘heads, it’s Geeta, tails we go with Anjali’ logic doesn’t work in most Indian homes, or in any other we’ve discovered so far.

Take Bulbul Hooda. The 25-year-old marketing executive at L'oreal, India is the younger sister of Abhimanyu. Schoolteachers were always intrigued about why his sibling did not have an aptly ‘Mahabharat’ name. The reason is simple. Bulbul was a premature baby, tiny and dark. So, while the plan was to call her ‘Abhilasha’ — to gel nicely with Abhimanyu — the family thought that such a tiny being would get crushed under the weight of such a heavy name! That and nani’s nickname for a 6-month-old girl who chirped incessantly resulted in Bulbul Hooda being registered as just that.

Parents often feel torn between choosing a name that is popular and easy to pronounce over one that is unique but a tongue twister for foreigners. Websites are crawling with suggestions, categorised into mythological names, those easy to pronounce and other sub-sections. Abroad, there is an index for the most popular baby names (Emma and Jacob topped the 2008 list in the US). Back home, we are still to catch up, with no one official statistic on whether Aalia is more popular than Rhea.

October-born Yashodhan Ghorpade is an economist in his twenties. Unusual as his name might seem, more so for a generation fixated on Rahuls and Rohits, the story goes that his birthday coincided with Dhanteras one year, and so his grandfather, Yashwant, merged the Yash of his name with the Dhan of the festival and came up with Yashodhan. And he thanks the stars for his name, and not just for the easy email address that was to later be his.

Deepak Bakshi, advanced numerologist and Reiki grandmaster, is a consultant for new parents. He says the trend nowadays is to give the child a “unique name” that is derived from Indian scriptures and is “meaningful”. According to Bakshi, names like Yashaswini (meaning Goddess Durga) are a lot more in vogue than the Ranis, Geetas and Bobbys of yesteryear.

In India, Bollywood also plays a huge role in our choice of names — as does cricket. Invariably, a school assembly will have a healthy sprinkling of Sachin, Hritik and Aishwarya. Movie characters aren’t far behind, with Raj, Aryan, and, back in the 80's, Chandni being the hot names on the block.

Names apart, what would you imagine becomes of a child’s surname when a Bengali marries a Maharashtrian, and both have multi-syllable last names? Well, in the case of Jayati Talapatra and Ajit Velankar, they adopted the south Indian practice — have just the father’s first name as the child’s last name. And so we have Leela J Ajit, simply named, minus the baggage of two heavy-duty surnames.

Nicknames are the other danger you need to be wary of. If numerology is anything to go by, our Pappu, Chikoo, Pinky-like names "have a different frequency which may or may not be in harmony" with your date of birth, and the person you are.

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