Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WHAT'S IN A NAME? By Liza Saha

Think about this and think beyond Shakespeare. A lot - our identity, our existence and our entire lifetime revolves around this one aspect on which we hardly give much thought due to our limited control in the matter. Something so personal and intrinsic to our personalities and we have no say in the choice. What to do such is life!

It is strange, how unconsciously we (ok not all but most) associate images and personalities with names. In my profession where I speak or interact with unknown names and faces all the time, it is fun to put faces to the names and contacts. There are even names whom I have often interacted with, have become friends but never met. For me, those names are my friends, acquaintances and a treasure trove of information.

Now ask me the importance of a name! I have lived all these years answering people whether I am a Christian, Bengali Hindu or a mixed breed with a name like that. I completely appreciate the curiosity but it is slightly weird answering queries on one’s religion. So, on an average 5-10 minutes of any informal introduction of mine revolves around the name. At times it is plain annoying and makes me wonder ‘Why should I answer about something which I did not choose in the first place?’ Easy escape but I like the difficult route.

Not to forget, the pain of always getting my name confused with Lisa. Well, that may be the popular one, but I aint the popular variety. I am tired of correcting people who do not even manage to get a four letter name right despite polite reminders and corrections. Hence, I have just given up on me, my name and the spell check. School was spent hounding guys who would call me Lizard, Chhipkili, Chhips (as well by the wannabe cool sorts) and the list is endless. Imagine being associated with a creature that you loathe and are scared of! It is scary to live with a nick name like that.

The funniest incident happened sometime back when I had to travel a short distance in Delhi in a shared auto (due to the lack of availability) with a random guy. Dressed in traditional attire for a pre-wedding function, I was impatiently waiting for the 5 minute ride to get over. The random guy insisted on initiating a conversation and as it is with unknown people, started with asking my name. I pondered for a while and after a quick mental analysis of the pros and cons of telling my name to a stranger, told him my real name. His million dollar reaction on being told my first name,, “Naam nahi batana tha to nahi batate, jhooth bolne ki kya zarurat thi.” Now, I have never been more amused with that kind of reaction on telling someone my real name.

It has got to do something with my weird name in the Indian context or the torment of the entire name issue; I have been obsessed with names and the process of naming. Reading new names, remembering names of any and everyone I have met or heard of, nick naming people and inanimate objects have been my favourite activities since I do not recall when. Some of the nick names coined by me have become more popular than the name, now that’s my way to avenge the name atrocities hurled on me by the world. For the sake of the honour of all the great nick names coined by me, I shall not reveal them. But another hilarious incident happened when a batch mate from college days whom I had named on some occasion due to some incident - Lola (this was a guy), suddenly sent me a message after almost 4 years of passing out of college saying, “Hey, you remember me? Long time. I am Lola from XYZ college.” The message made me burst into laughter after a long strenuous day at work.

My latest hobby has been naming my gadgets. Considered lame and very lame by most people, I totally love this activity. So, my dearest laptop is called Pappu, my pink digital camera is called Pinky and my latest Android phone is called Andrew. Oops just remembered yet to name my dear abandoned MP3 player. Till the time I figure out, suggestions are welcome.

Long live thy name!


  1. "bhoopu" will be my MP3 name gadget suggestion :)
    Interesting article and I can relate as with my first name of "Arjun" and my near non-Bengali accent(thanks to my days in Delhi and Hindi classes instead of bengali when growing up) some unknown people confuse me with non-Bengali!!!....until I tell my surname, which is I think the most famous recognizable bong surname aka "ghosh" , made famous by hindi movie!! :)

    Keep such post coming :)
    Arjun "Ghosh" :)

  2. Liza,

    Superb post as always. Loved it. Can totally relate to the post. With a 23 letter, 4 word name, I have my own set of issues just like you got :D

    Love the sentence "I aint the popular variety"

    Eagerly waiting for the next post and the next and the next and ....


  3. Interesting post Liza. The incident mentioned was funny indeed. It was a pleasure to read this one.

  4. @Arjun Thanks a lot and glad you could relate to it :) Wondering how did Hindi cinema popularise Ghosh :P The most famous Ghosh I can think of is Amitav Ghosh :)
    @Sanjay Thanks a lot for your constant flow of kindness on my blog :) And you have a four word name? What is your full name?
    @Nikhil Glad you liked it. As I have already mentioned to you, the idea of this post originated from our Twitter conversation. Thank you :)

  5. This piece is so relevant to me with an unusual tongue- twisting name that I have and I am fatigued of finding an alias but possessing such a difficult name to pronounce comes with its own advantage as well, I must confess that my name on few unusual occasions protected me from hearing an earful from my boss since my client apparently could not pronounce accurately my name at the time of registering a complaint. I enjoyed reading your post.

  6. @Yudhajit Thank you for sharing your name woes. Glad you liked it :)

  7. a new reader of your blog...liked the title to nth degree...well was just ruminating on memories of a courier i received a year back from an U.S firm named "Devon John"...a complete westernization of my typical bong name Debanjan...was amused yet delighted by such a ramification...
    would have kept the name of the abandoned MP3 player as "Mukh Pora"...a typical bong connotation for "cursed"...tried relating to the fact that its abandoned and abbreviated as MP...3 is redundant though...hope i didnt get harsh on ur device...keep such thoughts flowing...



  8. @Debanjan Glad you liked the title. And I would never call my beloved pink latest Sony MP3 player Mukh Pora :P Liked the photographs on your blog.

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