Monday, September 26, 2011

What's in a name?

Strange as it seems, a mere name plays a small but important role in the large scheme of my beliefs and my religion and culture. I am not referring to name of inanimate objects or other living creatures, but referring to our names, mine and yours. At an earlier instance, i had blogged about my name, and how it came about. My name was picked by my grandmother. These days you hear about people picking fancy names with intricate meanings, sanskrit one, ancient ones, new and modern ones, famous ones. Ram, Krishna, Aishwarya and Vijay (name used often by Amitabh in movies) used to be some very common ones. 

How does this all matter? And specially what is the religious connotation? Its clear what link that names like Krishna and Ram have. Children are named after personal gods and goddesses as way to appease their deities. Some parents name their children, in the fervent hope that they live up to their names. That will explain the numerous Kalam and Sachin that abound India.

All this seems so foreign, rather noise to me now. A small, and possibly insignificant lament by elderly neighbour fed my thought cells, with the most brilliant concept. It was not new, and is possibly known for centuries to others in India, but not me. To me this single explanation was meant to last a lifetime. 

We used to call this elderly neigbhour, KRK Uncle. KRK is initials, and i will leave it at that. He had named his children Shankaran, Raman and Narayanan, typical malayalee names of these lords. Of course, school, college and workplace had butchered their names to Shanks, Ram and Nara. I was sitting and have some idle chat with him, when someone referred to his youngest by this short name Nara. He politely answered the query, and sent off the enquirer. He then turned to me, and lamented about how names are being butchered. He then said, "in those days, we used to name our children, after gods. At our death bed, when we called out to our sons and daughters, we had the privilege of dying, while uttering the name of a god. It was believed that would take us to heaven." 

What struck me most was not the heaven or the dying part, but the fact that everytime one called out the child's name, you were calling the lord's name too. As i said earlier this simple explanation, prevailed on me. It was clear to me then, that this would influence the name i chose for my child. I called my son, Govind. A trip to Thirupati, few years before the birth of my son, influenced this particular variant of Krishna's name. 

Well there are intentions, and best laid out plans. I can tell you this. I chant the lord's name almost a thousand times a day. It usually takes about ten utterances of Govind, in increasing  tenor and temper, to gain my son's attention. Someone is surely paying attention, and extracting a price.