Name Trends

Of late, parents in India have become more and more interested in finding unique names for their children. In olden days, a name was very much the grandparents' prerogative to choose, and indicative of either the qualities one wished the child to have or a person the grandparents wished the child to emulate or please. Or of course, there were all the names of the 5000 gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon.

Choosing the name was as much a rite of passage as the mundan or thread ceremonies. A south Indian child, even today, is named on the 11th day after his or her birth - the Namakarna ceremony. The first name chosen is a 'fake' name, symbolising various qualities of strength and logevity, essentially meant to hoodwink evil spirits. The second name is based on the star of the child and the initials connected to that. My daughter's initial came out to be 'SH' - the harsher sound, not the softer one in Sharada or Shraddha - in which we were really hard put to it to think of a name at all. The third name is the one meant for daily use, and is typically picked out by the grandparents.

In this day and age, few new parents are willing to hand over this privilege to the grandparents, though their agreement may be sought. I have heard some pretty unique names for children in the last 5-6 years. No mere 'Ashish' or 'Neha', no 'Lakshmi' or 'Shiv'. The names either go right back into our heritage and frankly some of them sound a little weird in a contemporary setting - I know someone named Ajatashatru! - or they borrow from other cultures or countries - our daughter's name is Alena, Greek for Helen. I have heard Vihastika, Zoya, Atyantika, Yuvna, Miraya, Rujula, Baruni, Suhana and more. The quest for uniqueness for our kids starts as soon as they are born!

I heard a funny story years ago about a girl whose parents were hippies and wanted her to pick out her own name. When she was about 5 and able to read, they parked her in front of the directory and asked her to choose any name she liked - and she did. She chose Area!

I wonder how much difference our names make to who we are and how we think about ourselves. Would Aishwarya (of Rai and little B fame) have sounded as alluring if her name was Suman? Would Writhik (sorry but that's the way I think of him thanks to his dance movements) sound as hip if his name was Gopal? I know someone who's now the hip, happening CEO of a telecom major who almost got called Nemichand - how right would it sound to hear ICE industry trends by Nemichand?

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