The Name Game

My brother removed  ‘Singh’ from his name and I removed ‘Jyot’  from my first name many years ago. We took our decisions independently and at different times. I don’t have any regrets but now after nearly a decade of formally cutting short my name I do feel bad. Feel bad for making changes to a possibly colourful story behind the keeping of my name (of which I am unaware!)

I realized recently that a lot goes into naming a child. From what I understand about my name was that my late paternal grandmother kept it. She was one dominating force in her time. I can visualize everyone keeping mum, including my folks, when she must have held me in my arms for the first time and said my name. And that was it. No ifs. No buts. Simarjyot it was. Did my parents like it? I don’t know. They accepted it …maybe happily, as it was taken for granted then.

About ten years ago I met a woman whose little boy was called Siddhant but she kept addressing him with some another long name which I can’t even remember now. It didn’t even sound like a nick name like Sid, Siddhu, Golu, Molu etc. Soon she told me that Siddhant was the name of her choice and the other was of her mother-in-law’s choice. Since they didn’t want to disappoint her, they stuck to both the names! Talk about the child and identity issues! And more than that it explained the battle of the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law.

A friend of mine who is expecting her first child soon and her husband have decided upon the names for both girl and a boy. The dilemma? They have not shared it with their respective parents yet and don’t know what their reactions will be. The names, when I was told, could make ones ears point up. Lovely names though. There was this whole one long conversation I had with her over the phone a few days ago when she just fretted upon this issue. She only calmed down when she ended up telling the chosen names the next morning to her mother-in-law. It didn’t turn out to be a big deal as much as she vexed a night before. And I know she will be only completely satisfied once the names are registered after the baby’s birth.

Another close friend happily told us the name of his baby boy a few years ago only to tell us later that it had been changed and then changed again. Too many people were involved in suggesting the name of his child. So much so that he gave up in the end. It was perhaps another battle of the in-laws. I never asked him so who was it that suggested this name. Too personal matter.

The politics that goes into naming the babies especially in a society like ours where despite most of us living out of the joint family setup still feel out of decency and our upbringing to involve our elders in matters such as this is grave.

Besides the domestic politics, there is a deep analysis too that some do in naming their babies. A friend’s friend has refused to keep his daughter’s name Sita because he would not like to associate his daughter with Queen Sita of Hindu mythology, Ramayana who underwent miseries all her life despite being a pious queen and an avatar of Goddess Lakshmi. Who would have thought that the name Sita would be also deliberated upon! If such is the case then none would name their babies from folks and mythology be it for their  little girl or a boy as our mythical heroes and heroines underwent enough trepidation in life. Just name any one top of your head. Lord Rama? Being evicted from his own house followed by 14 years of exile and then a hard battle fought with Ravana! Ganesha? Had his head chopped by his daddy just for listening to his mummy? Draupadi, ofcourse is a no-no. She was humiliated way too much. Karna, the tragic hero whose life started tragically and ended in one too despite being a good soul through out.  Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who waited for him most of her life while he travelled the world.

I wonder what the children of Hollywood celebrities think when they are named Apple, North (with a surname West), Dusty Rose, Shiloh etc. Maybe not any different from the rest of us as they have always been called that. Or they are trained to take on the burdens of being a celebrity right from their birth!

So for all those who think that they could have been named something else or like me shorten their names, or choose to be called by another name instead of the rightful one, think again.  Let us not be an anticlimactic factor to our very own story/process that went into keeping our names. 🙂

 

(image courtesy: https://a.dilcdn.com/bl/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2010/06/nametag1.jpg)

 

Painting cruelty with softness

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I have been at a loss of verbs (pun, yes!) looking for, as my client asked, a ‘softer’ replacement. I have been wondering what words can be soft for acts that are outright cruel. So if the villainous king kills babies by throwing them against the prison wall, how can you tone the sentence down without losing the essence of the story?

I was recently given a writing assignment where I had to rewrite Lord Krishna’s life story for the reading of children starting as young as five. And in times such as ours when even calling someone fat (who is naturally so) is formally incorrect, imagine writing on Krishna’s life without having to use all those forbidden words is next to impossible. Just like writing on any mythology from around the world. They are full of acts committed by good and bad people alike such as deceit, murder, rape and all that is agreeably heinous.

So how far should you really go to tone down a mythological story for an extremely young audience? Yes, Lord Krishna as a child loved to ‘steal’ buttermilk from his neighbours’ houses. As he grew up, he loved to ‘flirt’ with village girls and the other characters in his story line, like his uncle ‘killed’ babies upon babies by ‘bashing’ them against the prison walls searching for the correct baby. His adopted sister was ‘dragged’ to the royal court when her ‘5’ husbands lost her, along with their kingdom in ‘gambling’. They tried to ‘disrobe’ her. So in short, what you have here is stealing, flirting, killing, bashing, gambling, selling your spouse and a near-rape. Now all this makes an interesting read for story-lovers but toning it down for little children! Yes, you want them to read mythologies as early as possible and without telling them that the good characters too indulge in acts that are absolutely unacceptable. How do you do it?

I couldn’t. Yes stealing was replaced by ‘took’. But the softer verb ‘took’ changed the real meaning, right? I changed the word bashing to flinging though that was also not happily accepted by my client. I left it on him to find a softer word. My mum suggested an adverb to bring down the impact, ‘casually throw’.  I think it is as horrendous as merely flinging. The uncle was anyway throwing the babies in a fit of rage! And disrobing the dress was replaced by pulling. They all sound equally bad! Why would you want to pull someone’s dress!

Never having read on child psychology I find it difficult to apprehend on how a child gets affected while reading or watching something he or she really shouldn’t.  All of us, including children, are different. We react differently to a particular situation. My daughter, who is ten, read an article in the newspaper nearly a year ago on how two babies died in a car due to heat as their negligent parent locked them inside the car while he/she shopped for hours. Every time when she feels hot, she is STILL reminded of that incident and talks about it. Yester night, she remembered about it when she felt warm after she had taken the quilt! She just has that episode stuck in her head and no matter how hard I try,  I fail to explain things to her.  And this is factual news that she read in the newspaper, so I can’t even tell her that it is just a fabrication or she shouldn’t be reading such news.  This is how she is and not all other kids of her age are like her. Some will glance through the news, some will go deep and some won’t even bother reading! But who is learning what and when is a very subjective matter.

So my two bits, be truthful (ok, you don’t have to give vivid details) and have a disclaimer in the beginning. After all, a very young child is not expected to read/watch without his parent around! A parent is the best judge to tell if a specific story containing all these unacceptable episodes is fit for his or her child or not. But, leave the story alone. Especially mythology.

(image courtesy: http://www.cliparthut.com)