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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Names My Parents Called Me (at home)

Indian people like variety. We don't like things to be too vanilla.

We don't usually like this

This also includes how we name our children.

In the large, extended Indian community that I grew up in, most children were given not just their name, but also a "home name."

Now, before my peeps get mad at me for making blanket statements (as I sometimes recklessly do), I am just saying this is what I grew up with.

The "home name" would rarely have any relation whatsoever to the child's given name. As a matter of fact, the less it resembled the name on the gift certificate, THE BETTER.

Pratish. Translates to Piku (pronounced Pee-koo).
Shivam. Ahh, she was destined to be a Bantoo (pronounced Bun-too).
Satyam. Guddu. Of course!
Richa. Dimple. Enough said.
Atul. Oooh. We shall call him Romi.
Kusum. Oh, I know. Let's mix it up a little and call her Munni!

As if our regular first names weren't hard enough for our non-Indian friends to pronounce, now they would get totally thrown off when they came to our houses to hear us being called something completely different.

Like Meenu (Anita at school).
Or Bullu (after they had just figured out how to say Shweta).

I don't know how our families came up with the "second names." I sometimes imagine that it's like the Harry Potter sorting hat and it yells something like:

"But of course you should be a Minkoo! Ha ha ha ha."

Somehow, I walked away with only one name.

Sometimes, LESS IS MORE.

Pumi (Pummy), Rinku, Tunnu, Babloo, Mintoo, Bunty, Chinkoo.

All second names of people whose real names just went ignored.

The tradition is so ingrained in our community that we would give a second name even if the first name was only one syllable.

When Shaila was born, my mom asked "Ghar ka kya naam raakhegi?" (What will her home name be?)

"Um. Hmmm." How to tell her? "Shaila?" My mother looked devastated. Gone were her dreams of calling my child Binku or Twinkle or whatever she had been thinking.

I recovered quickly though when I saw how upset she looked.

"You can call her Shay. Or Shay-Shay!" My mother did not look happy. Shay did not sound nearly as cool as Pinky. Too safe.

You know what I mean?

But she did stop campaigning for me to call Shaila Buntee, or something like that.

My mother and father with

Pinky Shaila

Like I said, I know she just wants to keep it interesting.

Before Nico was born, John and I told my parents that we were planning to name our second child "Nicholas."

My father mulled it over and turned to us and said:

"I shall call him Samir."

I looked at John. Obviously, we both realized Samir did not sound anything like Nicholas. My father looked very pleased with this announcement.

"Why Papa? Don't you like Nicholas? Is this what you want his "home name" to be or something?" I was trying to understand.

"No. His home name will be Sam. At home, I will call him Sam."

So, now my parents wanted to give him a "home name" and . . .

"Hmmm. So, Papa. Basically you just want to name my child something else COMPLETELY and this is your way of telling us you don't like the name we chose."

"Well. I didn't say THAT." Um hmmm. "But Samir is a good name."

I saw that my dad was already sitting back and thinking about his future grandson, Sam and all those special moments he and Sam were going to share. And I love, love, love my father but I had to tell him.

"Um, Papa. Not Samir. NICHOLAS ."

My dad looked like he was crushed for about a minute. Then he got distracted by Sa-Re-Ga-Ma-Pa (which translates to Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So and is like Indian Idol but on crack for my peeps.) , which was on Zee-TV (the Indian television channel.) And he forgot about it.

So, now Nicholas's "home name" is Nico, which I thought was a nice compromise.

But I have a feeling if my dad started calling him Sam tomorrow, we would probably just let it slide.

Because maybe some traditions are not worth letting go.


Before I left work, I mentioned to two of my Indian colleagues about this upcoming post. They both piped up. "I also have a home name!" and so with some persuasion and some nagging, I got it out of them. So at least I know other Indian people do it too!

From now on at the office, Aastha is going to be "Dinky." Mangesh is "Guddu."

Got that everybody?

Ah guys, you should have known better . . .


Shiiish said...

Ha Ha! This is so hilarious! Thanks for sharing!

Monique-aka-Surferwife23 said...

Wow! I had no idea. I wouldn't be able to keep anyone straight if I had to remember double the names!

Masala Chica said...

Shiish - thanks - its all true!
Monique - I don't think us kids did. We just said "Hey You!" a lot!

Aastha said...

Very very funny, Kiran. While reading your post - I was thinking about all my close friends and guess what? All of them have a homename!!

But, I must say you tricked me :)

Masala Chica said...

aw you know i love you girl :-) i just want to make sure you always feel like you are at home!

Mommakin said...

I learned something new today!

Anna See said...

i never knew this! very interesting.

we call my daughter all sorts of things at home.

WhisperingWriter said...

I didn't know about this. Very cool.

I usually call my kids hellions at home.

I'm kidding. I usually just think it.

Masala Chica said...

yeah - its something you would have known if you had close indian friends when you were growing up. as for hellions, i would still rather be called that than twinkle.


Glennon said...

(said like Tom Cruise in Jerry MacGuire.)

Masala Chica said...

that works out really well glennon because I LOVE IRISH PEOPLE!

Anonymous said...

I just call my kids crib midgets (crib midget - senior/junior or even CM1/CM2..I am not even Indian. LOL....they will have different home names as they grow. LOL!

Funny post!

Mangesh Chaudhari said...

I am wondering if they have something like name your baby or you wont be able to leave the hospital in India, most hospitals would be occupied for a month and filled with relatives from all over with suggestions. This would do nothing but add to the confusion of the already confused parents :)

{ Persis Shah } said...

my nick's "chicki" :P :P

i quite like it though...people call me chiquita...sometimes chiclet (an indian gum) and of course chicks =)

although i hate "chickoo" which my in-laws seem to be hell bent on calling me :P


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