On Naming our Newborns: The Ultimate Conundrum?

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JAVEID HASSAN MALIK

As a kid, tongue twisters always astonished and intrigued me, from typical sorts of the native language to the English variety. In addition to it, I also had an obsession with Chinese and Japanese names which are much harder to pronounce than tongue twisters. Whenever I enquired about the origin of these names to my teacher in school, her answer was a hilarious one, which made every one of us go ROFL: what these people do whenever they have to name new-born kid, they just bang a steel utensil on floor with force and whatever sound it creates is taken as name. If it is Ting tong than Ting tong is his name!
Now, coming to our own valley, our new generation names are even harder to understand than tongue twisters ; they are so peculiar, weird and difficult to pronounce that they appear Latin to common Kashmiri residents. These names seem to have no relevance with religion and often their origin is from Hindi TV dramas and commercials rather than from Islamic texts. Kashmiri middle class(es) are trend setters in every field of life and even regarding naming their kids they’ve set their own criteria and most important of them is name of their kid should be so unique and inimitable, that no one else in the locality should have the same name and in that quest, they reject whole dictionary of names and then the baby remains nameless for weeks.
Last week, in my circle of relatives , a baby boy was born. It was a moment of joy and ecstasy for whole family as he was the first kid that the family in contention was blessed with. Like every household business, the naming of the baby became an onerous topic. Proposals were invited for his name from everyone. Most obliged. Grandma’s suggestion was to name him “Mohammad Hussein” but this did not receive any audience for it and name was rejected on pretext it was an old and obsolete name nowadays. Someone came with up “Talib”; this too didn’t fit the criteria set for naming of the baby which had be unique, inimitable and exceptional.
Someone suggested a consultation with the maulvi saab and back came the fierce answer that their dictionary is full of trivial and used name so why waste waste time in enquiring them. Amid this pandemonium, he whole family was watching the PSL 2018 (Franchise Cricket League) on TV. Lo and presto, the solution to the family’s conundrum emerged: the names of two players were zeroed in. Now , however, the problem was which one to choose among two; it came down to tossing a coin and Roman won the battle and thus was approved. Within no time , however, the next mission of fixing the nickname began, which family will use onwards to call him, Romeo was agreed thus Roman became Romeo. For grandma it was a tongue twister and she had her own name coined for the baby (Raesa); for rest of the family members Romeo became pride name of calling him as no one else in the locality had such a name.
These foreign names not have remained confined to naming of newborns but it has gone to new level. The old appellations and names that we used to call our loved ones like Didi, baaya, behana,Abba, Boba are now obsolete. Now, our society has its own dictionary. Mummy has changed to Mom, papa to Pop, Didi to Di, bayaa to bro and so on. Our grandfathers no longer prefer to be called by Dado as it signifies old man and that they are not ready to accept thus they prefer to be called by Bada Papa which once was used for father. Few days ago, I heard boy a crying “Aanu” for help. a I was bit perplexed on hearing it and when I am came closer to his rescue, I came to know he was calling his elder sister whom he called Aanu. These appellations, Aanu, naina, kaki, zoova, laadli, Dr mamma, teacher aunty constitute the new addition to the growing list of new names in Kashmir.
If anyone dares to challenge the authenticity of a given name in terms of religion, some start quoting Shakespeare and say: “What is in a name?”. It may be pointed out here that our religion doesn’t give any discretionary power in naming of kid by any name and we need to be cautious in these matters. A good name has something to do with good fame of children in future. We need to and must consult knowledgeable persons in these matters. Our utmost priority must be religious consideration in our names as name itself is the verbal identity of our faith.

—The author holds an Msc in Chemistry. He is NET/SLET qualified and can be reached at: [email protected]

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