A name is a word. It is a spoken word, it is a written word. It is a word yelled at in anger, laughed with in times of joy, cried to in times of despair, loved and cuddled with in times of affection. A name is a sound. A name is a feeling. A name is an emotion.We fall in love with names. We remember names. A name is a person. And yet, at the end of it all, a name is a word. Just a word.
And so, there I was. Back home with the mother and the baby. I thought the worst part was over. The anticipation, wait, nervousness, sleepless night, labour pains; all of it had been ticked off the list. We were ready to start a new chapter in our lives. Things could only get better, right?
We had to think of and choose a name. The name-babu-was temporary. A beta name for our beta. We hadn't thought of any names for our son. Where do we start? How does one choose a name?
And that's my question to you: Assuming you weren't among the lucky few who were blessed with a dazzling flash of clarity in the middle of night, how did you name your child? Who did you talk to? Did you ask your parents and your friends? Did you put a poll on a website and ask people to vote? Or, simpler still, did you post the options on Facebook and Twitter and go by the most number of likes? Is the process a deeply private and intimate one? Or is it a noisy, family-driven affair? Does the task become easier if you pick an alphabet that the name must start with, effectively eliminating hundreds of thousands of other options? Or is it better to keep the playing field open to all alphabetical combinations and permutations in multiple languages?
Mega Combo Pack of names
We started off with what every tech-savvy, post-90s, hip and with-it parents do these days. We Googled 'names for boys'; a search that yielded half a billion results. That's almost half the population of India. Ugh. Then there was the mandatory purchase of a book. After Google searches, book purchases, and frantic conversations with friends and family, I had to accept the truth: I was hopelessly lost.
So I made a checklist. What were the characteristics I wanted the name to answer to?
Does the name sound noble and grand?
Does it signify the values he will ultimately stand for?
How will it look on a visiting card with the title 'CEO'?
How will it look on a movie screen?
What will the girls say?
Actually, that list was a thousand-question long one. All of them aimed at making my son a combination of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh-Usain-Roger-Rafael-Sachin-Narayan-Brad-Dhirubhai-Ranbir-Akshay-Amitabh-KumarMangalam-TonyStark. Now that's what I call a shortlist. NOT.
Back to the drawing board. One simple word and I couldn't make up my mind. We live in a competitive world. This wasn't like the olden days when you'd name your kid after the reigning superstar in movies. This was an age where every name was unique and had to have enough class and style to distinguish a kid from his peers. All this for a baby that fit between my elbow and palm; a baby who spent all his time squealing for milk or attention. This son of mine would, I was convinced, become the CEO of a billion-dollar company. He would discover the molecule that would make the drug that cured every disease. He would be the saviour of the masses, break the 100m world record for running and win the Grand Slam (tennis AND golf) every year. Oh yes, that's the kind of name I wanted my son to have.
Clearly I was over-thinking. Or was I? I hadn't even thought of the horrible scenarios it could lead to if I chose a name that was an easy prey for bullies. The names that are pronounced with guffaws, made fun of and, horror of horrors, are sitting ducks for double entendres. Only I knew the ignominy of being called 'Pam-Pam' for my entire school life. Of having kids gleefully chorus, "Manu bhai motor chali pam-pam-pam," everytime I passed by. Oh yes, I remember it all. What if I unknowingly chose a name that would be similarly mutilated and mocked at by those devious back-benchers?
Two chits, one name
Enough was enough. At this rate, I would never be able to choose. We made a proper shortlist this time. We tested a few names on our friends. They couldn't even pronounce some of our more creative compositions. The written word and spoken word are so different. What looks great when you see it on paper might sound like a gargle when verbalised.
And kids are kids. They will mutilate any name you give them. If they can't crack the first name, they'll go after the surname. If neither is assailable, they'll assign you a random name. That's why kids are so good. Kids are imaginative. Their minds are bright and work overtime. You can't do anything to avoid it. That's also how some friendships start. Friends give names to friends.
Then one fine day, we whittled it down to two choices. "Varun" and "Vedant". We found one exotic and powerful; the other generic and yet, appealing. Both names had a few alphabets from our names. We sang, spoke, whispered, declared, pronounced, uttered, scrawled, scribbled, doodled, drew and pencilled both the names every way we knew. We did it till we were exhausted.
In the end, we used the most sophisticated decision-making hardware known to mankind: we made chits. We thrust them into his tiny palms and left the decision to a two-month-old baby. We're not sure which one he chose. But we landed up choosing the other. That's how, after 60 long days, Varun finally got his name.