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What’s in a name? More than what meets the eye!

What’s in a name? More than what meets the eye!
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Madhusudhan: What’s in a name? More than what meets the eye! RGIA is better known as Hyderabad Airport and passengers flying in and out refer to it by the shortest name possible, not by its official name.

I always wonder why we are obsessed with change of names. These include personal names given by parents, at special functions done with much fanfare. When the child is a few days or months old, he/she can’t protest; nor will he/she be in a position to understand what the name stands for, let alone its importance. Only when the child grows up and starts schooling, it dawns upon the boy/girl how ridiculous their names are.

Madhusudhan: What’s in a name? More than what meets the eye!

A majority of Indian names are derived from mythology and the Hindu pantheon, with minor alterations to make them sound modern. But a lot more are adopted without giving a thought to pronunciation and how harsh they are on the ear. If parents and grandparents want to seek divine blessings every time they call the child, the names of their preferred gods and goddesses will be included in the name. They get the satisfaction, all right, of invoking the Almighty several times in a day, but the name will be so long that it will be either abbreviated or shortened later for convenience sake. In the process, it will be distorted in such a way as to shame the god after whom the boy is named, like Krishna turning into Kit, Kittu, Kris and finally into a single letter K!

The nightmare is when names with all the alphabets of a language –English or any regional language – go into a name to identify a person in the passport. A to Z Raos, Reddys and Murthys are not uncommon and they flummox immigration officials at airports. But more bizarre is people bearing the names of well known and world famous personalities.

The name of my friend’s wife was Lata Mangeshkar. Her father was a big fan of the legendary singer and probably he might have wished that she would become at least a crooner for namesake. To his utter disappointment, she grew up cawing rather than singing like the Nightingale of India. But the climax was at an international airport when she presented her passport for entry to the official concerned. He laughed his head off, pointing out the name and the woman to his colleagues. Indeed, it was an insult; but the woman was in no position to remonstrate as she could hardly speak English. A few days later, she turned herself into an anonymous Lata in a local newspaper ad.

Like a Lata Mangeshkar born in East Godavari district, Lenins and Stalins, Tagores and Tolstoys, Lincolns and Luther Kings, and almost all the famous and historic figures are born in different parts of the State. The idea behind naming the beloved after a great person is rooted in the belief that he/she would achieve as much success as the original name holder and be a role model. But if names alone can work like magic wands, India could have been a heaven on earth. Despite numerologists’ insistence that by adding an ‘a’ here and deleting a ‘b’ there in one’s name, fortunes will change, the scientific basis for it is little. Still, those who want name and fame go by such advices to test their luck in a mumbo-jumbo way.

At non-personal level, populism plays a crucial role in changing names of streets, towns and cities. When governments change, the renaming game begins. Post-Independence, Bombay became Mumbai; Madras turned into Chennai; Calcutta was renamed Kolkata; Bangalore rebooted as Bangaluru, so on and so forth. Has a new identity helped the rechristened places in any manner? Hardly.

Often, what the Bard said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, is ignored either to erase the traces of the past or cover it up. Look at the demand of TDP supremo to replace Rajiv Gandhi with NTR in the official name of Hyderabad International Airport. In 2008, at the time of new facility opening in Shamshabad, Telugu Desam had pleaded for naming the really world-class airport after the former Chief Minister. But the Congress government at Centre and in the State had brushed off the demand and added one more to the name-credit list of former prime minister.

Six years later, RGIA is better known as Hyderabad Airport and passengers flying in and out refer to it by the shortest name possible, not by its official name. Considered to be one of the best airports in the world, can a change of name make it better or worse? Except satisfying someone’s ego, like earlier, it won’t serve any purpose except raising more controversies and opening old wounds.

When we think of it, there is no end to the renaming game and it is played out by the power of vocal chords. Whenever a new government comes to power, if it wants names changed, imagine the chaos. The two new state governments have bigger things to bother about than play the name-change game.

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