Monday, September 9, 2013

98. What is not in a name?

'Bhawani Singh couldn't be anything but 'old'   
A rose by any other name would undoubtedly smell the same. Any attempt at equating it with humans is unlikely to work, therefore when it comes to us 'name' does matter - an 'identity' for existence and even beyond. Imagine, if our ancestors had numbered us instead - someone's 'mobile' could have been other person's 'girl friend'. If that were to be so, legendary mathematician and astronomer Aryabhatta would surely have been named or numbered 'zero'.      

Whether short or long, names through the ages have had profound influence of prevailing cultures....gods, deities, creatures, colors, emotions and aspirations featured heavily in varying combinations in giving structure and meaning to names for the newly born. Not all names carry a 'meaning' though. While introducing herself, a little girl had told me that her name 'Ashnoor' was meaningless. It does seem so! 

Meaningful or inert, in each generation a set of names get the hype that we end-up having many persons with similar first names floating around. I had three 'Anil' and couple of 'Pritam' in my graduate class. There was a time when 'Sanjay' were in plenty and so on. Given the generational emphasis on certain 'names', it is indeed possible to figure out the 'age' without having seen the person. In the classic comedy Gol Maal (pic), Laxman seeks to meet the old man 'Bhawani Singh'. When accosted why did he refer to Bhawani Singh as 'old man' without ever seeing him, Laxman quips 'anyone named 'Bhawani Singh' couldn't be anything but 'old'.     

Length of names is another aspect, the genesis of long names has been distinctly acknowledged. Almost like 'geographical indicators', such names harbor multiple identities of individuals - family lineage being an integral part of it. Pronouncing such names might give you a slipped disc but length of names like Vijayendra Kasturi Ranga Varadaraja Rao or Villupuram Chinnaih Pillai Ganesan have had their justifications. Despite names having shrunk in size in recent times, more like brands, some cultures have yet to compromise on the length of 'names'. 

Whatever be the conditions or influences under which new born get their 'names', the Kabalarian philosophy strongly believes that an individual's character is strongly influenced by its name. One may not easily believe it but the order of letters in a name are interpreted as numbers and added up to  get a sense of one's character. 

In an interesting incidence, a local woman read the character of a person much the same way. The story goes like this: to escape from sudden rain showers, a traveler knocked at the door of a house. A female voice from inside questioned: 'Who is there?' The traveler was quick to respond: 'It's 'Julius Nagendranath Wilfred Singh'. 'Sorry', came the reply, 'there isn't enough space for four persons! 

Had Shakespeare been born in this part of the world, he would have ended up saying 'there is lot in a name'.