For someone who has a name as ubiquitous as a paan stained wall in India, it is impossibly difficult to understand the fact that people do have unique names. I have always hated my name. A.M.I.T. It ends even before it begins, just like premature ejaculation. It’s like a small blip of hope on a heart rate monitor in the otherwise death announcing straight line. It is like our paltry existence in the vast timeline of the universe.
When I was born, Amitabh Bachchan was at his peak taking bullets by a dozen, romancing girls who couldn’t even reach his chest (and marrying someone who barely reached his pelvis), dancing with lights blinking on his costume and dethroning Rajesh Khanna. He was called Amit ji by the planet and that unfortunately turned into a tragedy for me. My star struck parents christened me with the superstar’s name and thus started the painful story of my struggle. My Daak name (nickname) at home was Rishi, named after Rishi Kapoor who had just exploded in Bollywood with Bobby, Amar Akbar Anthony and Sargam, thus completing my choking and heart wrenching association with Bollywood.
If you are born in India with a name like mine, you will be pretty much used to the fact that screaming this name in a public place packed with people (like a bus, train or a cinema hall) will make 90% of the men turn around and stare at you. There were 4 Amits in my class in 12th which was stressful to the limit of insanity. Try searching me on Facebook and you will have to rummage through 38,49,237 humans with the same name. There are so many men with the said name in my office module that it takes a lot of effort to concentrate on your work instead of turning your head every time someone takes your name. The irony is that if you do not turn your head, it was actually you who were being addressed. Not a single day passes when I do not let 6-7 people know on my office communicator that I am not the one they are searching for to discuss the defect status. I have even modified my status on the communicator to ‘Wrong Amit’ but it is not working. There was this girl who pinged me a few days back and giggled (in written) that she saw my ‘wrong Amit’ status but still wanted to confirm. Maybe I should change my status to – I like slurping human intestines.
As I was growing up and struggling with my name, I noticed a change happening in the last two decades. There was a sudden jostle to give unique names to children. I think this was the only sensible decision taken by Indians in the last 20 years. And now that generation has grown up and suddenly the attendance registers in schools do not look like photocopies of each other. Amit, Rahul, Sunil, Raj and Sumit have been replaced by Aatmaj, Samyak, Hridayanshu, Saksham, Shivankur and Mantram. Priya, Ruchi, Pooja, Aarti and Smita have been replaced by Avni, Samvidha, Kaumudi, Matangi, Adveshi and Tarunima.
Having a unique name is not always a harbinger for peaceful existence. In the blind race to showcase their children as exceptional, parents usually forget that their children are global nomads of the future. A lot of them will visit foreign land and thus naming your child Ak-shit or Shit-ij might have disastrous results. When I read in the newspaper that an American mom has named her child Hashtag, I understood how far the unique name virus has spread. Imagine a school going Hashtag being bullied in school and crying in front of her mother.
“You are one of a kind my child! You make topics trend on Twitter. All those mad humans on Twitter cannot survive without you,” Hashtag’s mother will console her.
Poor Tantreshwar (this is a real name of a boy in Geet’s class) will have a hard life too. His parents must brace themselves for a lifetime of verbal abuses which their son will hurl at them for making him a laughing-stock. Also, his parents will have to find some girl named Chandalika to marry him because no normal girl will go beyond what-is-your-name with him before falling off her chair laughing. Looking at the brighter side, Tantreshwar and Chandalika’s wedding card will be a thing for museums.
Parents need to strike a fine balance while naming their children. Giving him a name as bland as Amit is as bad as naming him after a black magician who sacrifices babies and drinks their blood OR naming her after a special character whom boys will trend instead of date. You might say that changing your name will be a step in the right direction in such scenarios. No, it is not. I remember a boy called Pinkle in my school. After going through a lifetime of being a laughing-stock he changed his name to Prateek. He wasn’t as fortunate as Pi Patel. Everyone still called him Pinkle.
Shakespeare once said – What’s in a name? Well, he was mighty lucky that he did not say that in Hashtag’s, Tantreshwar’s or Pinkle’s presence. He would have ended up with a broken, bleeding nose.