Thursday, June 19, 2008

What’s in a name?!

A name is a word, term, or phrase by which somebody or something is known and distinguished from other people or things. – Encarta Dictionary.

A name is a label for a human or animal, thing, place, product and even an idea or concept, normally used to distinguish one from another. – Wikipedia.

Name is the first thing that a baby learns to react to. Babies, even before they learn to speak, or for that matter, even crawl, are able to identify their names and react to it when called.

The other day, I was discussing about names with my friend. We were talking about how people have weird names and what was the weirdest name we have encountered. Somewhere in between, she nonchalantly declared that she will name her kids with names that are quite common and easier to spell and pronounce and would not spin-off to anything goofy or hideous. Now she herself has a name that is the Marathi word for a flower-pot, and the actual noun is really funny when uttered, but I have been forewarned with dire consequences if I mention her name here.

I, myself, have had quite a few problems with my name. Now, I have an Islamic name even though I am a Hindu. I have absolutely no issues with my name being from any community, but it gets on my nerves when people do not comprehend the proper articulation of my name, irrespective of whether it is said on the phone or in person, or for that matter, even spelt out to them by me.

I face many issues when I utter my name to someone and that person is trying to write it down. First and foremost, people do not have the patience to hear the complete pronunciation from me. Then they get the spelling all wrong, and lastly, they themselves give a shot to pronounce their interpretation of my name, eventually making it all a big mess. I even resorted to taking extra pain to explain, like,

“My name is ‘Nishat’, ‘N…I…S…H…A…T’; ‘T’ for ‘Train’.”
“My name is ‘Nishat’, ‘Nisha’ with a ‘T’.”

Even after this, most of the times, my name comes across incorrectly. Maximum people get my name as ‘NISHANT’. There is this one friend, V, who for close to two years called me ‘Nishant’ even though she sends me emails regularly. Other common distortions of my name are ‘Vishal’, ‘Nishad’, ‘Nishan’, and once someone even got it as ‘Nisha’, never even once bothering to reflect that it is a female name.

I have had many problems with my name on official documents too.

<--- See the alteration from ‘Nishant’ to ‘Nishat’ on my birth certificate.

The Maharashtra Road Transport Office issues book type of driving license. Recently, they upgraded to the digital I-Card type ones. I have two copies of the book variety and one of the I-Card types. All three of them have different spellings of my name. One got it correct; second one as ‘Nishad’ and the last one as ‘Nishant’.

Check out the goof-up in one of the driving license --->

Such was the outcome even after personally filling out the registrations forms.

My experience with my name in Bangalore was the most remarkable. We are all quite aware of the convention of people from southern parts of India (the area starting below Goa till Kerala) to insert extra ‘H’ in names. Now, they got a little more adventurous and decided to play around with the ‘H’ in my name instead of inserting one. They revolutionized it from ‘Nishat’ to ‘Nisath’. After getting tired of playing with my first name, they resorted to calling me by my surname, which is ‘Parekh’, but they construed it as ‘PORREKH’.

Another aspect of my name being pronounced incorrectly is with certain community. Out of these, the Gujarati community is most notorious for not pronouncing the ‘H’ in any word. So, even though this category of people gets my spelling right, I advertently become ‘Nisat’. On similar lines, a real conversation between a cousin and his mom:

His Mom: (frenziedly) Kusal? Kusal?
Cousin: (annoyingly) Mom, if you wanted to call my ‘Kusal’, why in the God’s name did you name me ‘Kushal’?!
His Mom: ?????

Then there are cases where kids are given weird names whose pronunciation is either difficult or the name would have an intrinsic part to it, or, the name can easily offshoot to something infuriating.
1. I know a person named ‘Tanan’. I always forget how many ‘an’ does his name contain and I eventually end up adding extra ‘an’ to his name and consequently calling him ‘Tanananan’, or something like that.
2. A friend decided to name his kid ‘Jashit’. I warned him that his kid might grow up with a disturbed childhood when kids at school start excluding the ‘Ja’ from his name. He did not heed my warning though and I pray till date that my prediction comes out wrong.
3. A friend’s surname as ‘Abhyankar’ and he is always referred to as ‘Bhayankar’.

I have lost all hope that anyone would ever get my name right the first time I utter it. If I have a cold, the number of times that I have to utter my name in the hopes of getting it across correctly, increases exponentially. I have now ceased to correct anyone who gets my name incorrectly, if there is no official document involved. I simply agree as long as the noun which is blurted rhymes with my actual name. I usually respond to Nishat, Nishant, Nishanth, Nisha, Nishan, Nishad, Nishal, Vishal, Nisat, …..

Your personal experiences with names are welcome in the comments section.


Charu said...

This reminds me of how a Malyalee prof of mine used to call me :). First time I heard my name from him, I could recognize its me, even after listening to it for 21 years & not even with the 'unusual' surname in South India. :)

I recall how I asked the common frnd of ours ( I ve read you dont like taking names of ppl in blogs) how do we pronounce it :)...I guess you have not travel to Northern part of India where your name could be accentized to Punjabi... wonder what that would be !!!

Prasan said...

You are not alone in distress my friend!!! I have to go through the same routine.

Its always Prashanth or Prasanna. In Oz, ny name was commonly prounced as prassssan and eventually praz!!

Sometimes i feel my nicknames (Ravan or Dundee) are better!!

Mayuri said...

Too good, this shows where the productivity of IT companies is ?!! :) jst kiddin..

Sharing your name with a local eating-joint is even more pain in the ***...

Once the name was called out quite loudly, and I couldnt stop my reflexes from turning my head towards the source dreading the worst.. only to find that the one who called out was refering to the restaurant and not me...

I have been praying hard for the place to close down ever since.. :-D

Hemant said...

Good Work done Nishu....
And even a wonderful topic selected for blog.....Even one of my friend has such a FLOWERFUL name.......I must say her name is result of some family rivalry.....

Geetika said...

Oh Nishat....u have spoken my mind....i am also one of those whose name is never pronounced or spelled correctly at first instance ;).....
Though the great Shakespear said "Whats in name"...but I would say.... its "Everything in YOUR name".
To qoute it in a different way its not just the spelling or pronunciation of the name but your name and your fame go hand in hand. For instance, the big brands (Adidas, Nike,LUX etc.) use the name of great cricketers or filmstars....
May be its a little deviation from the topic...but afterall its all the NAME GAME!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha....that was pretty good post dude. But you should agree, that being a South Indian, I was perfectly correct calling your name for the first time when I heard it, didn't I?

Well, I should not tell you wassup with my name. "KIRAN" in telugu means exactly the same as it means in hindi, 'ray'. But the gender association in different parts of our country really made it misleading while addressing me. Just to give you the right stats, out of the 10 Crore population we have in Andhra about 6 percent will be with the name "Kiran". It is a very common name in Telugu households.

Sagar said...

Hey N-I-S-H-A-T... Name problem is common everywhere... You may wonder how can SAGAR face name problem. Yes.... I never faced the problem in India... But in OZ my name is a big headache for me now days.... SAGAR- so simple name. But Aussi made me SUGAR, SIGAR (I hate it most, SAGAAR... God knows what more to come out of my name.... Can you imagine some one can call me SUGAR???? But here most of them have declared and concluded that my name is SUGAR. Take yesterday's example. We are extending our house lease for another 1 year. We need to sign a bond. Since I am taking place of the outgoing person, I submitted my passport copy and driving license copy. I was very happy that my name is appearing on the bond paper!!! I went to collect the bond paper... The receptionist was very beautiful. I thought she made my day... She started filling the bond paper and I started falling deep in her beauty... But... But.... When I observed there is no my name in the paper instead written as SUGAR, I completely shocked. Ohh No Not Again... I could see only a Dumbo girl in front of me and no more beauty.... I requested her "please this is not my name. Sugar is to eat not to fill in bond paper. My name is SAGAR". Then she asked me to spell. I asked a simple question to myself "Is my name so difficult"? Then she opened our house file and started correcting my name. I started counting... 9!!! To confirm myself I checked my name on my passport photocopy also. :-):-) I hope by the time I come back to India I will call myself as SAGAR not SUGAR.

Shalini said...

This is the most hillarious post i have ever read.. really...
I couldn't stop laughing... Each line was so very funny... hehe... I simply loved the way things were explained.. I really didn't know you had so many names...

Keep up the good work.. keep blogging!!!