My wife, Malathi, and I have spent several weeks discussing
names for our baby and we've finally agreed on something: We
hate each other's choices.
At this rate, giving birth to the baby will be a lot easier
than naming it. Only one person gives birth (thank
goodness!), whereas, in some families, naming a baby can
involve as many as 50, with suggestions pouring in from
parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, co-workers, and
even the idiot next door. The one who named his sons Laxman
and Taxman. If he has a third son, he's already thought of a
good name: Relaxman.
Luckily for us, no one else is suggesting names. But there
are certainly enough names being tossed around. I never
realized that name-selecting could produce so much
name-calling. I don't know how many times I've had to defend
my honor: "Hey! My name is Melvin. It starts with an 'm' and
ends with an 'n' but I wish you'd stop confusing it with
If we don't decide on a name soon, we'll be forced to follow
the tradition of some cultures: naming the baby after the
loudest sound the mother makes in labor. How else do you
think Oprah got her name? Her mother obviously meant to
scream, "Oh pray!"
Among my wife's favorite names for girls is Tarangini. She
considers it rather melodious, I consider it just odious.
Tarangini. We might as well name the baby Tarantula. That
sounds a lot better.
If your name happens to be Tarangini, please don't get angry
with me. Get angry with your parents. They're the ones who
Perhaps they weren't thinking straight. I'm not suggesting
they were drinking, but that could explain why the word
"gin" appears in your name.
Among my wife's favorite names for boys is Kashyap, a name
that's almost as melodious as Tarangini. I can't help
imagining the teasing he'd get at an American school
cafeteria: "Hey, Kashyap! Please pass the ketchup." Not to
mention the ribbing during running competitions: "Hey,
Kashyap! Please catch up!"
Malathi has a theory why her "unenlightened" husband can't
appreciate these beautiful names -- he didn't grow up
reading literature in Tamil, Sanskrit and Bengali. "Just
because you didn't learn to appreciate sounds in these
languages doesn't mean these names aren't beautiful to the
ears." She makes a good point. Now all she needs is a good
She believes that her favorite names may one day become
universal, just as Indian names are gracing westerners such
as Canadian humorist Chandra Clarke and Hollywood actress
Uma Thurman. Malathi may be right, but I'll be absolutely
stunned the day I meet a non-Indian named Tarangini.
Of course, I have no right to make fun of names, because my
name is not only old-fashioned, it doesn't reflect my rich
Indian heritage. But it's too late to change my name. I've
been a Melvin for so many years, I don't want to suddenly
turn into a Melvinder or Melvinathaman.
Malathi has convinced me that it's important to give our
baby an Indian name. Though she likes some western names
such as Olivia, she says, "I don't believe it's our role to
propagate them." As far as I'm concerned, if we end up
naming our baby Tarangini, we'll be done propagating!
(c) Copyright 2001 Melvin Durai. All Rights Reserved.
Melvin Durai is a U.S.-based writer and
humorist. A native of India, he grew up in Zambia
and moved to the U.S. in the early 1980s. Read his
previous columns at http://www.melvindurai.com
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