Wednesday, May 12, 2004

What is in a Name

What's in a Name

I know many Desi's have to deal with the typical questions when it comes to their name, and specifically helping non-Desi's learn to pronounce the "exotic," "intersting," and "unique" names that many of us have. The cool part is actually getting to explain what our names mean--my name means truth's victory by the way. Anyway, below is the first paragraph of an article from by Roopa Unnikrishnan and her husband and SAJA co-founder Sreenath Sreenivasan.

One of our pregnant friends complained to us that we had already "taken all the good names." She was exaggerating, of course, but our twin babies do have four names each. And explaining why they have four names--instead of the usual two of most Hindu kids--has been an all-too-frequent occurrence.

Before we explain it, their names: Our daughter--born first--is Durga Maya Nellery Sreenivasan. And our son--born two minutes later--is Krishna Mohan Nellery Sreenivasan.

Two years ago, Roopa was praying at the Hindu Temple in Flushing, Queens, and was making her rounds of the various gods. At one point, she found herself standing, eyes closed, in front of one of the idols. As she prayed silently, she said, "If we have a baby, we will name it after you." Then she opened her eyes to see that she was standing in front of the statue of the goddess Durga. We later joked that we'd better have a girl one day--otherwise, we'd have a boy with a rather unmasculine name. We also joked that it was good she hadn't made that promise to some of the gods there with more complicated names, such as Manikkavachaka, Swarna Bhairava, Dakshina Moorthy. A few months later, we discovered we were pregnant and doubly blessed. We had a name for the girl already picked out then; we just needed a name for the boy.

But as we began to discuss the name Durga with our family and friends, we encountered a good deal of resistance. Among the complaints: "too complicated," "too rare" (wasn't that a good thing?), "too hard for Americans to pronounce," "doesn't rhyme with anything," "no short form," and on and on it went. Several folks suggested other girls' names they liked and also suggested other names of the goddess Durga herself, though some of those, such as "Chamundi," were even more complicated. While we agreed that Durga wouldn't be the easiest name to grow up with in New York City, we also agreed you don't try to waffle on the kind of divine promise Roopa made. You never know the consequences....(click here to read on)


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