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The name of a gem

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson named his newly born son after the two doctors who treated him in hospital for COVID-19. Like him, parents across the globe have a reason or inspiration in naming their children. But the more you race back to the olden times, the more amusing the affair would look.

The name of an elderly milkman in our Punjabi village is Mehanga, meaning expensive in Hindi. “I was born several years after my parents’ marriage, and to prove that I was their precious gem, they gave me this name,” he says. Some parents had chosen the names of traditional sweets, especially ladoo. Some had used the names of months in the Punjabi calendar — Magar for the child born that month.

Many had named children after animals and birds, such as Billa if the baby had cat-like eyes or Tota to symbolise the free spirit of a parrot. The names of long-living, strong trees such as Peepal and Kikar and sun and stars were also favourites. This reminds me of our neighbour Tara Singh and shopkeeper Kikar, who also named his shop after it.

Surely, some families may be still carrying on the same naming convention, but a majority today have switched to contemporary names, such as Sky, Simple, Hope, Shine, Best and Globe, to mention a few. And they are much ahead than the English nicknames one gets on moving abroad, where Jaswinder becomes simply Jazz or Jazzy; Jagdeep, Jag; Mandeep, Mandy; Gurpreet, Garry; Paramjeet, Pam or Pammy, and so on. But I would ask what’s in a name? It is just another word. It is our actions and our behaviour that should define us.

rameshinder.sandhu@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 8:56:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-name-of-a-gem/article31709118.ece

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