Names, Urdu, Religion and Us

The other day, I was thinking about the strong religious connotations a name has. Or, a regional connotation. Almost everyone I meet, thinks of me as a bengali, because of my supremely common name combined with a supremely common bengali surname. It’s a different matter that Das can be a bengali, bihari, oriya, assamese (and others?). Now, imagine the confusion someone who would be in if I had an urdu first name and my original surname. Or, my original first name and an otherwise urdu surname. Amit Shah Zafar, or Justjoo Das.

Which leads me to the conundrum I faced several months back. As me and the missus were going through names for laddoo, we were stuck on Guthli (the seed) as his or her pet name. But the formal name was a challenge. My love for urdu language in general, and ghazals as a a genre of poetry meant that I would often come up with (beautiful) names that would be immediately considered muslim. Not that me and the Missus have a problem with that, but this would have meant a lifetime of questions for the poor laddoo/ guthli. Imagine being asked five times a day, “you aren’t going for your namaaz? You are a non believer, eh?” or, “your parents are hindus, but you are a muslim! how?”. Imagine him repeating many more times in a day – My surname is Das and I am not a Bengali.

Just imagine the possibilities of beautiful names if such forced observations could be done away with. Instead of the Aaravs and Aanyas who have replaced Amits and Nehas these days, we could experiment with Arsh, Nihaa, Soz, Ghazal, Ashaar, Rehbar… Irrespective of the irreparable damage a boring surname like Das would have done to a Ghazal, an Ashaar Das would probably still sound beautiful. Imagine a Gurumurthy down south being called Soz Ramakrishnan – the firy Ramakrishnan. Or, Jatinder up north being called Sabr Singh- the patient lion. Such joy. Lost.

I just think that when you (can) bring other languages to your own, in an increasingly cosmopolitan world, it has the possibility to make it so much more beautiful. Alas, the only accepted confluence is english. So, David Patel or Arlene Mehrotra might be ok, but we will have to wait some more for a  Naaz Tendulkar or a Shoorveer Ahmad.

*It’s odd to be posting this at the fading end of a political debate where one gentleman is an extremist Hindu with a reasonably well documented hatred towards Muslims, another whose party has a long history of promoting religious/regional divide and rule, and a rookie whose name has been lent to an egg based delicacy at a place which claims to serve the food of the Greek gods.

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About Amit
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

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