What’s in a name?

Flights Of Fantasy

[M Panging Pao]

Most common names of Northeast India are ‘uncommon’ to mainland India. Names like Chekrovolu Swuro, Shurhozelie Liezietsu, Sniawbahlang, Huidrom Taibangsatba Meitei, Mylliemnpdah, Tanpho Wangnaw, Phongwasun Ngamgadam, Chowang Yangchung, Khumun Tabronyu, Chesup Singlakring, etc, must appear alien to most outsiders.

As per Webster’s dictionary, a ‘name’ is a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or thing or a word or symbol used in logic to designate an entity. All persons are generally named after birth; thereafter, a person is known by that name throughout life and after life also. In fact, many societies have name-giving ceremonies. Some names are given by parents, some by grandparents, some by teachers, some by maternal uncles, etc. In certain tribal societies, names follow a pattern from father’s names. A few names are given based on famous personalities, events and even incidents. Some actors/personalities adopt names to boost their careers. Some people pick up adopted names and surnames. Another common pattern is the placing of clan name, father’s name before the person’s name.

Some persons pick up adopted names or surnames to follow famous personalities or to boost their careers. Did you know that Amitabh Bachchan is actually Inquilab Srivastava, Akshay Kumar is actually Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia, Mithun Chakraborty is Gauranga Chakraborty, Sridevi is actually Shree Amma Yanger Ayyapan, Jeetendra is Ravi Kapoor? Similarly, the actual names of famous international personalities include Marilyn Monroe whose birth name is Norma Jeane Mortenson, Lady Gaga’s birth name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Vin Diesel is Mark Sinclair, Jackie Chan was born Chan Kong-Sang, and finally Ben Kingsley, who was born as Krishna Pandit Bhanji. Famous politician Rajesh Pilot was actually squadron leader Rajeshwar Prasad Singh Bidhuri. Since he was an air force pilot, he picked Pilot as a surname.

With 28 major tribes, 100 sub-tribes, 50 distinct languages and dialects, in Arunachal also, names follow a pattern based on tribe and region. In certain areas, clan name is placed before personal name. However, certain different syllables or pronunciations are prominent in Arunachal. Syllables, pronunciations like í, æcopy;, nga, etc, are commonly used. Names like Líbang, Míbang, Émul are common. These names are commonly pronounced differently in other regions.

Recently, there has been a subtle change in the names of native people. With the proliferation of other languages, religions and increased interaction with other societies, names are undergoing a subtle transformation. Names like Vijay, Rajiv, Amar, Mahesh, David, Daniel, George, Gabriel, Lenin, John, Neelam, Indira, Onima, Aroti, Jamuna, etc, can be heard and seen. There are some names named after famous personalities, events, places like India, Bombay, Germany, Bharat, etc.

Change is the only constant in life. Following this theory, our names are also changing. Names are changing due to influences of language, religion and increased interactions with other cultures and customs. However, are names more important that the body or soul? Like Shakespeare famously quoted in Romeo & Juliet: What’s in a name? (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)