By Indu Balachandran/Sunday Herald
Bengaluru, November 14: I’m wondering if I could be considered sexist as I often presume a baby’s gender just by hearing its name. “Oh, so this is Axo. Oh, he’s so cute!” I exclaimed last week, seeing a chubby baby being wheeled around in a pram in my neighbourhood.
“SHE!” … corrected the peeved mother; an enlightened ‘womyn’ of these times, who had apparently spent much thought to giving her baby a name that blurred gender boundaries.
I hastily apologised for my unwarranted assumption. Well, just look at our Bollywood a… and Hollywood celebrities. They are way ahead of the naming game, and we really ought to catch up with them. They get us involved even as they post adorable pictures of their growing baby bumps on Instagram, growing our excitement and anticipation on what the baby may be named.
Take our imaginative Kalki Koechlin, who named her newborn Sappho. If that sounds all Greek to you, you’re absolutely right as this is a famous ancient Greek poet (Sappho is a girl, incidentally) that her baby is named after.
How original and creative! This fancy trend for Greek names probably started with Kajol and Ajay Devgn when they gave their baby a Greek name Nysa, which isn’t a prickly heat cooling powder as I first thought but a cool name, nonetheless. Then we fans went into a tizzy guessing baby names that star couples may think of, with our own imaginative combos. Would Virat and Anushka name their little beauty: ‘Virushka’? (Oh no, they didn’t, they announced something a bit strange, called Vamika.
Will Ranveer and Deepika one day produce a talented baby girl and name her Rapika — as Ranveer is such a fine rapper? It would be thrilling if they are reading this and note my suggestion.
Then remember the earlier frenzy over Abhishek and Aishwarya’s baby. They had nearly a billion suggestions from their adoring fans, but they rejected them all and went ahead with something called Aaradhya. Maybe subliminally influenced by the Aadhaar card which was just getting popular then.
Meanwhile, back in Hollywood. Gweneth Paltrow created a stir when she named her baby Apple. Soon followed a slew of celebrity babies named — I kid you not — Gravity, Kulture, Lyric and Story. But I don’t know why it was such headline news when Kim Kardashian named her baby North. What about my Tamilian colleague who is called South? Well, he’s Dakshin actually — all the same thing.
Then when Kardashian named her next baby Saint, we said, there she goes again. But then we Indians love the equivalent name Rishi, don’t we? In fact perhaps even your name sounds pretty weird in translation. Are you called Worship, Peace or Engrossed? Well, these are names of some people I know called Archana, Shanti and Tanmay. And which parents would call their children Auspicious, Brilliant Lustre or Creeper? My parents did.
Those are the names of my sisters, Shubha, Bhanu and Latha. When it became rather cool for women to wear men’s clothing, it became fashionable for ladies to have masculine names. Like Bobby in the old film Bobby, and Arya in the recent TV serial Arya. And now we have a rash of women called Alex in hit TV serials. Like Priyanka Chopra as Alex in Quantico, Jennifer Anniston as Alex in The Morning Show, and most recently, Margar Qualley as Alex in the Maid.
Though our very own obedient all-knowing household digital Maid is called by the more feminine Alexa. Jeff Bezos himself named her, after the highly knowledgable Alexandria Library in Greece. And just as our safe, but unimaginative grandparents named children after gods, goddesses, prophets, and Biblical characters like Shiva, Lakshmi, Mohammed and Mary, royals too stick to their ancestral hand-me-downs like William, Anne, Wodeyar, Gaj Singh etc.
Though our favourite red-headed royal Harry may have overdone this a bit by naming his baby girl Lilibet after his estranged grandmother as a grand attempt at reconciliation… without actually doing the messy work of meeting her at the palace.
Meanwhile, I am enjoying my newfound hobby of onomastics (an erudite name for the study of names, that I am casually flaunting). And in my studies, I have concluded that the easiest, bordering on the laziest effort at finding a name for a baby that is simple to say, easy to understand in any language in the world, non-gender specific name for a baby for these politically correct times, is the name of my Malayalee gentleman neighbour, 60, who lives next door. His name is Baby.
He Said/She Said is a monthly column on gender issues— funny side up. The author switched to a career in Advertising/Travel Writing as world markets may have collapsed if she ever became an economist. Reach her at [email protected]