What’s in a name?

Ill-luck, dowry tension, the unwanted girl – are just some of the unique reasons I found in rural India when it comes to naming the girl child.


By Angana Prasad

To begin with the adage “What’s in a name”—I think there is far too much in a name. I have my own biases and prejudices in contemplating why the name is what it is. Basing the content of this post entirely on my perception, that more than what your name speaks of you,  has a lot to do with what your family perceives you to be. Maybe you are the bringer of good luck, so your name is Lakshmi, maybe you are a personification of motherly love so your name is Mamta. Sometimes, you are the not-so-wanted little girl and are a source of tension for being an extra stomach to feed, an extra dowry to pay, and an extra chastity to be protected, so your name is possibly Dukhan! This was my exact flow of thoughts when I met Dukhan for the first time.

Dukhan:

During the summer vacations, she had attended only two KHEL sessions in Butler Palace, where we were open to adding interested children to our lot. She was a very normal kid, with nothing too striking about her. There was a huge probability of her going unnoticed by me, if she hadn’t walked in late for the session on her first day. In  the  two sessions she caught my eye like no other and I kept on contemplating what was so ‘Dukhan’ about her.

Mamta:

She was present for a session in Gomti Nagar. Barely 7 or 8 years old, she was holding a baby in her hand. The baby, her sister, wasn’t more than a few months old. She kept a close eye on the game we were playing that day. Her expressions changed every time the game progressed. I asked her to join and offered to take care of her sister, as the game was on. She shyly refused. I asked her name. She said ‘Mamta’.

Lakshmi:

Lakshmi is quite a common name among our female beneficiaries. Considering the (underprivileged) background of these children, I often brood if this child is a personification of hope (for a future shower of good luck) or of sarcasm (of the wealth that they do not have).

Kiran:

Recently our team visited Dharchula, Uttarakhand to do a recce of the rehabilitation camps for the disaster affected families. The coordinators had spread out in different parts of the camp, to gather children for a mock KHEL session. Amid the rush that followed, a particular someone caught my eye. Her bright eyes lit with a smile that made her situation look  so happily normal. What was even better, her name was Kiran, a ray of light.

Kallu, Chhote, Bade, Golu, Lallu:

These are more like nick names kept for convenience. Golu for the fat kid, Kallu for the dark kid, Chhote for the younger sibling and bade for the older, and Lallu to quite an obviously dumb kid. Somehow my brains find it easy to remember these nick names better than the real names, but I find them a bit offensive in a few cases too.

Akash:

I liked him. I really liked him. I had seen his sorry face the day he was brought to Ehsaas and was in love with his bright playful eyes that sparkled brighter with every passing day. I was extra nice and tolerant towards his mischief. I took extra care to make sure that he was playing  enjoying and learning from our sessions.  One day, he suddenly disappeared from the Ehsaas drop in centre. He never came back for our sessions either.

On the last session that he had attended, he shared with me in the middle of a game that his name was not Akash. I asked for his real name but he wouldn’t say. All he said was “Main pagal hoon kya, ki yahan sab ko sab sach bata du (Do I look crazy enough to tell you the truth)?” I fall short of words every time I try to express what I felt at that moment. It’s been more than a month that I haven’t seen him. His face is still etched in my memory, surprisingly so, because it is a face for which I have no name.

Article originally published here.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With a Masters degree in Gender studies, Angana is a certified Life Skills trainer. As the Project Manager at Project KHEL, currently she leads the Menstrual Health Management (MHM), Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and Puberty related programmes at Project KHEL, apart from taking care of the overall. As a core team member, she has successfully developed curriculum based on play, theater, story- telling, ... more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With a Masters degree in Gender studies, Angana is a certified Life Skills trainer. As the Project Manager at Project KHEL, currently she leads the Menstrual Health Management (MHM), Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and Puberty related programmes at Project KHEL, apart from taking care of the overall. As a core team member, she has successfully developed curriculum based on play, theater, story- telling, ... more

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