Introducing Our Son

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Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

So, here he is. But before I introduce you to him, I wanted to tell you about our first challenge of parenthood - finding a name for our son. Here, I am reminded of Alex Haley's Roots. After his son is born, Omoro faces a challenge:

By ancient custom, for the next seven days, there was but a single task with which Omoro would seriously occupy himself: the selection of a name for his firstborn son. It would have to be a name rich with history and with promise, for the people of his tribe - the Mandinkas - believed that a child would develop seven of the characteristics of whomever or whatever he was named for.

Okay, it's not like we locked ourself up in a room for seven days and refused to emerge until we'd come up with some earthshaking moniker for our kid. But it would have been nice had we the luxury of doing so. A name is serious business - this is something the fellow is saddled with for life. Unless he changes it himself or goes into show business or something - but even then, there is the realization, often painfully acquired in grade school, that the name you were given is a lemon. What parent would want his kids to go through that gauntlet? School is cruel enough as it is! Consequently, in the nine months prior, whatever leisure time we had was spent poring over books of names, Bengali dictionaries and the web, in search of a moniker. Our criteria was as follows:

  1. Has to be short, snappy and sweet.
  2. Has to mean something, preferably in Sanskrit i.e. no nonsensical terms
  3. Can't have side-effects in English. No offense to Dixits or Dikshits, but I am not going anywhere near there if I can help it.
  4. Has to be somewhat unique

Choosing a unique name in a country of a billion people is hard. Forget Rama, Bhima, Shyama and Jadu, the law of probability dictates that whatever you come up with something remotely unusual, it's been taken. A friend asked recently:

What's the Bengali tradition for middle names? Gujaratis give father's first name as a middle name (even women have to take their husband's first name!). Talk about a patriarchical society.

I really couldn't think of any Bengali naming traditions per se other than the preference for fancy names. Remember I was telling you about my futile search? In many cases, the interesting twists or variations on names were taken by Chatterjees/Banerjees etc. Good for them! But it didn't make our task easier.

In desperation, we considered an approach that seems to be common in the US - creative misspelling. Consider Andruw instead Andrew or Jhonny instead of Johnny. Taken in the desi context, how about Deepakk or Rraja? Okay, I am kidding. But it did seem attractive for all of 3 milliseconds! Our friends, Devora and Manish, took note of our state and even included a "Name The Baby Contest" in Shari's baby shower festivities. Notable entries included:

  • Rishesh
  • McSoam
  • Ghanashyam

Good for laughts, yes, although the first one was pretty good. However, this did spark our thinking and three days before he was born, we finally settled on a name. Shari had liked Vir (hero/warrior) for a while and it and its variation, Veer, had seemed relatively uncommon. Still, I thought a variation on the sound itself could yield something interesting. My contribution was a single letter: "j". "Virj" is Sanskrit for the quality of bravery and strength. The sound itself seems to resonate. And web searches show it to be relatively rare. Now, if everyone would only pronounce it properly :-)

So, there you have it. Hopefully, this is something our son will keep. We can but hope. I'll conclude with some lyrics from Jim Croce from his song, "I got a name":

Like the pine trees lining the winding road,

I've got a name, I've got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad,
I've got a name, I've got a name

And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I'm living the dream that he kept hid.

Moving me down the highway, rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won't pass me by.


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- December 3, 2007 12:46 PM // Bangla , Diaspora , Virj