• Paromita Vohra: Lots in a name

    Paromita VohraDec 25, 2016, 06:15 IST

    What's in a name" seems to finally have replaced "India is the land of the Kama Sutra" as the most overused and pointless phrase ever thanks to Mr Taimur Ali Khan Pataudi. And, as the true sign of fanciness is a syllable, or so, silent in your name, I assume Esq. is the silent one in his.

    Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor with their newborn, Taimur
    Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor with their newborn, Taimur

    However, I object to the phrase because, as my own tragic tale of marginalisation demonstrates, there is lots in a name. Kind readers, imagine, I was nameless till I was two years old, except for a pet name you cannot know (considering that I am part Punjabi and part Bengali, which pretty much encompasses the entire universe of petnameship, and you won't persist in asking what it is). That's because the syllable my horoscope recommended — "P" — wasn't yielding an unusual enough name. And obviously, a first child, and also first grandchild, in a modern family, and a cutie to boot, cannot have any common or garden name. Since the internet had not yet been invented, no names of Minoan matriarchs or Peruvian priestesses could be commandeered. So, till then, better not to have a name only na? Thus I toddled, nameless through the world.

    Then, a friend of the family, a Hindi poet, no less, suggested Paolomi, apparently a wife of the god Indra. Everyone enthusiastically embraced it. But my stability lasted only a few weeks. My grandfather, a music composer, exhibiting the traditional complex relationship between music and lyrics, demanded that my name be changed. Reason? "Paolomi was not the wife of Indra. She was his concubine. My first grandchild cannot be named after a concubine," he declared. So he called second dibs but won the day and named me Paramita, which has something to do with wisdom and Saraswati related stuff. Personally, I feel if I had continued with Paolomi, which sounds limpid and lissome, I would have had a very different life, perhaps both exotic and elegant. Instead, I suspect that I read a lot of books under my blanket after lights out just so I could get glasses at the age of 9 and live up to this new name.

    Since mispronunciation of any name which is not Anjali or Ria is written in our fates, I had one school principal who (unintentionally) called me Parameter and later a famous potter who (intentionally) called me Pyrometer (it's apparently an instrument used for measuring heat in a kiln). Also, because, for unknown reasons, people continue to think saying things with a (wrong) Bengali pronunciation makes them sophisticated, various Delhi folks called me Pouromita. Finally fed up, I took an executive decision and unilaterally changed my name to Paromita and this continued to confuse my father who still called me Paramita right into my 30s, while my Maths teacher Mr Goyal called me Promita (but not in my 30s. I wasn't that bad at Maths).

    Having heard my painful tale, you empathise I'm sure, because you probably have one such yourself. My friend Natasha once shocked me by revealing she was named Niru, but the nuns in her convent school renamed her Natasha, aisich. So, lucky little Timmy-to-be, whose parents are ignoring his trolls and are nonchalantly sticking with Taimur. May he live long and prosper and hold on to his name, with steely resolve (couldn't resist).

    Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com

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