June 07, 2015

A Name, A Tattoo, Some Colourful Balloons

Not too many clicks into the past when it was likely of those you met for the first time to introduce themselves as Lakshmi, Gita, Ram, Hanuman, Lakshman, Purshottam, Rajiv, Jyoti, Gautam, Ramnath, Priyadarshini, Raghu, Anand, Mohan, Rajesh, Manoj, Dilip, Sanjeev, Vinod, Hema, Mala, Indira and the like, there was little chance you’d get the name wrong the first time you heard them utter it.

The names were usually drawn from tradition, mainstream cultural heritage and/or linguistic (read Sanskrit) heritage and chances were you’d heard of the name before.

This was true of towns and cities with fairly homogenous populations domiciled over generations with the exception of communities/castes hailing from the hinterland – usually culturally unique to the region/geography.

Over time India began to change and other names happened, trendier, fancier and cutting across formerly unique cultural/ethnic/caste groupings.

Juhi was one such name. Outside of people settled in urban concentrations, the name ‘Juhi’ is uncommon to a non-urban ear like Juhi from @juhipande found out.

Juhi Pande gave up on getting the other to get her name right.

The reverse is equally true like I found out recently, much to my chagrin, when I met a Rajasthani youth speaking hindi accented by his local dialect.  

My exchange with the bare-chested Rajasthani youth selling colourful balloons tethered to a stick pegged in the carrier at the back of a bicycle, one of the three outside a dying mall in Mulund, was no different from the one Juhi had except for the ending.

“What’s your name?” I ask the smiling youth while two of his fellow kinsmen look on.
“Bhuralal” he replies in an accent immersed in a Rajasthani dialect likely local to his region.
“Bhurlal?” I repeat to confirm if I got it right.
“Bhurla?” I try again in quick succession. He shakes his head.
“Bhuralal,” he repeats, pauses and smiles, waiting for me to “get” it.

Noticing my still confused expression, he whips out his hand in front of my face and points to his name tattooed on his arm, smiling broadly. "Mera Naam," he says. 

“Bhuralal,” I repeat, relieved to finally get it right. I'd begun to worry that I’d let him down.  

Now I knew his father’s name as well – Khumanji.

I’m not sure if Juhi Pande needs to get a tattoo of her name on her arm to flash in the face of incomprehension since, unlike Bhuralal, she has a famous namesake who captured the imagination of cine goers couple of decades ago, one who made the name mainstream for quite a while – Juhi Chawla.

I think that was the first time I heard of “Juhi” the name. QSQT was quite the rage growing up, and Juhi Chawla had cemented her place on the teenage pantheon. Then there was this other Juhi from back then – bubbly, mischievous, charming and quite the looker, setting many a hopeful heart aflutter at where I went to college.

Ah, the memories that some names evoke!