What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, wrote William Shakespeare, centuries ago, in Romeo and Juliet. Juliet Capulet explains to Romeo Montague that if Romeo was not called Romeo, and if he was not a Montague, it would have made no difference to her; she would still love him for Romeo Montague is nothing but a name. So, indeed what’s in a name? Not so easy to answer when you have a name that goes beyond six letters, and counts down to fifteen letters with the surname added to it! Shakespeare’s archetypal quote will be of no aid when people find your name highly difficult to pronounce, misspell it, and embarrass you!

My parents named me after the intellectual princess of Vidarbha, Lopamudra. Lopamudra means the one born with distinctive beauty and intelligence. Princess Lopamudra is reckoned amongst the most influential women of Vedic India. The Rig Veda is full of numerous hymns written by this philosopher wife of sage Agastya. So far so good for the Princess, not for me though! People find it a herculean task to pronounce a name with Sanskrit origin; thanks to most peoples’ dearth of Sanskrit knowledge.

I grew up in the eastern half of India, mostly Orissa-Bengal, where to my good luck the name is not alien. So, I was saved of the enormous job of making people understand that it’s ‘Lopamudra’, and not ‘lop-mudra’, or ‘lopam-udra’, or ‘lopam-dra’ or ‘lopamudhra’, which I had to do when I moved to the western half of the country. Ironically, Lopamudra originated in the western half of India – Vidarbha, but this did not rescue me of the pronunciation-stigma associated with my name.

To add to the pronunciation issue, is the length of the name. I have to squeeze the letters in Lopamudra to fit it into the space provided in most application forms. My surname ‘Mishra’ makes it lengthier. I have to use a lot of handwriting-tricks to put down the gigantic ‘Lopamudra Mishra’ in the minuscule space provided in application forms. When I received my graduation certificate, I was dumbfounded to see my name: Lopamudra Rabindranath Mishra; many thanks to the University norm that appends your father’s name to your name! When I have to spell out my name over the telephone, it takes more than a millennium for the person on the other end to decipher what I am saying. And, when they actually decipher it, it’s wrong.

Lopamudra over the time became Lopa. Most of my friends, and acquaintances started calling me Lopa. I was not annoyed with this as opposed to many people who immensely dislike their names to be cut short. It’s not my official name, but yes it’s more than official. Lopa is much shorter than Lopamudra, and definitely much easier to pronounce. This was a tremendous relief until a new bunch of names dawned into my life. I was now introduced to new avatars of Lopa: ‘loba’, ‘loma’, ‘lupa’ ‘lopha’, and the champion of all versions, ‘Rupa’- an altogether new name! Could I be more blessed? My father consoled me with, “It’s our tradition to have two names, daak-naam (nickname), and bhaalo-naam (good name). You are loved so much that you have so many daak-naams!” My father’s cajole did not help me laugh at the myriads of misspellings created from my name. I was tired of being misspelt.

A year ago, our house-maid had brought her daughter along to work. While she cleaned the house, her daughter sat in a corner of the kitchen. My mother had asked her, “What’s your name?” She had replied, “Nakusha.” “Nakusha means…?” my mother had asked. “Unwanted”, she had said promptly. I and my mother had exchanged glances of surprise. Why would someone name their child unwanted! What was more disturbing was the fact that people in a village in Satara name all new born girls as Nakusha – undesirable in this world. This derogatory practice was the result of couples’ dislike to have a girl child. If the rural couples had two or more daughters, and if the third turned out to be a daughter again, they named her Nakusha. (In 2011, the Zila Parishad in Satara identified 280 Nakushas from school records, and renamed these girls under the Nakusha campaign.)

So, what’s in a name? True it is that Nakusha would still be the pretty girl she is had she been named anything else. But can this convince her to take refuge in the classic quote? The whole Nakusha incident brought a new perspective for me. I had been perturbed so much that people can’t pronounce my name. Think about Nakusha. She would have been more than happy had she been named Lopamudra or, say Lopa.

A name is one of the foremost aspects of one’s identity, and yet Shakespeare says that irrespective of the name, it’s the person that counts. Truly a name does not say anything about the individual; just puts a label to the individual’s bottled essence. Someone had suggested that I can change my name if it bothers me so much. Well my name never bothered me; it’s the way people made it sound that bothered me! So, from now on whenever I encounter a new avatar of Lopamudra or Lopa, I just say, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names”.


39 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. There might be nothing in name… but there have been incidents where people when named after some 1 great.. Live up to it… and so r u my friend…” With distinctive beauty and intelligence”… Keep up the good work !!

    1. Hey Richa!
      Thank you so much for your ‘so-inspiring’ words, and the never-ending love that you shower upon me!
      What you have said means a lot to me.:)

  2. I can empathise with what you are saying. Here is my story:

    Well, my name is short; yet it is subject to many a contraction. To my mother, I was always Aru. If she called me Aruna, I was in trouble!

    To Anand, my brother, and all his friends I am just Ru. Don’t ask me why! The extended families of some of his friends do not even know my name is Aruna, they know me just as Ru. Anand’s closest friend is Hardik and his kaaki once called me Aparna and when I corrected her, she was surprised to know my name is Aruna. 😦

    Now, Hardik’s son Panav calls me Rubs, short for Ru-bua. And when he is in a particularly naughty mood, the rascal (all five years of him) calls me Ruby Daaaaarling. I feel like a moll in a gangsta film. 🙂

    What I find most vexing is that even to other Indians I have to explain that as an Andhra I do not have the ubiquitous “surname”, but have a family name. And that the family name must precede my name. And no, I do not use my father’s name as a part of my name.

    I spent the entire vacation after my Std XII exams correcting my name on various certificates to Panangipally Aruna.

    The ultimate horror is in the various mangled versions of Panangipally that I hear. You notice that my visiting card says Aruna Panangipally. That was just so people focused on the Aruna and let the Panangipally alone. 😀

    And as to how you pronounce the N in Aruna… that is another story.

    1. If such a story can be associated with a name as simple as Aruna, I have nothing to complain. 🙂
      I can totally understand the plight with Panangipally, and fairly imagine how the N in Aruna must have had avatars in itself! And I can totally relate to your family friend not knowing you as Aruna. I have a similar story. My pet name is Sweety, and half a dozen family friends are oblivious to Lopa, forget Lopamudra!
      Well, it’s still okay when people call you by a name that they love calling you, because they love you so much. But yes it becomes horrible when it is spelt in stupid ways.

      Thanks for liking the post! It was a pleasure hearing from you.:)

  3. right now m speechless, just out of the words….
    dnt knw wot to say and wot not to.. but the truth is i am simply mesmerised by this write up of urs…. just one word wow…

    1. Hi Rinni!
      I am very happy that you liked the post so much!
      It feels really good to hear words of appreciation, and when people can actually relate to what I write.
      Thanks again, come often!

  4. Sahi boli,dear Lopamudra!!Well written!So now I shall make an attempt to call you,not by your daak name but ur bhaalo name,Khush???

    1. Hi!
      Well, as long as it’s not something embarrassing, I am delighted with whatever you call me:)
      If you do want to call me by my daak naam, you would have to call me Sweety! That is yet another name bestowed upon me. Many of my extended family friends don’t even know that my name is Lopa, forget Lopamudra because they call me Sweety. 🙂
      What’s in a name, after all…and yet there is a lot!
      Thanks for your comment! Hope to see you more often. 🙂

  5. Dear Lopamudra,
    While surfing through my FB homepage, I accidentally stumbled upon this write up of yours (I usually ignore lengthy posts or anything written. I go by the visuals-photos & videos i.e. I am a part of the regular crowd).
    Bingo! You won the Round One when the title of your write up (What’s in a name?) caught my attention. Added to it, an IP address with your name on it.Phew! That’s something..
    So, I decided to be a part of the elite intellectual capital in Facebook & go through your write up, just to check if I stil have any grey cells left & I must say, it was worth the effort.
    I loved your post. It was tasty in an “Americal Cream & Onion-LAYS” sort of way (hope you can comprehend that ;-)), delightful, charming & beautifully layered. In the beginning, I thought you were being slightly narcissist while describing the etymology of your name (to quote a few, “distinctive beauty & intelligence”, “most influential woman” :-)). But, then you were only narrating a fact (forgive my comprehension).
    After that, you took us for a walk through humour and sensitivity which actually showed a glimpse of the person you really are! Fun loving from the outside, yet caring & sensitive from the inside (Am I sounding like Raghu from Roadies??-dissecting your personality like that!). I better stop.
    Last two things I wish to say before I end this legthy reply –
    1. Orissa is now spelt Odisha
    2. I am going to be an avid reader of your posts from now on. You rock!
    With love,

    1. Hi Devneet!
      Wow…what a surprise…! I am most delighted to see this comment!
      Thank you so much for liking the post! I am glad I could captivate your gray cells. 😀 It’s always a pleasure when someone enjoys an article, otherwise what is the point of writing!
      Well, you are most welcome to ‘dissect my personality’, it only shows how well you have understood me as a person.
      And by the way, I am a great fan of Raghu!!
      I know Orissa is spelt as Odisha now, but I like it as Orissa as ever, just like I prefer Bombay, and not Mumbai!
      So what’s in a name? 😉

      Thanks again Devneet. Come often!

  6. Oh Man Lopa if you think long names are a problem, wait till you hear my greivances…soma is the most common name,… first of all every bengali house hold has a soma…you go to calcutta and shout soma and half of the population will respond..unique name isnt it :O
    my friends used to call me samosa or so-ma,disgusting i would have become a serial killer killing every one mocking my name had it not being the lengthy syllabus we had all the time
    and top this info with a lady who used to call her daughter( soma ) with such an ugly drawl that i seriously at one point wanted to kill her
    I was real dukhiyari for a long long time..

    1. Hey Soma!!
      I know it must have been vexing to the core!!
      If people can’t spare Lopa…can they spare Soma. 😀

      Thanks for liking the post.

  7. Amazing…I love dis one…I m so so happy dat u r following ur passion…!!!
    Btw I call u lops ,u didn’t mention dat

    God bless you n keep it up !!!!

    1. Yeah…Lops is another pet name…there are a bunch of them…:)
      I thought lets keep the post limited to the official lot of names. 😀
      Thanks for the comment sweetheart!
      You are always so encouraging.
      Love and Hugs.

  8. “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names”
    I completely agree with you 😉
    Why haven’t you written your right name here ???? 😛

    1. Well if you feel I haven’t given my right name in the post, I guess you have to read it all over again. 🙂

      Thanks for reading the post. Hope you enjoyed. 🙂

      1. u know what i mean 😉
        Nice writeup …
        I am getting used to ur writing now
        everything else seems so lifeless

      2. Ahhh…the real name…hmm hmm..I know what u mean 😉
        Thanks again dude!
        I am glad that my writing brings life to what seems lifeless to you. 🙂

  9. its really awesome. I really like the way you write.. and i find your name very interesting in fact.. Nice name..

  10. Great commentary. It hurts if someone does not get your name right. Because that is you. It defines you to a great extent. It is what you stand for.
    Its a personal preference, but traditional Indian names sound really good. In my view Lopamudra is one such. Referring to the theme you started with, of Lopamudra coming from the Vedas, my younger son’s name is Vidur, a Mahabharat character; the wise one.

    1. Thank you so much for visiting my blog, and posting your comment!
      You got my point very well. Agreeing with you I would say that yes, traditional Indian names sound really good.
      Thank you for being kind to put my name in that lot.
      I’ve read the Mahabharata, and it’s many versions, and I must say Vidur is a great name!

      I found your blog very interesting. I just read the About page, and I really liked the concept.
      It’s nice the way you have put up the content on the subject. I would soon read few of your posts.
      Great work there on darkofficehumour!

  11. I want to take a walk along the river bank, singing my favorite songs.Opportunity knocks but once.The answer is zero.I’m looking forward to a prompt reply.He owned himself defeated.There are a lot of people in the swimming pool.There are a lot of people in the swimming pool.He is looking for a job.I’m on a diet.I can give you a number of excuses.

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