“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare said. Who can argue with the great Bard? But maybe, the times have changed, and names evoke expectations in products and people.
For example, if you see a restaurant called ‘Nana-chi-Tang’, you would expect Oriental food there. And you would assume that the one called ‘Annapurna’ serves Indian vegetarian fare.
I am ignoring our multi-cuisine multi-speciality restaurants that serve South Indian, North Indian, Chinese, Thai, Continental, Punjabi, and Jain food together; which, inevitably, all tastes the same.
When naming a child, the parents are rather hopeful of a bright future and a towering personality. So, you have met many men called ‘Ram’ or ‘Laxman’, but no one called ‘Ravan’, right? And we’ve seen many a ‘Karan’ and ‘Arjun’, but not one ‘Duryodhan’.
I came across one ‘Shatrushailya Samarjeet’ which means ‘slayer of the enemy and winner of all battles’, who couldn’t kill a mosquito.
And there was one ‘Mahamanavendra Singh’ meaning ‘great lord among humans – and brave as a lion too.’ Everyone just called him ‘Monu’.
In India, we do not have the tradition of calling anyone ‘George the Third’ or ‘Henry the Sixth’. That’s good, because, given our propensity for procreation; we would have had names like ‘Fateh the Fiftieth’ or ‘Naina the Ninety Ninth’!
My name, ‘Avinash’, means indestructible, but I find myself destroyed many times, and with increasing regularity after marriage.
In short, names and personalities, in most cases, do not match at all. But I came across a young lady who lives up to her name – ‘Unnati’.
Unnati in Sanskrit means progress, and here’s her story.
When we first met, she was undergoing training in the airline where I work. At breakfast one morning, her friend sat across the table with me and she came to meet her. During introductions, she only told me her first name.
When I told her mine, she switched to Marathi, so I asked her, “Where are you from?”
“Sangli.” She said.
“Oh! My in-laws live there.”
“What’s their name?” She asked.
I laughed. My beard has been white for a decade now, and this young lady was asking the name of my father-in-law!
My laughter seemed to have embarrassed her, for she became quiet. To pull her out of that, I asked her full name.
“Unnati Pramod Kamalakar before marriage, and Unnati Mangesh Satpute after marriage, but I will not change my name officially.”
I know many girls who didn’t change names after marriage to avoid repeated trips to government departments, or kept both names like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
It was none of my business so I didn’t want to ask, but she seemed so emphatic that the question just popped out.
“My Dad had dreams of becoming a pilot, but conditions didn’t allow and he could never become one. So, I wanted his name printed on my Pilot’s Licence.”
“Wow!” I smiled. “He must be very proud.”
“After your training, take him for a trip on your flight. He’ll be thrilled.” I laughed.
She didn’t even smile.
“No sir. He passed away…”
I was speechless for a moment, till the implications of her momentous decision overwhelmed me.
She was a Trainee Pilot then. She would become a First Officer soon and then an Airline Captain, but Late Mr Pramod Kamalakar, his name immortalised on her pilot’s licence, would forever fly as her co-pilot.
What more can a Dad ask for?
But the credit for her lofty thinking must go to her parents, who overcame difficult conditions and encouraged their elder daughter to become a pilot and the younger daughter to pursue Ph D.
And I also salute her husband and her in-laws for understanding her feelings and not compelling her to change the name.
In our patriarchal society, everyone prays for a son to continue the family name. The gender ratio is so dismal that the government enforced laws to stop female foeticide.
In such a grim scenario, families like these are a ray of hope.
This sure is progress – or, Unnati!
I had posted ‘उन्नती’ in Marathi yesterday, on the occasion of International Women’s Day. On demand from friends who can’t read Marathi, this is a translation.