What is in a name?

A rose by any other name "What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." – William Shakespeare.

Conversations to do with someone’s names can have some very peculiar outcomes. My name often results in some unexpected developments, new friendships are made and new insights into the whole process of naming are developed.

I was introduced to a new resident to our colony today and we went through the visiting card exchanging routine. He was promptly intrigued with the spelling of my surname, which has got an unusual “U” inserted in it. Rajgopaul instead of Rajgopal. I had to explain that this was done by my father under advise from a numerologist and all his children and grandchildren have got stuck with it.

This is not the first time that this discussion has taken place. I have had the same conversation with countless individuals. Quite a few of them have been quite disappointed that I am not a Christian! Quite a few, very happy that I am not.

For curious Europeans and Americans, I have even translated it to mean King of Cowboys, which actually it is. Rajgopal is a name given to Lord Krishna who was the King of cowherds. Naturally, I had to also explain that it was only a family name and I was not a Prince, or a Rajah!

I have also had to explain to many South Indians that my name is not Rajgopaul and that it is my surname. Tamilians have the custom of using only their given name and using their father’s name as the initials. Famous names such as Krishnamachari Srikant, Ramanathan Krishnan etc follow this system. My father however was exposed to the North Indian method and decided that he should start a clan called the Rajgopauls, and he has had his way. There are quite a few, and at the latest count the fourth generation has come into existence to keep the lineage going.

I was talking about this topic with some friends when one of them, a Sindhi who has spent a lifetime in Hong Kong suggested that I acquire myself a Chinese name and gave me a site to visit for the purpose. I did, and got myself a Chinese name, which is Ran Rui Ming. Ran, as per the Chinese system being the surname Rui and Ming being the letters of the given name meaning Sharp, Bright, Light, Brilliant and Clear. My friend from Hong Kong is very amused with the name and insists on calling me by that. For those of you who are interested, please visit http://www.mandarintools.com/ You can get yourself a Chinese name too.

This subject is a fascinating one with a lot of twists and turns. More on this subject in some future posts.

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