MEET CORNELL KUMAR AND ZEN SALUJA Millennial parents are remixing baby names
No one wants a boring Rahul or Pooja anymore. Parents are scouring social networks, and even paying consultancies to come up with names that are short, unusual and will work globally
On July 28 this year, a variety of red lips descended on the doughy cheeks of a three-month-old boy who was taking a glamorous power nap clad in satin in a cradle in Pune. Just minutes ago, one of these lipstick-sporting women had whispered something in his tiny ear and soon, four blue and white balloons behind him had come off one by one, baring the letters of the curious name gifted by his architect father. ‘ SYON’, read the bold, red letters that made the audience at the naming ceremony rush to a black-and-white standee near the stage, which explained the meaning of this Sanskrit word via a series of hashtags: #gentle, #humane, #tender, #lenient and #followedbygoodluck.
Soon, curiosity- ridden congratulatory calls rained on the Mumbai-based father, Jay Mali, who explained that he had dug out the rare name from a website while searching for something as unique as construction designs. To the few friends who tease him saying, “It sounds like Sion, the railway station”, Mali clarifies: “It’s pronounced ‘Seeon’, although Sehaan is also right.”
By the time six- month- old Syon goes to school though, the paternal disclaimer may not be necessary. Naksh, Krishiv, Nitara, Aadriti, Yazhini — the tongues of kindergarten teachers around the country are increasingly wrapping themselves around the kind of sounds and spellings that befuddles cake shop salesmen and makes Mumbai-based birthday party organiser Vanita Rodrigues secretly invent the phrase ‘ remixed names’. For Rodrigues — who recently not only catered to one little client named Cornell Viren Kumar but also welcomed five-star guests to the naming ceremony of another Krish Krishna Kumar — the term stands for the trendy east-meets-west mashups of names that imbue the Rahuls and Priyankas of the world with a mid-life crisis.
Many of these remixed names can be found on website Babycenter India’s list of top 100 most popular baby names of 2017, a potential pre- school register that’s sure to please both Ramanand Sagar and the audience of Twilight. Here, for every Atharva, Shaurya, and Advait, there’s also a Jayden, Liam and Neil just as for every Siya, Kavya and Shivanya, there’s now an Elizabeth, Eleanor and Gabriella.
While tradition and religion still wield a powerful influence over Indian names, the surge in western names such as Jaxon for boys and a growing affinity for feminine-sounding Arabic names such as Zara for girls were among the big trends last year, says Diane Rai, editor of Babycenter, adding that the preferred way of modernising old favourites for boys is by adding ‘ansh’, which means ‘part of ’, to the end of the name such as Reyansh and Divyansh. For girls, she says, parents are increasingly choosing names ending with “feminine sounds” such as “ra” and “vi” which explains the quick ascent of Myra and Nurvi (the name chosen by Neil Nitin Mukesh and wife Rukmini for their newborn).
While many young India parents do seek out numerology for baby names — a habit that has led to at least five different spellings of Myra (Maira, Mayra, Maiyra, and Mairah) on Babycenter India’s list — what binds them with their American counterparts who are giving birth to Nyla and Ava, is a taste for pocket-sized names that seem tailored to fit on a cupcake.
So acute is this urge for short, distinctive names that it has erected a new market segment for Anantha Narayan of Chennaibased naming consultancy Albert Dali. These days, he is often approached by new parents who are tired of consulting staid naming books and websites and are seeking “country-neutral” names that don’t advertise their religious and cultural identities. “People want names that are short and work globally. Something like Neel, for instance, that means different things in different languages is popular,” says Narayan, who can sense south India bidding farewell to the tradition of naming kids after the grandparents.
“Though Indians project themselves as modern, they still go by numerology,” says Narayan, who has come across many parents who want the “name number” to be in sync with the baby’s “birth number”. In fact, NaamVidya, a Thane-based numerology startup, allows parents to do “name analysis for free and see how a chosen name could shape their child’s narrative”.
Routinely, the frenzied, emotional search for baby names shakes up India’s myriad online mommy networks. On the social media groups and platforms of parenting website MomJunction, for instance, many new mothers share the letters or sounds with which they want their baby’s name to start, and ask for suggestions. Bhavana Navuluri, chief editor of MomJunction, finds that the influence of celebs is now stronger than ever before.
Perhaps this explains why ever since actor Tara Sharma — who now runs a multi-platform parenting show — named her kids Zen ( 9) and Kai ( 7), she suddenly seems to know of and hear of many more kids with these names. Years ago, what made the half-Indian, half-English Sharma and her half-Sardar, half-Nepalese husband Roopak pick the names was the vision of their kids travel- in Tier-2 towns, says Ruchita Dar Shah of global online community of mothers, First Moms Club.
Then, in what might be an effect of growing inter-community marriages, there has also been a spurt in what Babycenter India calls “combination names”, names sculpted from conjoining parts of both the parents’ names. That’s how Shaurya and Anya come to toy with Shivanya, Sharanya or Yash while Siddhesh and Kavita may contemplate Vidansh, Vitesh or Kaveesh.
Sometimes, however, these uniquely- Indian names lead to uniquely- Indian situations. If Narayan has encountered parents who along with a name want a website that they can purchase for their children and gift them as they grow older, Gaurav Dubey of events company Dreamparty.in — who has recently organised birthdays for Spenishta, Friyana, Arish and Ehit among other unusually-named tots — had a facepalm moment when a client ordered a birthday cake for their kid, Yashaswi. They got one that wished many happy returns of the day to ‘SSV’.