What’s in a name?

A Chinese couple wants to name their son @. No, this is not a typo. They actually do want to name their son that. The Chinese pronunciation of @ is ‘ai-ta’ and it means ‘love him’. Given the meaning, I suppose ‘ai-ta’ is a good enough name…but @?

Naming a child is like navigating a minefield. Hardly anyone is ever satisfied with his or her own name. It must be tough being expectant or new parents. Not only do you argue with each other and the rest of the family about what to name your child, you might also, sometime in the future, have to explain to said child why you gave him or her a name that in all probability causes embarrassment.

There are so many pitfalls you need to avoid while naming the child. One, do not be too pedestrian. That means that names like Rahul, Neha & Pooja go out the window. These names are bound to crop up all over the place. Every classroom, playground and office has at least one Rahul, Neha & Pooja.

Another thing to remember is that you can’t go all out traditional. If you name your son Maruti or Chiraunjilal, there’s no way he’s ever going to forgive you. Ditto for Thankam and Basanti. These names might have suited your grandparents or even your parents, but they will not suit your children. At least, that’s what your children will say when they disown you.

There’s some danger in naming your child after someone you admire. The celebrated, if fictitious, case of Gogol Ganguli comes to mind. Of course, you have a winner with a Sachin or a Sania, but try naming your child after Bhappi Lahiri or Vyajayanthimala and you will feel the consequences.

Try and avoid unisex names like Kiran & Manjeet. Also steer clear of exotic names like Utkalika and Mrignayni. And crazy spellings like Preity and Viveik.

In the end, it’s probably safer to just let your kids name themselves.

Note: This is all just fun. No offence is meant to anyone who’s named Pooja, Rahul, Maruti etc. Kindly excuse!

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Azaadi ka Jashn in Shanghai

The 60th anniversary of our country’s independence didn’t feel all that special to me. I think it was because one really can’t get into the spirit of the day as long one’s in a foreign nation.

Here in Shanghai we tried our best. About 50 of us gathered for Independence Day celebrations at 7 in the morning. The Tricolour was unfurled. Then the Consul General read out excerpts from the President’s dull speech. This was followed by a handful of tone-deaf ladies, who call themselves ‘Sur Shanghai’ singing a couple of patriotic songs. They sang ‘Vande Mataram’ tolerably well, but they absolutely butchered ‘Aye Mere Watan ke Logon’. They raced through the song like they had a flight to catch. Sur Shanghai’s performance was followed by a bunch of kids singing ‘Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein’. It was surprisingly good.

Afterwards we all marched up to the Consulate for breakfast. This consisted of samosas, gulab jamun and kaju katli. I felt slightly ill at the thought of abusing my tummy with these at 8 AM, but I managed to grin and bear it.

All in all, the proceedings were scalier than ones I’ve experienced in India, but then I’m in China. What else could I have expected?

Snapshots from Shanghai

I was told that Shanghai is one of the most polluted cities in the world. And it seems to be true. Sometimes, there’s such a haze hanging over the city that the tops of most skyscrapers are not visible. But there are days when the sky looks amazing. I thought I’d share some photographs of those days.

Movie Rant

What’s the big fuss about Deepa Mehta? I recently watched two of her movies – Earth and Water. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed. Movies are not just about telling stories; they’re about telling stories well. There’s something lazy about Mehta’s style of filmmaking. Let me explain this better.

Both movies have strong plots. Earth is about love and betrayal during that most turbulent of times in our nation’s history – Partition. Water is about the plight of Indian widows, who’re often forced into begging and prostitution to sustain themselves. Both stories need to be told.

Deepa Mehta clearly sees this and proceeds to beat it into our heads. She sermonizes. She patronizes her audience. She just doesn’t have much subtlety as a filmmaker.

While we’re at it, I might as well talk about another popular movie I disliked – Cheeni Kum. What was with that movie? It lacked spark, zest, wit – in short, all the essential ingredients required to make a good romantic comedy. The dialogues were terrible (the ‘chhatri’ joke?? Save it for the locker room, guys!), the chemistry between the lead pair was non-existent and the script was bad, bad, bad! And if I were allowed to ask the filmmakers just one question, it would be this – why the little girl? What purpose did she serve apart from that of the obvious plot device needed to pull the heartstrings of the audience? It was so obvious that the people behind the movie were constantly patting themselves on the back – ‘Oh yeah! We made a different movie! Oh yeah, not a sugary love story! We’re so clever!’ The movie was self-conscious at best and inane at worst.

Yes, I’ve been watching a lot of movies. I don’t have much else to do.