Of Bangkok & Bengali Names

You may ask what’s the similarity between the 2 ? Plenty I tell you. I myself didn’t know it till I visited Bangkok last month. My husband, Rohit was shooting for a Bengali film & I joined him to make a little holiday out of it. Spent one whole day on the set with him surrounded by a whole bunch of Bengalis who comprised of the main cast & crew & a whole bunch of Thais who made up the local crew. Now let me tell you I love Bengalis, not only because my husband is one but because strangely from the time I was a young girl I used to love the language ! In school I had a Bengali friend named Sheuli.Whenever I went to her house & heard them speak in Bengali . . . I used to love it & think to myself that this is such a sweet language . . when I grow up I’ll learn it !

Of course I didn’t anticipate falling in love with a Bong & embracing not only the language but the food, the music, the Sarees, the Pujo & all the customs & culture (or as they would say calchur) of Shonar Bangla.

There was just one thing I couldn’t get used to & that was the concept of nicknames or as the Banglas call it “daak naam” . Every self respecting Bengali has to have a daak naam, usually very funny & embarrassing ! On the other hand their real name or as they call it “bhalo naam” is only used to enrol a child into school or get their passports . This is usually rather grand sounding & beautiful. Which makes me wonder why Bengali parents give their offsprings such lovely names when all their lives they are going to call them by ridiculous nicknames which are hardly befitting the kids when they grow up.

So this strapping,handsome man is called ‘Pinky’!!!! Only because when he was born he was so fair that he was all pink & cute. Another young man with a very nice name is to be called Popsy all his life by his immediate family because when he was a baby he loved the milk bottle called Popsy ! A “suave & high profile” Bengali man is known as Coco to his family because he loved & drank a lot of Coca Cola in his childhood . This Coco has had to suffer the ignominy of thinking that a pretty girl was calling out to him when in actuality she was calling out to her dog, Coco ๐Ÿ™‚

And it’s not just the boys who have funny nicknames. The girls aren’t spared either ๐Ÿ™‚ So an elegant lady who was born Mohamaya is called Dolly ! And Shanchali (round your mouth when you say it) has been called Tota all her life ! I remember one of Rohit’s cousin used to fly with Air India & once when I met another girl who flew with AI , I said “maybe you know Rohit’s cousin , she also flys with AI ” she went “yeah what’s her name ?” & I said Chottu (thus named because she was the youngest among 4 sisters ) The friend said ” yeah but what’s her real name?” & I was blank because I had no idea what was Chottu’s real name ! I had never heard anyone refer to her by it. So I had to call her up & say ” Chottu, btw what’s your real name ?” It was beautiful, Anuja ๐Ÿ™‚ but I don’t think she’ll ever be called that, at least by the immediate family .

Btw all of the above people whose examples I have given are my in laws & after reading this I’m afraid they are going to give me a really “bad ” nickname !

So how does all of this connect to Bangkok you must be asking yourself by now .

Allow me to explain. While in Bangkok, I discovered that Thai people just like Bengalis give their kids very funny nicknames . They also have very nice real names but strange nicknames, which make the Bengali ones sound very boring & normal.

The Lonely Planet (my travel bible & life saver,more on that in another blog,it’s a long story) revealed how Thai people have funny nicknames & once I read that I started paying attention to the names of people. In my Hotel itself I came across a lot of funny names.This really sweet waiter who served at the bar was called Joke . Seriously what were his parents thinking ? Or rather not ! I wondered . . was he called Joke because he was funny or because his parents thought that his birth was a joke ? ? Then there was a rather stout concierge named Ton !

I googled Thai nicknames & came across a bunch of blogs about it . It seems there’s a tradition of naming Thai kids after brand names or even generic names of inanimate objects. So there are kids called Benz,Cola,Pepsi,Ball,Golf,Boat Bank. Yeah, Bank ! Some “trendy” Thais name their kids with unlikely English names : Beer, Oil, Guitar,Piano, Arm & believe it or not Fluke ๐Ÿ™‚ I mean how traumatised will that child be to know that his parents didn’t really plan on having him & that he was merely a “fluke”. I wonder if Piano is forced to learn the piano everyday ? And will Beer grow up & sue his parents for bestowing this nickname on him ? The funniest example I read about was a Thai actor naming his son Airbus ! I mean seriously ?? Apparently there is a Google, Facebook & coming soon : I phone ๐Ÿ™‚

There are couple of videos on YouTube (I’m attaching the links below) where a father shows you how he named his kid Seven after the 7/11 store . And a really cute one about a girl called Cartoon. So I’m thinking our Bengali nicknames are not so bad actually ๐Ÿ™‚

In fact I have to confess that I’m also guilty of giving funny nicknames to my daughter & my nieces & nephews. Can’t tell you what because my daughter usually reads my blogs & I’m scared of her ๐Ÿ™‚ In conclusion all I want to say is :I think I have become a “pucca” Bengali now !!



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