Of Bangkok & Bengali Names

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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 πŸ™‚

And it’s not just the boys who have funny nicknames. The girls aren’t spared either πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ In conclusion all I want to say is :I think I have become a “pucca” Bengali now !!

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34 comments

  1. Hello Manasi, such a brilliantly interesting piece! Thanks for giving me more than my quota of chuckles for the day! πŸ™‚ super like!!!

  2. Ha Ha Ha..awesome reading. I can relate this ‘Bengali’ thingi of nicknames as I too have a Bengali brother in law. I dare not mention his nick name here, though he has a lovely ‘Real’ name. So while you wrote about your family nick names, i actually got down to thinking of all the nicknames that are unfortunately christened on the bengali part of my family. So its one side an Iyer family with every alternate member of the family having a same name (you are meant to remember them as so and so from this place and so and so from that place). You can then identify the exact ‘same name’ person who is actually being referred to. Enjoyed reading your blog Manasi. Please have Rohit go globe trotting often so that when you go too,you can share some interesting and hilarious experiences with us πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Rashna πŸ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed reading my blog . And you must tell me more about the Iyer names .

  3. THE Thais seem to be greatly fascinated by the current affairs and trends and thus extract their nick names out of what’s β€œIN”. The β€˜COCO’ episode reminds me of sacking off our servant KAKA (He had loyally served us for more than 20 years) ,,soon after my marriage just for the fact that he bore the same name that of my father-in-law and β€˜someone’ disfavored the β€˜very name’ of her father being given instructions all the day by my Mom… (beep..its a censored statement)
    Nick names are tagged to a person/persons as an expression of an elevated emotion…, Your write-up is a rhetorical connotation which narrates the cult of love which spreads across boundaries..I peruse your blog regularly and look forward for more such piece soon ..Regards and
    Happy writing always..

  4. Umm! Interesting i enjoyed reading this whole page and i was remembering one of my bengali friend her real name is tandrima and oly is her nick name by which she is called up at her home but it seems sweet. I am not bengali but i am also having a sweet name by which my parents,sisters and other family members use to call me that is “TINU” . Does it sound gud?

  5. Hi,
    It’s great to hear that thai’s are also sweet as Bengalis. Always loved to enjoy Durga puja & Diwali in Kolkata. Amazing experience

  6. I was in college with Coco πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€
    and most of my cousins have the most outlandish daak naam!!!
    Really enjoyed reading your blog Manasi πŸ™‚

  7. Dear Mansi, the article was really great……being a bengali i totally agree with you about the hilarious ‘daaknaams’ we give our children……most common is ‘khokan’…….a male child is born and he sure will be named ‘khokan’, my brother is one and then babai, laltu, tublu, papun, piku, papu (my son), etc. But, i think we are more imaginative in giving endearing names, don’t u think so? Also, i would like to tell you that i loved your acting in the role of ‘Sudha’ in that TV serial, whose name i forgot!

    1. Rooma I totally agree the daak naam’s are funny but endearing ! And I played the role of Sudha in the serial called Saaya πŸ™‚ That was my favourite role too πŸ™‚

  8. Hi Manasi,
    It was really good one.. just enjyed and laughed :).. I am also a bengali and have a very bad nick name ‘Tumpa’.. dont like this name at all.. you know I just cried when I saw the name in my wedding card.. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

  9. Hi Manasi

    Just stumbled on your blog and landed on this very amusing Bong section…

    All smiles after reading this!! Very interesting observation and comparison.

  10. Hello Manasi,

    Stumbled across your Blog and straight into the Bong names! Yes they are funny and very endearing too…my name is enough for me to get a “huh?” …”What?” when i am introduced or asked my name..and it doesnt end there..celine? Shuleen? ahh…Sunila?? “Noo…S-u-l-e-e-n…and then a long monologue explaining it! So yes..i do emphathise with those bongs who dislike their “daak naam” πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Suleen I’m glad you liked the blog πŸ™‚ By the way I’m also curious to know the meaning of your name ?

  11. Really enjoyed reading your blog Mansi!!

    This reminded me about the recent incident. My sister asked a small boy his name, he said “Buncho” to which my sister replied “you have such a unique name” and the boy said, “that’s because I am bengali” πŸ™‚

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my blog Meenakshi πŸ™‚ And yes Bengalis definitely have very unique names !

  12. Hi mansi … really good piece of information… cud have never though I have 3 good Bengali girlfriends .. I knw the ddak name of one of them which is lichi and the reason I asked and she said because I loved lichi when I was child and one has daakname gullu again reason is she was round and fair like rasgulla.. so now I can connect things. really felt good reading this blog..

  13. You share interesting things here. I think that your blog can go viral easily, but
    you must give it initial boost and i know how to do it, just search in google for –
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  14. It was awsome manasi it was so entertaining and reasons behind each nick name now i can make fun of coco ha ha thoughrouly enjoyed.I know many of my family member till today dont call me by real name

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