A world without names! If there was one like that, how would it be? It’s only a figment of imagination. The importance of having names on our planet can never be questioned or debated. The search for a name may or may not begin before a baby is out of the mother’s womb but once they arrive, there is no going back. The search starts and may take months before a name is finalized and once that is done it stays on even after one leaves this world. It’s there on each one’s unconscious mind, school report card, books, medical reports, passport and of course, on one’s epitaph once you leave this world. Whether you are on the road or the treadmill, on a voyage across the seas or on a boat crossing the river under the bridge, cruising in a Ferrari or a Lamborghini or onboard a commercial plane or a spacecraft, it’s your name that stays with you and is precious for you.
Our names are precious to us more than anything else. When a child walks down the hallways of a school for the first time and takes the first step to the classroom, the first question which the teacher asks is “what is your name?”, or “may I know your name, please”. A world without names? Is it possible, feasible, adaptable or experimental? The answer is no. Names can evoke emotions and feelings of love and hate at the same time.
The universe is a creation of millions of galaxies and planetary objects. Our Earth is just one among them and we are one among the 9.5 billion inhabitants of the world. The seas, oceans, rivers, streams, lakes, rivulets, ponds freely flow where they want to and whenever they want to, completely unaware of the political boundaries as they remain silent witnesses to the confusion, intimidation of some and the inspiration, motivation of the few in the busy natural world of honey bees, trees and flowers but becomes a subject of study in the educational world of spelling bees, lessons, class explorations, excursions. conferences and lectures.
Each river on our planet has a name and some have become the cradle of civilizations and life support to millions. The Nile, Indus, Tigris and Euphrates are some of the names. One of the smallest states in India, Kerala has 44 rivers while Canada has about 900. To the Keralite or the Malayali and the Indian, some of them are the Pamba, Periyar, Bharatapuzha while to the Canadian few of them are Yukon, Mackenzie, St.Lawrence.
Our planet is the only one not named after a Greek or a Roman God. While Neptune was the Roman God of the sea, Venus was named after the Greek Goddess of beauty Aphrodite. David Livingstone, one of the pioneering Christian missionaries who served in the dense jungles of Africa named a waterfall in honour of his Queen. Today one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls shares the name with a Queen. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway terminus in Mumbai is an iconic structure that had an English name. It’s a state in Australia and also the capital of Seychelles. A waterfall, a railway terminus, a state, a country’s capital and a queen! One name, Victoria. The waterfall was named after the then Queen of England(Queen Victoria) and the railway terminus in India also.
Names transcend borders but some are specific to certain regions, religions, ethnicities and nationalities. Punjab is a state in India, it’s a province in Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi was born in Porbandar in the Indian state of Gujarat which has a coastline with the Arabian Sea and Gujarat is also a city in Pakistan while there is a Hyderabad on both sides of the border.
Tsitspias, Argyros, Adamos, Stephanos are Greek names while Vladimir, Gorbachev, Khruschev are Russian names. Religiously speaking Mathew, Mark, Luke, John, Philip, Thomas are prominent Christian names while Ahmed, Mohammed, Sajjid, Wahid, Imran, Irfan, Rizwan are Muslim names and Krishnan, Ramnath and Somnath are Hindu names.
The state of Georgia in the United States was one of the original Thirteen colonies and is a state, while Georgia in Europe was a former Soviet republic as part of the erstwhile USSR, and is an independent country today. The similarities with names may end in one place but it doesn’t in others. The Central Street in Bangalore was re-named as Mahatma Gandhi Road. The coffee town of Chikmagalur has two main roads – Indira Gandhi Road and Mahatma Gandhi Road.
The world’s largest river in terms of the volume of water is the Amazon. The rainforest is called the lungs of the world where millions of creatures, from the reptiles to the vultures, monkeys to toucans, lizards to snakes, dolphins and the piranhas, the jaguars, poison dart frogs all live together in the Amazon. The name of the world’s largest online platform is also Amazon. So, a river, rainforest and an online shopping portal have one thing in common. Their name: Amazon.
I bought a Home theatre from Dubai in 2007 which is still working!. He passed away recently at 99 and was the Duke of Edinburgh. Alexander the Great from Macedonia was regarded as one of the greatest emperors whose father shared a similar name to the Duke, and my Home theatre (It’s Philips – Prince Philip, King Philip,)
I have four dogs, each one having different soundtracks and mood swings. When each one barks, I need to call Simba, Teddy, Doodles and Muchi to stop. As soon as they hear their names they do respond but sometimes give a lukewarm response. Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati are rivers but are common names in thousands of Indian homes and are on school registers that have the children’s names. Sometimes it’s quite strange and funny as a Lakshmi walks past ‘The Lakshmi Vilas Bank’, a Saraswati passes by the Saraswati talkies(theatre) and a Ganga who is in her teens meets an elderly person called Gangamma. Similarly, we have Daniel Defoe who created Robinson Crusoe and Daniel Radcliffe playing the role of Harry Potter.
Once in a fortnight or on weekdays, I love to shop for multi-grain bread because it’s my wife’s favourite which I buy from a bakery in my locality called ‘ Black Forest’. As I was navigating the busy traffic across the roads of Ramamurthy Nagar, Bangalore with the Black Forest in my Hero Diu bike many thoughts wandered in my mind about the Black Forest bread. It’s a cake, and at the same time, it is also a forest in Germany. Our dishes, cakes, biscuits, sweets all have names. Mysore Park, Ambur, Hyderabad Biryani, Tirunvelli Halwa, Ooty Chocolates, French Fries… the list goes on. Every bus stop, locality, bike, car or cycle has one thing in common-it’s name. And not to forget the movies which have come and gone! They were known by their names.
Some cities share names with historical personalities like Alexandria in Egypt is named after Alexander the Great, while Washington DC is named after the first president of the USA, George Washington. Jamshedpur which is an industrial township is named after the visionary industrialist JRD Tata.
Names are also precious for armies and navies. There might be an Arjun in each classroom or school in India but for the Indian Army, there is a battle tank called Arjun. The Indian Navy, which goes by the tagline ‘An ocean of opportunities, has battleships and aircraft carriers. Virat Kohli is a world-renowned cricketer but for the Indian Navy, the INS Viraat was an aircraft carrier that was replaced by INS Vikramaditya.
It’s also good when we play with names – Anil and Sunil climbed a hill along with Sara and Tara who spoke about their imaginary tiara. Mark improved his marks last semester while Carol will be leading the Christmas Carols this December. A quizmaster can also ask questions related to names or go by popular nicknames: Who was called the Flying Sikh of India? Milkha Singh. Which American President was called the Honest Abe? Abraham Lincoln. “Follow the blues” is a popular tagline or phrase which has been picked up recently. It’s the Indian Cricket team or the Indian football team nicknamed Blue Tigers. The Kookaburras are the Australians and the Black Caps (Kiwis) who recently won the World Test Championship is theNew Zealand Cricket team
So the question, What’s your name or May I know your name is regular, similar throughout the journey called life and even after for the loved and dear ones. Names can evoke strong feelings of love, patriotism, respect, passion, exuberance and unfortunately strong resentment. The name Gandhi naturally attracts a deep sense of love and respect even after 73 years of him leaving our motherland. There are almost 70 statues of him worldwide, which all have the name either Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi. Mother Teresa’s name takes any person to the world of unconditional love, compassion and peace. He was Rohilhala when he attended school for the first time but his teacher gave him a Christian name, Nelson and today the world reveres, admires him as Nelson Mandela. On the other hand, the mention of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini immediately would see a shift in thinking and emotion related to ruthlessness and the deadly scourge of war.
Names can be controversial too. Greece has a region called Macedonia. The former republic of Yugoslavia broke into many independent nations like Serbia, Bosnia – Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. Greece objected to Macedonia’s name since its northern central part is called Macedonia. So how was the issue solved? By the Prespa Accord, both Greece and Macedonia came to an agreement by which Macedonia’s name was changed to the “Republic of North Macedonia”. Again, here the name assumes importance. It is called the Prespa accord because it was signed by the side of Lake Prespa, which surrounds Albania, Macedonia, and Greece.
As you enter the airport, your passport already has your name and your boarding pass too after all clearances. It’s not over! When your aircraft touches down the runway, your luggage which is waiting for you has your name! As you set sail on a voyage, check into the hotel room or resort, your books, your past and present books, certificates, research papers bear your name. Each one’s authentic Facebook account, bank account and statement, credit and debit card all have one thing in common. It bears his or her name.
Is it possible for our world to be nameless? It’s impossible. Every person or individual is distinct in appearance, thought, belief, expression and existence.
The flowers in any garden don’t bloom all together, they have their timings and the beauty is spellbound when they are together but each one is intrinsically different, aesthetically created and colourfully immaculate and similar in shape but different by patterns. Each of them is fortunate among the millions of flora and fauna to have a name since many have not been identified or biologically named.
Some animals have got names because the owner gives them and are fortunate to receive them. Domesticated Elephants in Kerala get names like Appukuttan, Omanakuttan, while their counterparts in Karnataka who have carried the golden howdah for the Dasara festival are Abhimanyu, Arjuna and Drona. Kipling’s Jungle book had an elephant called Hathi. Who can forget Free Willy? The killer whale called Keiko kept us spellbound and apprehensive every second he appeared on the silver screen. Recently Joe Biden lost Champ. Who was Champ? He was a German Shepherd with the Bidens for 13 years and recently moved to the White House. Bo, a Portuguese water dog lived with the Obamas and was often spotted in the Rose Garden of the White House.
The epitaph or the tombstone would always have a name because it loses its relevance without it. Once a name is branded in the commercial space, it becomes a legal right to the MNC (Multinational company) and a copyright violation to the offender. Can anybody lawfully take or claim the names of Ford, Toyota, Pepsi, McDonalds, Johnson & Johnson, Kit Kat, Nestle, Amul, Maruti, Hero, Parle-G, Bru, Lijjat Papad other than their owners? It takes years to build a personal name but seconds to spoil it. Some names become brands in the business, others don’t.
Names are precious to the world and our world. Next time you meet a friend or a colleague after many years don’t forget his or her name because it’s precious to him or her and of course to the reader who has just finished reading this article- An UnNamed World.
- https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46846231 (Retrieved on 20 June 2021)
- https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/water-overview/sources/rivers.html#canada (Retrieved on 15 June 2021)
- https://www.npr.org/2021/05/08/995086328/obamas-mourn-death-of-true-friend-beloved-first-dog-bo (Retrieved on 24 June 2021)