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My wife, Malathi, and I have spent several weeks discussing

names for our baby and we've finally agreed on something: We

hate each other's choices.

At this rate, giving birth to the baby will be a lot easier

than naming it. Only one person gives birth (thank

goodness!), whereas, in some families, naming a baby can

involve as many as 50, with suggestions pouring in from

parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, co-workers, and

even the idiot next door. The one who named his sons Laxman

and Taxman. If he has a third son, he's already thought of a

good name: Relaxman.

Luckily for us, no one else is suggesting names. But there

are certainly enough names being tossed around. I never

realized that name-selecting could produce so much

name-calling. I don't know how many times I've had to defend

my honor: "Hey! My name is Melvin. It starts with an 'm' and

ends with an 'n' but I wish you'd stop confusing it with


If we don't decide on a name soon, we'll be forced to follow

the tradition of some cultures: naming the baby after the

loudest sound the mother makes in labor. How else do you

think Oprah got her name? Her mother obviously meant to

scream, "Oh pray!"

Among my wife's favorite names for girls is Tarangini. She

considers it rather melodious, I consider it just odious.

Tarangini. We might as well name the baby Tarantula. That

sounds a lot better.

If your name happens to be Tarangini, please don't get angry

with me. Get angry with your parents. They're the ones who

named you.

Perhaps they weren't thinking straight. I'm not suggesting

they were drinking, but that could explain why the word

"gin" appears in your name.

Among my wife's favorite names for boys is Kashyap, a name

that's almost as melodious as Tarangini. I can't help

imagining the teasing he'd get at an American school

cafeteria: "Hey, Kashyap! Please pass the ketchup." Not to

mention the ribbing during running competitions: "Hey,

Kashyap! Please catch up!"

Malathi has a theory why her "unenlightened" husband can't

appreciate these beautiful names -- he didn't grow up

reading literature in Tamil, Sanskrit and Bengali. "Just

because you didn't learn to appreciate sounds in these

languages doesn't mean these names aren't beautiful to the

ears." She makes a good point. Now all she needs is a good


She believes that her favorite names may one day become

universal, just as Indian names are gracing westerners such

as Canadian humorist Chandra Clarke and Hollywood actress

Uma Thurman. Malathi may be right, but I'll be absolutely

stunned the day I meet a non-Indian named Tarangini.

Of course, I have no right to make fun of names, because my

name is not only old-fashioned, it doesn't reflect my rich

Indian heritage. But it's too late to change my name. I've

been a Melvin for so many years, I don't want to suddenly

turn into a Melvinder or Melvinathaman.

Malathi has convinced me that it's important to give our

baby an Indian name. Though she likes some western names

such as Olivia, she says, "I don't believe it's our role to

propagate them." As far as I'm concerned, if we end up

naming our baby Tarangini, we'll be done propagating!

(c) Copyright 2023 Melvin Durai. All Rights Reserved. Melvin Durai is a U.S.-based writer and humorist. A native of India, he grew up in Zambia and moved to the U.S. in the early 1980s.

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