Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nilam and why it blows.

Now that Cyclone Nilam has gone with the wind, it’s time to investigate the misogynists who propelled this Urdu word into our national consciousness.

First things first, Nilam (means Sapphire) is not an Indian invention. It was a Paki brainwave. For reasons best known to them, the weathermen in Shoaib Mallik Country gave 8 name suggestions for tropical cyclones. And nearly all of them have a feminine ring and a lyrical lilt. Since it’s not quite a CIA secret, I am gonna let the billi out of the bag.

The Pakistan Shortlist almost sounds like a Dubai Sheikh’s harem - what with names like Fanoos, Nargis, Laila, Nilam, Nilofar, Vardah, Titli and Bulbul. The World Meteorological Organization has already used up Fanoos, Nargis, Laila and Nilam in the years 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2012. So next year, in all likelihood Nilofar will come knocking at our coasts, breathing fire and brimstone!

Guys like you and me may not have an issue with such names. The ones who will suffer the most are the chicks who’ve been bestowed this moniker by their loving mammas. Imagine if you were Nilam and you had just fallen in love with say, Ranbir Kapoor. You’ll become an object of ridicule overnight in the Kapoor Khandaan. ‘Manhoos naam hai beta,’ is the kind of whispers you’ll hear from the Lalita Pawars on Ranbir’s side. What’s worse is when you stumble upon billboards for NILAM TABLE FANS with the rather tasteless tagline: For the best blow jobs! You’ll feel like hiding under the table, right?

That’s my bone of contention with Disaster Naming norms followed world over. You can’t let a bunch of jilted folks extract revenge by naming thunderstorms after their former lovers. Care must be taken to pick unusual names that won’t cause embarrassment to anyone. If I had my way, I’d name hurricanes and typhoons after the most destructive men and women in history. I am certain, a Hurricane Hitler, Cyclone Saddam, Typhoon Osama or Twister Stalin will make no one cringe. On the contrary, it might make the babus more alert, the citizens more aware and the media, less flippant.