Thursday, June 20, 2013

Banned at birth.

There may be a billion things wrong with India but we have one privilege that not many nations have. We have the freedom to name our babies any which way we choose.

We can call someone ‘Ravan’ without raising the hackles of the saffron chaddiwalahs. We can write a song on ‘DK Bose’ without fear of censorship. We can proudly give ourselves the surname ‘Chutiya’ without worrying about sounding offensive. We can contest polls as ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Hitler’, ‘Stalin’ or ‘Latrine’ without causing a stink.

One cannot dream of such liberties even in the USA. The recent episode of a New Jersey dad being denied custody of his four children, thanks to his penchant for giving Nazi names, is a tiny taint on America.

You’d be surprised to know that many so-called developed countries have regressive name censorship regimes. New Zealand leads the pack by religiously issuing a list of taboo names, every year. Among the ones they deemed unacceptable include very civil monikers like ‘Majesty’, ‘King’, ‘Justice’, ‘Queen Victoria’, ‘Knight’ and ‘4Real’. Clearly, there’s no justice for real in Kiwi land.

The Germans are worse. Forenames are cleared only if male names feel masculine and female names appear feminine. Nothing in between ever gets the nod. Not even unisex words such as ‘Rain’, ‘Mist’, ‘Shine’, ‘Magic’ and ‘Love’. Now you know why Germany never produces a Magic Johnson.

Iceland is, by far, the most restrictive. Parents have no other option but to choose from a sarkari menu card of 1853 female and 1712 male names. What that means is a Cecilia, Celina, or Camelia are OUT, as Icelandic doesn’t have the letter C. In case you’re wondering, “then how come ‘Iceland’ contains ‘c’?” Well that’s because the locals pronounce ‘Iceland’ as ‘Island’!

Even Sweden has a pre-approved list of 7000 names. Any deviation requires special permission. Elisabeth Hallin and Lasse Diding protested the silliness of the law by naming their child ‘Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116’ (apparently pronounced ‘albin’). The government authorities didn’t see the humour in the proposal. They simply declined it. The couple had to finally settle for Albin Hallin. So the bottom line is, when naming babies, always go by the book.