Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Reincarnation of Sanskrit

If you were working the graveyard shift at the cemetery of languages, you’d notice that the ancient spirit of Sanskrit is doing celebratory cartwheels and back flips, these days. There’s a simple reason for it: the fossilized language is making a comeback of sorts in a totally new avatar in every nation other than India.

Surprised? I am not. Any language that has 96 words for love, 67 words for water and 15 words for gold must be a treasure trove for the true seekers of linguistic jollies, especially in the domain of branding. Which is perhaps why we are seeing a profusion of Sanskrit names for products ranging from low brow apps to high street couture.

Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana, James Cameron’s Avatar, the Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement, the Kama Sutra and the Yoga wave in the West, deserve equal credit for spreading the word about the possibilities of owning a profoundly meaningful and yet, distinctively different sound.

When Erica Falconeri, a big league international model, wanted to launch her own line of designer scarves, she chose ‘Ananda’ (bliss) as her moniker. When Beaver and Pam Theodosakis were fishing for an appropriate name for their yoga and climbing apparel, they hit upon ‘PrAna’ (life). Fashion designer Isse Miyake’s protégé Makiko Minagawa’s case is different. She wanted a rustic ‘global village’ kind of name for her rather diverse collection from here and there. She picked ‘Haat’ not just because it meant ‘village market’ but because it sounded like both ‘heart’ and ‘haath’ (Hindi for ‘hand’ - cueing handmade)!

Australian skin care company ‘Sodashi’ is about chemical-free products. So they picked a Sanskrit root word that stood for ‘Wholeness, purity and radiance’ and thus arrived at Sodashi. Aveda (all knowledge) is another natural cosmetic giant with an Indic origin.

Even techie companies haven’t been able to resist the charms of the Vedic language. For every ultrabook named ‘Lenovo Yoga’, there’s a web based app called ‘Asana’. For every telecom giant named ‘Avaya’ (perceptual judgment), there’s a big data player named Tumra (big). Sadly, back home in India, we’ve relegated Sanskrit to the status of a holy leper and have done everything in our powers to give her an undignified burial.