Bengali nicknames have been my favorite passtime for a very long time. There has been no connection whatsoever in the name and nickname. Being a Probashi bangali I have never understood the relevance of the various names given to the kids. I was given an improvised version of the name Shona…. so were my brothers and my sisters…… all of us had the same nickname…… I have still not understood the reason why there are 5 Shunu’s in the same family…… Amma (my grandmother) improvised it to Jhunu…….. thank God for that. In Pune however, (where I was brought up) Shunu is unique. My sisters were called Bulu and Tunu. So when Ma wanted to call us she screamed Bulutunushunu in one breath…… It was hilarious. Everyone who lived around us knew us by the same name!!! The following excerpt was sent to me by a friend it stayed with me because it is absolutely true as well as hilarious.
Some of the bengali names given to the boys when they are born are Chhoton, Bulbul, Khoka, Laltu, Gogol, Babu, Buro, Tutu, Bubu, Ghoton, Bhutan, Chhotka, Shanto, Bubai, Tubul . . . et al.
Here is an attempt to alert people to a great injustice that is being perpetrated upon the sons of Bengal. So you thought they were wimpy to begin with. Far from it!!! Their current state is a result of years of conditioning by the oppressors, namely, the women. By using panoply of psychological weapons, they have reduced these fine men to what you mostly see today.
Let us focus on the first weapon in their hands – the nickname. When a son is born into a Bengali household, he is gifted with a resonant, sonorous name. Bengali names are wonderful things. They convey majesty and power. A man with a name like Shushmito, Shamrat, Samudro, Rudro, Prokash, Indrojeet,Shurojit, Proshenjit, Bishshodip, etcetera, is a man who will walk with his head held high, knowing that the world expects great deeds from him, which was why they bestowed the title that is his name upon him. But it simply will not do for these men to get ahead of themselves.
Their swelling confidence needs to be shattered. How can one go about it? This task is left to the mothers of these lads and is accomplished by the simple act of referring to the boy, not by his rather-great-sounding real name, but by a nickname which even Shakti Kapoor would feel ashamed to answer to.
There are five rules for creating nicknames, which need to be followed. They are:
1. Nicknames must have no connection to the real name. Orunabho cannot be called Orun. No, for that would be logical, and such things are anathema in the world of women. Instead he shall be called BHOMBOL. If possible, the nickname and real name must have no letters in common, but an ancient alphabet proves to be the constraining factor there.
2. Nicknames must be humiliating to the power infinity. If you are a tall strapping boy, with a flair for soccer, an easy charm and an endearing personality, then you shall be nicknamed – Khoka and everytime, you have set your sights on a girl, and are on the verge of having the aforementioned lass eat out of your hand – your mother will arrive and pronounce loudly – “Khokon, cholo”. The ensuing sea of giggles will drown out whatever confidence you had earned from that last winning free-kick.
3. A nickname must refer in some way to a suitably embarrassing incident in your childhood that you would give your arm and leg to forget. If it took you a little too long to shed your baby fat, then years of gymming will not rid you of the nomenclature Motka. If your face turned crimson when you cried as a toddler, you will be called Laltu. When you turn 40, your friends’ children will call you Laltu Uncle. Even age will not earn you the right to be taken seriously thereafter.
4. Different members of the family will make up different nicknames each more embarrassing than the preceding one. If one member of the family calls you Piklu, then another will call you Pocha, and another will call you Ghoton. The humiliation multiplies.
5. You will always be introduced by your nickname until people forget you had a real name. Ranajoy might have taken on a gang of armed men single-handedly, but Tatai really didn’t have a chance. After a point, Tatai will completely take over the beaten body of Ranajoy, weighed down by the pressure of a thousand taunts.
This strategy is surprisingly effective. Ask yourself – would you take Professor Boltu seriously? Or put much weight by the opinion of Dr Bubai? Or march into battle under the command of General Topa? The power of the nickname has scarred the psyche of Bengali men everywhere. It follows them like a monkey on their backs. That too, a monkey that was imposed on them by their own mothers, aunts and grandmothers.
(please note that the above excerpt is a forward sent to me by a friend I have no knowledge of the original author)