The Scientific Indian

How we named our daughter Nidhi Nova

We needed a secular name. Some day, I hope considerations like secular names would be irrelevant. But, this is not that day. As a parent, I did not wish my child to bear a name that leans on blind faith.

What’s in a name, we wondered at times, as we ruled out name after name which were biased in favor of religious outlook. Perhaps, we should just pick a sufficiently popular and sufficiently unique – that strange balance all new parents seek in a child’s name – and be done with it. But, identity is all a person is, and name is an overarching part of that identity. Name is a label, a marker on the doors of a grand museum of things past, the tip of an iceberg that represents a vast substrate of cultural references. It is a living memory of the time and place of someone, someone’s parents. Often a name is a subconscious attempt at nominative determinism by hopeful parents. Naming the child, say, as Selvakumar(prince of wealth, all kinds of wealth), one hopes, will bring a lot of wealth to the child. While there are some anecdotal stories supporting nominative determinism, contrary evidence is overwhelming.

Early on we decided that the name would represent our conception of our child’s identity. We, the innocent baby’s parents who had rejected religion and disavowed nominative determinism, would in the few syllables that the name has, metaphorically indicate the baby’s place and time of birth. The baby was born at the confluence of cultures: East and West. This confluence was brought about by personal choices of her parents. In a migrant’s world, each generation stands at a different shore. For a migrant’s child, name is just the beginning of a life filled with the joys, hopes and pains of the diaspora.

Nidhi would be her first name. The name means wealth (in tamil), wealth to us, a treasure that has overwhelmed us with the pleasure and pain it has given us. Nidhi is the result of a biological imperative. There have been billions of babies before and there will be billions after. The river out of Eden rushes on and carries life on and on through time. Our short-lived consciousness has only a few fleeting moments of glorious living. Ramya and I have a little speck of stardust in our hands to enrich our moments of consciousness. Nidhi is a possibility the Universe is exploring, like an underground stream seeking a fissure in the rock to become a fountain.

Nova will be her last name. The word has Latin origins: it means new. Nova, incidentally, also means an exploding star that illuminates the void with light. While this meaning may be more popularly known, we intend the name to mean ‘new’ and ‘an explosion of light’ equally. (For those curious, we also considered these last names: Terra, Alexis and Scientia.)

So, there you have it – how we named our daughter Nidhi Nova. Pardon me if I had gone a bit poetic and misty-eyed. It’s the sleeplessness, adrenaline rush and sheer joy of seeing a new life – a life that has never before seen this Universe, and vice versa.


  1. #1 Ian
    December 18, 2007

    You can’t go wrong naming your child Nova – especially when it’s part of a name that could be interpreted as “an explosion of wealth”!

    It’s also an explosion of full time work, be warned, but that probably wouldn’t make for so sweet a name!


  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    December 18, 2007


    You make me wish I had been named Nidhi. . . .

  3. #3 Coturnix
    December 18, 2007

    Congratulations!!! What a lovely name!

  4. #4 notabore
    December 18, 2007

    Not to be a bore, but…what’s wrong with your own last name? Can’t “Nova” be the middle name?

  5. #5 Chris
    December 18, 2007

    Congratulations to all of you!

  6. #6 amanda
    December 18, 2007

    Congratulations. It’s a beautiful name…I’m a bit jealous, really.

  7. #7 firemancarl
    December 18, 2007

    Congrats on the birth of your daughter. The name is fantastic.

  8. #8 Josh
    December 18, 2007


    I’d like to do the same myself, but my beloved happens to have come up with three rather beautiful Celtic names that we both like, and I have yet to produce anything better. She also vetoed Hypatia. Oh well.

    I wish you and your family the best. I can’t think of a better Squidmas present than a new child. =)

  9. #9 Patrick Quigley
    December 18, 2007

    Congratulations! I like the name.

  10. #10 sowmya
    December 18, 2007

    The post partum hormones (or the lack of it) do that to you.;-) But a wonderful explanation for a wonderful name.

  11. #11 brennon
    December 18, 2007

    Great name and congrats!

  12. #12 Abi
    December 18, 2007

    Congratulations, again Selva! This time, for choosing this lovely name for your daughter.

    So, Nova is her last name? Wow! I bet this alone is going to make her feel cool all her life.

  13. #13 Niket
    December 18, 2007

    Congrats Selva. Excellent name for your daughter!

  14. #14 wildcardjack
    December 19, 2007

    Congratulations. You have plucked at my heart strings by seeking a secular and multicultural name.

    My father was a Catholic, so I’m saddled with two saints names. Something I may work to undo someday.

  15. #15 shrimplate
    December 19, 2007

    You could have named her “Zero.” That’s certainly devoid of religiousity. But I suppose it could lead to self-esteem issues.

    Hey, I kid. About your kid.Okay, I’ll stop now.

    That’s a very cool name. At the root of the issue is not just a child’s name, but also avoidance of the religious brainwashing that many children are forced to undergo by their nutball parents. That is simply not in the best interests of a child, and therefore I would say it is abuse.

  16. #16 Anonymoustache
    December 19, 2007

    That is a beautiful name and a beautifully thought out sentiment. I think that your post itself — with all the love and thought that went into it— is one of the best gifts you can give your child. Moreover, it appears to be emblematic of what she can expect from her parents every day; she is indeed lucky! Here’s wishing all of you the very best for the future.

  17. #17
    December 19, 2007

    Hi Selva,

    Congratulations! Unique name, indeed. Welcome Nidhi and good luck! As someone who has undergone this experience years ago, I should also wish you and your wife – a lot of good sleep! You need it in the first few months to enjoy the rest of the time you are awake and with the baby.

  18. #18 Satcomguy
    December 19, 2007

    “…sheer joy of seeing a new life – a life that has never before seen this Universe, and vice versa.”

    A beautiful line, and a sentiment that I also felt when my children were born.

    My heartiest congratulations and best wishes for your growing family.

  19. #19 teacherninja
    December 19, 2007

    Thanks you for sharing. It’s a beautiful experience and you did something I haven’t been able to: you captured it in words. My daughter is four and the feelings you describe have yet to diminish. Best wishes for your whole family.

  20. #20 speckofdust
    December 19, 2007

    Wow, blogging does make one a narcissistic ntellectual. What is so big deal about naming? Pick a seweet sounding name and thats it.

  21. #21 selva
    December 20, 2007

    Thank you all! Glad to be able to share in a sentiment that many of you felt when your own baby arrived.

    Abi, Nova is the last name. Registered it yesterday. Ramya wanted to have Selvakumar as the last name and Nova as the middle name but I demurred. No reason to have that baggage loaded onto the little girl’s name.

  22. #22 Manimozhian
    July 20, 2008

    Nidi nova – as a science freak, I really love this name. I wonder how many people (like people in your native) appreciated its beauty/meaning.

    “sheer joy of seeing a new life – a life that has never before seen this Universe, and vice versa.”
    these lines made me go “Wooow”.

    BTW, my Dad’s native is near Namakkal.

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