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.