Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What's in a name? Crystal -I

What's in a name? That what we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
claimed Bernard Shaw.

Ha! I hear you clicking your tongue at my ignorance, muttering, "That was Shakespeare, you fool!" Don't worry, I know the quotation very well, and I always deliberately misattribute it because I want to make precisely this point: names are indeed (often) very important!

There are several examples that I can cite in different contexts-- in fact I had once contemplated writing a collection of short stories on this issue. But tonight I'll just tell you the story of my friend Crystal.

Crystal or Krystal or Chris (not to be confused with my Bavarian friend with the Swedish girlfriend) or Kris or Krish is one of the oldest friends I have whom am still in touch with. I met him when I was 11. We had moved to Delhi in 1985 and I joined the local Kendriya Vidyalaya (chain of schools all over India). Crystal was ill that week, but I heard about him from the others... a strange name. I asked the same question that everybody asked when they heard the name: is he christian? No, not at all. A few days later I met him too. I was a rather shy guy, and he approached me and made friends, I remember it was the games period.

We soon became good friends, close friends, and eventually "best friends" and our friendship became quite legendary in our class. We did have our fights, sulkings, quarrels but we both made up pretty soon. After two years, he moved to Madras where he stayed on until we both finished school in 1991 (I had moved to Calcutta by then), and then he moved to the US. After he moved to Madras, we met for a few hours in Delhi in the summer of 1989, in Bangalore for a couple of days in the summer of 1997, and a few months ago (end of May-beginning of June) we met again for a week here in Vienna (and Munich). I'll talk about that in a future post. But we have kept in touch... in the beginning it used to be an amazingly regular exchange of letters (Crystal attributes it to me), then an occasional letter, regular emails, occasional emails and finally an occasional email or a phone call. But we have kept in touch. He was one of the first six people I came out to (I forget the order, but he might have been the second or third).

Anyways, back to the name. Crystal comes from a Sindhi family and their extended family has this love for strange names. Apparently when he was born, an aunt of his was reading about crystallization, and so he was named Crystal. He has a cousin called Happy... they named him because he seemed very happy at the candles on the cake at a (his first?) birthday. I shudder to think of such relatives.

His name of course invariable caused a double-take . "Crystal?!" "That's an unusual name! Is he Christian?" "Why is your name Crystal?" Of course, fortunately for him, we were unaware at that time that in the West it is a girl's name, otherwise he'd have been teased a lot. He didn't really seem to mind his name though. I remember our Sanskrit teacher protesting about his name. He mentioned that his folks had been considering naming him "Kuldeep", and the teacher said she'd call him "Kuldeep". I don't think she ever remembered.
Even while in India, he sometimes used to write "Krystal" instead of sticking to "Crystal".

After he moved to the US, he started facing problems because of his name, because it is a girl's name. He began introducing himself as Chris. He mentioned he'd change his name to Kris or Krish. And he did change his name to Krish when he became a US citizen. Nevertheless he still continues to be confused about his name.

During their trip to this area in May, they were staying in a youth hostel (and I was staying with Chris and Stina) in Munich. When we went to look for him and his wife, Sheetal, at the youth hostel, we didn't know what his room number was. At the reception desk, I had no clue what he had given as his first name.
It was "Crystal".


meerkat said...

i have heard people with names like welcome and happy. always associated these names with sardarjis. crystal really takes the biscuit. no wonder your friend is so confused. here in the uk, you here about 'celebrities' coming up with more and more outrageous and stupid names. each of bob geldof's daughters have 3 part names. the name of gwyneth paltrow's daughter is apple , which i think is a real classic


Anonymous said...

Hi UV,

When i read the quote, Shakespeare immediately jumped to my mind and had to verify it. It is from Romeo and Juliet. I'm sure it must have been a typo.


wen said...

my partner's cousin is named "blue". he's a little kid, maybe 2 or 3 at this point. people always say (when we tell them): "oh, i had a dog named blue"

we do live in california, though, so it's not a big deal. i had a roommate named "rainbow" and i currently have a male cat named "rosie" (we intially thought he was a girl, and the name still suited him when we found out otherwise--he has a very rosy disposition.)

i used to keep a list of weird names on my whiteboard at work...

one of the odder ones: a guy called odd-even bustness.

Vidya said...

:) Talk about odd names. My husband has a friend who is a malayalee, and is called Happy. But even a common name like mine can create identity crisis. I had always had another person right from my school days who is called Vidya so much so, one of my husband's sister is called Vidya. But somehow, got used to it and we survive with all the different nicks we end up having.

Visiting you after a very long time. Wondered if you gave up this blog too. Good to see you back, but I see that its been 3 months since this post. Take care.

Vidya said...

Happy New Year A.S. :)

A.S. said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone, and thanks for the greetings, Vidya. Yes it has been a long time since I have been posting. I have been busy and there have been so many things to write that it has been difficult to prioritise.... but I haven't given up yet!

The TAAMommy has obviously not read the post properly and didn't understand that the misattribution was intentional.

Ok, a happy new year to all my visitors, and I promise to get back to blogging quite soon!