What’s In A Name?


“A rose by any other another name would still smell the same…” so penned Shakespeare in Romeo & Juliet.

So what’s in name, we may ask. There is lot in a name, actually.

Names are a cluster of sound vibrations; a bunch of phonetics strung together. It’s usually something we receive at birth; most of us seldom change it; and it goes with us into our grave.

From the time we are born, a series of emotions & experiences keep energizing our name, giving it a certain character. As we live through life, we go through circumstances & situations that make us what we are; these experiences (successes / failures) are identified with our name; recollection & memories further etch these deeper into our name.

So at some point in time – our name assumes an identity of its own; a separate behavior pattern associated with that name comes into being; and our name defines who we are. Try as we may, we find it difficult to move away from everything & anything that defines what our name stands for. The energy of our name becomes stronger than the energy of our being.


About 2 months back, I downloaded a chat application on my phone.

As a rule, I’m absolutely against mindless phone / internet chatting; I perceive it to be a criminal waste of time, especially if nothing important needs to be shared at either end; I don’t have this urge to just keep on greeting & meeting people every day, even if only in the virtual world. Perhaps it has something to do with the introverted side of my nature.

But I do like checking out new applications, if only to test the extent to which technology has evolved. And in that context, I downloaded Hike; another usual run-of-the-mill chat app.

But this is not about software applications, it’s about something else. I changed my name here – out of sheer boredom & the fact that I was absolutely not intending to connect with anyone in this space.

Simran. Inspired by that iconic dialogue – Jaa Simran jaa, jee le apni zindagi – in the iconic voice of Amrish Puri, from that iconic movie – Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. That’s the name I enlisted with. Absolutely tongue-in-cheek; but with a nagging curiosity that asked – how exactly would I react to identification with a different name.


  • I created a test group of mom, dad & brother to understand the application better.
  • Surprisingly, it turned out to be the most active family thread – amongst all my other applications. With no extra effort from my side, conversation just flows; arguments are quickly resolved & humor falls back in place; more news is shared; more connectivity has happened.
  • On a chat app, where I wasn’t intending to have any more contacts or conversations, apart from my above-mentioned test group, I have surprisingly got linked to people who otherwise have been quite distant on my radar so far; people from far behind in the past, people who I haven’t actively searched for, people from different cities… And conversation threads have been smoothly picked up from where they were last left off.
  • Whether family or friends the most distinctive feature of name change has been absence of conflict. That – kind of forced me to think – has it anything to do with the name?


How often have we heard of people taking on new names: When people move to new countries; when people move into new phases of life; when people want to move away from their past; when authors prefer pen-names – and sometimes mavericks like me who like to experiment with something new. It’s not that uncommon.

In Gujarat – my adopted hometown, a custom (which is now redundant) prevailed – a girl changes her name after marriage. Personally, it has been a custom I have always derided & looked down upon, as something that forces a girl to change her identity; lose sense of she is & what she has worked for till now, and merge with a name that will now be chosen by someone else.

But today, I would want to analyze this custom in a different way. The ideology behind this may have been thus:

  • At different milestones in life, it is important to leave past baggage behind & begin afresh. Past baggage is usually experiences & emotions attached, from your past.
  • Some baggage may be good, some exceptional, some baggage may be bad, some best forgotten – but the more you add on & carry – the heavier you walk along life’s path.
  • To understand new experiences with fresh insights – it is important to rest the past somewhere. The past is also still you – and you can go back to relive it whenever you like – but what has happened in the past should not color your experiences of the future. Hence, in a small way, you start afresh; you begin a new chapter on a new page. And it’s a whole new experience.
  • In Hinduism, when we opt for renunciation from worldly life, and wish to walk towards becoming a sadhu / sadhvi (monk / nun) – then again, the pre-requisite is: that we leave our old name behind, with all its good / bad baggage – and move forward to new experiences with a new assumed name.
  • In a way, you are unknotting the attachment of old strings that will give you more space to weave & hold on to new strings.


Laws of the Spirit World – is a book penned by Khorshed Bhavnagri, apparently from data received through her dead sons, through the medium of automatic writing. I have read the book. It opens your thinking in more ways than one. Immensely churning, well written and insightful – it covers dialogues on birth, death, after life, rebirth & laws of karma. I recommend a read.

Khorshed Bhavnagri mentions in the pages of her book, that:

  • We all have a soul name. It is our master name, and it is used by higher beings to access our karmic records from the very first experience of our soul, from its very first lifetime – to what we are today.
  • Our soul name – is a name that we do not receive in any of our lifetimes, except the penultimate ones before final nirvana / moksh – where we are allowed full access to our past information. Those will perhaps be lifetimes where we would have evolved to selfless sainthood, and working for betterment of mankind.
  • By a strange coincidence, guided by destiny, we also do not receive the same name of our past life, in a present birth. The idea being – past name will bring recollections of past baggage – and past baggage & past memories will weigh you down from doing justice to your present.
  • Often, we come down to re-work relationships & situations that may have gone bad in the past – and for this it is important that we begin on a neutral note, a clean slate so to say. So apparently, destiny does everything in its capacity to ensure that we do not restart with the same name.
  • In a way, it also explains our urges / liking / attraction towards certain names. Perhaps in a distant past, we have lived with that name; much in the same way we are attracted to certain places around us & across the world – places where we may have written past destinies.
  • We are in a constant flux to reclaim our past – and our urges guide us there. If destiny deems us ready to do so, then it allows us that reclaim – if not, then we are gently steered away, till we are deemed more ready to receive that past, into our present.


Rename. Refresh. Restart. Reboot. Renew. It’s still you.


The *Khobragade* In All Of Us


This tagline is inspired from today’s Times of India edit column.

Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat to USA, made headlines last year when she faced charges of fraud, for misrepresenting details in her maid’s visa application. The nation witnessed a sharp divide both ways – for & against.

To me `Khobragade’ as a person means nothing; but `Khobragade’ in my mind has become synonymous with a way of thinking.

Before I explain myself, allow me to quote from the Times of India articles that set me thinking.

TOI / June 2, 2014 / Radhika Vaz / Edit / Quoted

…. The urban Indian is willing to put aside all his differences to stand united with one another against his servant …. How else can we explain the support Devyani got from us as a nation …. The accusation against her is that she fudged documents so that she could import a maid, and she got caught …. And educated Indians everywhere rushed to her defense, completely ignoring the plight of her maid …. Is it because we think our servants are less than us, or because we want to keep them in their place, or both? …. In the end it doesn’t matter, we are all complicit in perpetrating social separation. The kind America experienced during segregation; the kind South Africa experienced with apartheid; the kind India experienced during pre-independence with British ruler class & we, their servant class ….

TOI / June 2, 2014 / Preet Bharara / US Attorney General / Quoted

…. That was not so pleasant, I was upset as a normal human being might be, then the accusations got more absurd, they became downright comical …. Indian critics were angry because even though I hailed from India, I appeared to be acting American, and was acting to serve the interests of America; which was odd, because I am American, and my title does say US Attorney General …. It wasn’t the crime of the century but it was a serious crime nonetheless …. State dept opened the case, investigated it, career prosecutors approved criminal charges – but it became an international case ….


Like I said in the very beginning, what Devyani Khobragade did, or what India thought about her, is of no consequence to me. That is a matter on which much has been said & done.

For me the word `Khobragade’ has come to mean `a conflict in thinking’. For me `Khobragade’ has become synonymous with the 2 demons that are forever playing tug-of-war in our mind – Loyalty & Rationality. Or should I say – Loyalty v/s Rationality.


At a macro level – the last 6 months for India have witnessed incredible polarization of views, emotions & passions. And somewhere down the line – everything that we said, in defense or in prosecution, was tainted with a loyalty that had clearly moved away from rationality.

When we spoke for a cause or a person – we spoke with the loyalty of heightened passions – clearly stamping on evidence to the contrary & hoping that the louder our voices became, the easier it would be to drown all voices of dissent & doubt.

At the other extreme, when we spoke against a cause or a person – we spoke with the loyalty of conscience keepers, patrons of truth, moral police et al – clearly magnifying all available evidence to make it look more ghastly & more ghoulish than it may have been.

  • This man is our savior.
  • This man is a butcher.
  • You are annihilating my religion.
  • No, you are humiliating my religion.
  • My religion is secular.
  • Your religion is discriminatory.
  • The ones that left sold our country.
  • The ones that will come will make us a super power.
  • That channel has sold its soul (views anti to our own).
  • That anchor is anti nationalist (views anti to our own).
  • This channel gives correct information (views matching to our own).
  • This anchor is nationalist (views matching to our own).
  • That CM must resign.
  • That CM is a neighboring stooge.
  • Kill kill kill. Resign resign resign.
  • Win win win. Lose lose lose.
  • So what if she fudged her certificates.
  • Oh she fudged her certificates, drag her through the streets.
  • And so on it goes on…

Either way, when our pendulum swings to the extremes, it is loyalty personified at that end – but when our pendulum rests in the middle, even for a brief pause, we have a chance at testing our rationality.

At a micro level – the % of loyalty & rationality in your day to day expressions will determine the health & length of your communication with others, and with own your inner self.


  • We are taught very early in life – *to be loyal*.
  • How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: to be loyal to ourselves.
  • How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: that you cannot believe in others unless you believe in yourself first.
  • How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: be loyal to your thoughts; test your thoughts; and create a set of personal ideologies that result from that testing.
  • How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: believe in ideas, not in people; that way you will know when to pat on the back & when to slap on the wrists.
  • How I wish that 1st lesson had taught us: to be loyal to the principles of religion & not religion per se.
  • Yes, how I wish… how I wish…

But wishes are not horses & beggars don’t ride. The reality of our formal & informal *education*is something like this:

  • Family is God. Hence: my mother, father, brother, sister can do no wrong. End of rationality.
  • We grow older. My school is the best. Hence: my teachers can teach nothing wrong. End of rationality.
  • We grow still older. My college, my university, my friends, my girlfriend, my boyfriend, my spouse, my child, my organisation, my boss, my job: all flawless.
  • In fact, we go through workshops, seminars & training programs to further *instill loyalty* into us, until the last shred of rationality is sucked out.
  • God forbid, if we dare to see the other side of the coin, then we become *traitors*.
  • So what has essentially happened is: from the time we are born to the age we are today – for every show of *loyalty* we have received a reward that further pushes us to exhibit the same behavior.
  • And for every show of *rationality* we have been mercilessly slapped on our wrists & branded as fickle / traitors / cheaters / defectors by our parents, siblings, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, bosses & even countrymen.


To sum it up: Loyalty has a *pro* word attached to it. Pro-family, pro-commitment, pro-friends, pro-society, pro-progress, pro-organization, pro-hierarchy, pro-religion, pro-national, pro-humanity, pro-God…

Oxford definition aside, `Loyalty’ is a word that has become synonymous with reverence / worship / integrity character.

So basically: Good human beings are essentially loyal; you are trained to look at the good in a person / organization / idea & turn a blind eye to the bad; you are trained not to make corrections or improvements, or else you risk slipping in your ratings.

We idolize people, relationships, institutions, organizations rather than – the values-in-a-person, the depth-of-a-relationship, the strength-of-an-institution, the learning-from-an-organization.

We become conditioned to perceive change as a threat that will shake the foundation, rather than an opportunity to strengthen the same. We become complacent because neither are we expected to change nor are we trained to tolerate change in others.

Stagnation, boredom, suffocation sets in – and loyalty will destroy the very structure that it was carefully cultivated to protect.


To sum it up: Rationality has an *anti* word attached to it. Anti-family, anti-commitment, anti-friends, anti-society, anti-progress, anti-organization, anti-hierarchy, anti-religion, anti-national, anti-humanity, anti-God…

Oxford definition aside, `Rationality’ is a word that is used synonymously with cold / severe / ruthless / selfish.

So basically: You are not allowed to change your views, analysis & perception about people, relationships, organizations, ideas & ideologies. If you have believed in something or someone once, you will have to continue to exert that belief till death. Should you wish to change or modify your perceptions – the world will write your obituary.

But when we move away from this fear – we become like the pendulum of a well oiled Grandfather-clock – we develop our skills to see both sides of a person / an idea / a situation.

We learn to separate the chaff from the grain & not throw away the baby with the bathwater. We can retain what is necessary & do away with what is not; that translates into bringing change into ourselves & encouraging others to change according to their inner ideologies.

We detach ourselves from a personalized perspective & move to an issue based perspective. For eg. – Instead of: “x is good, y is bad” – we move to: “that is good about x, and that is bad about x”; “that is good about y, and that is bad about y”.


Subduing loyalty & encouraging rationality has been an urge with me from as far back as I can remember. And I have earned many tags & labels, and not so positive ones at that, on a/c of this.

But there are times when I sway heavily towards loyalty – shades of grey disappear, then it is either black or white – depending on whether I am for or against a person or an ideology. Then the suffocation with my own thought process sets in till I can’t breathe my own thoughts any more.

That’s when I take that inevitable breather. I breathe out loyalty, I breathe in rationality. And you what – it works every time.

The pendulum still swings – but it doesn’t stop at any end – it gently falls to the middle – allowing me to understand what lies in between – before swinging to the other end, for a different perspective – and then gently back again into the middle. Not a result, a process. And a continuous one at that.