THE AMBULANCE wailed, as if to outperform the baby born in it.
That was on April 25, as the emergency vehicle weaved its way to a hospital. From Mylliem to Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, some 10 km downhill.
Last Wednesday, the ambulance and the baby had another thing in common besides the wailing – their name.
In all probability, little EMRIshisha won’t mind her name – derived from Emergency Management and Research Institute that runs the ambulances – when she grows up. The part of India she was born in has scores of people with funnier, more outlandish names.
For 20-something Delin Kharnongkhlaw, naming her daughter after the institute that runs the ambulance service was “the least I could do”. She was grateful that the service helped her deliver “my daughter safely” despite complications.
Names in Meghalaya began changing – often ridiculously – from traditional to English-sounding (or hybrid) after the Khasi-Jaintia-Garo hills were brought under the Raj 150 years ago. Subsequent conversion to Christianity added to the craze for Sahib-like names.
Some Brits toyed with the ignorance of those ‘natives’ enamored of anything English. Thus, someone with a name like Toilet Marbaniang never thought much about what his name meant in the Sahib’s tongue. Neither did three sisters named Institute, Constitute and – believe it or not – Prostitute Ghonglah.
Some names were convenient for the missionaries during baptism. Like Firstborn for the first child born to a couple (it saved the trouble of thinking too much about names for the next issues). Or by a baby’s weight – Sevenstone Lyngwa, Elevenstone Dkhar and so on.
The easiest way to get unusual names in Meghalaya is to go through the list of contestants during elections – civic, tribal council or assembly. I hunted for such names during the council polls in February this year.
One of the winners was Man Sturdy Nongrem, as if to suggest a brawny name and not muscle power helps win the battle of the ballot. One of his rivals was Six Schediew Syiemlieh. Did he remind tribal council polls fall under the Sixth Schedule of India’s Constitution?
Strength, though, let Strong Pillar Tang down. Courage, likewise, misfired for Boldness L Nongum. Goodwill did not guarantee win, as Copiousness Daw and Fullness Siangshai found out. ‘Lineage’, on the other hand, saw Goodleaderson Nongsiej through while ditching Headerson Symbai.
Some names were misleading. Dunno Nongpluh was pretty much sure why he was victorious. But Losing Lakuna lived up to his name, as did Kilometer Lytan, winning by a long distance.
Then there was ‘European’ Hollando Lamin who ran over his ‘Asian’ rival Lebanon Pohthmi. But Lamin’s ‘continental friend’ Poland K Ryja had to bite the dust.
If you think these names are uproarious, you haven’t heard of Hilarius Warbah, who lost laughing. Ending up with him were Return Sna, Finelyness Bareh, Helping Phawa, Forward L Mawlong, Fasterwell Marbaniang, Pretty Kharpyngrope, Friction Thangkhiew. And among the other winners were Artist Ranee, Blooming Lyngdoh and Welcome Dkhar.
Do you have some more Blooming or Pretty good names? You are Welcome to Forward them so I can Return the compliments as Fasterwell as possible. Thangkhiew.