Friday, June 27, 2008

The Naming of a House

- By Janaki Krishnan

Naming your child is no longer brain-racking, since there are readymade lists available in the market. But finding a suitable name for your own house still remains a personal domain unconquered by marketers.

In my native Kerala, where a Brahmin house is called a muttom, naming a house is easy. A house on the eastern side of the road or temple is Kizhakke Muttom (East House), and the one to the south is Thekke Muttom (South House).

But it is not always that simple. For most people, the name of the house reflects their dreams, aspirations, principles and leanings - social, emotional and religious.
My grandfather, a lover of trees, named his house Thoppil Muttom (The House Among the Orchards). At Thoppil Muttom, the luxurious growth of trees - coconut, mango, jackfruit, arecanut, chikoo and orange - would actually hide the very existence of the house in the centre. It was like living in a green forest. Of course, he could also have named it after one of the perennial Himalayan rivers, because the well in the compound never ran dry, and was a regular source of water for neighbouring houses even in the driest years.

The urban scene has its own interesting variations. In Chennai, my daughter lived in a building named Oyster Opera - perhaps the owner considered it a precious pearl along the Besant Nagar beach!

Several houses and buildings in Bombay have names that reflect their owners' glory. In Matunga, our landlord Maganlal Popatlal Shah built three buildings, and gave them to his three sons. He made sure his grandchildren would remember him, by naming the buildings Magan Vihar, Magan Nivas and Magan Kunj !

An emotional attachment to one's place of birth is natural - but very few people who come to Bombay are able to go back to live in those surroundings. No wonder one of my relatives in suburban Goregaon named his home Bilwadri House, in honour of the presiding deity in his village, Bilwadrinathan.

Housing societies where people of all communities live prefer secular names. The complex of three buildings where I now live is called Tribhuvan Society (Three-Buildings Society). The Air Force Quarters at Sion has named its two buildings Engineer and Mukherjea, presumably after some meritorious officers, to ensure that their memory remains alive. A residential building near Sion Fort has called itself Sahas (Courage) - perhaps indicating the owner's willingness to fight against all odds!

Since ultimately, what we all desire is a happy, healthy and peaceful life; the real winners in the popularity contest are names like Shanti Kunj, Paradise, Sukh Sagar and Anand Nivas. I am sure there's one of these names in your neighbourhood!

(Published in Hindustan Times HT Cafe July 29, 2008)


Blogeswari said...

Hey Deepa

Read the article in The Mint. Congratulations

Ravi Ramakantan said...

This blog has touched something very personal in my life. Beginning in 1969 up until a month ago, our family owneda building near the Ruia college signal on the main road. The building was named "Meenakshi" (with no suffix) after by grandmother. I remember, we had argued as to how that name should be written -in which script- we settled on Devanagiri rather than English. For as long as I lived there, every few years, I remember going on to the first floor parapet wall, standing on a stool and painting those three letters "red". It was pleasant chore for me. A month ago, ownership of the building changed hands. The building will now be pulled down, and a high rise will come in its place. I wonder what the new owners will call the new edifice!
Seeing the pictures along side, the first thing I am going to do, is to go take a picture of the building and the name-board before it is pulled down!!