Name changer

When I named my daughters, I didn't put much thought into what each name meant. With each one—Brianna, Megan, Andrea—I simply liked the sound of the name or that the name reminded me of people who warmed my heart. I'm not sure I even looked up what the names meant. If I did, I don't remember the meanings and never put much stock in them.

That's not the case with Indian names. I recently learned through a variety of news reports that Hindi names are indeed chosen according to what the name means—and that two names have become popular of late, despite having meanings destined to break the hearts and spirits of those to whom the name is given.

The names are "Nakusa" and "Nakushi," which mean "unwanted." Girls in India are often given one or the other of those names because they are unwanted, as Indians openly discriminate against daughters and often hope to only bear sons.

An Associated Press report I read Sunday says the recent Indian census shows the sex ratio of those under age 6 as 914 girls to every 1,000 boys. According to the AP story:

"Such ratios are the result of abortions of female fetuses, or just sheer neglect leading to a higher death rate among girls. The problem is so serious in India that hospitals are legally banned from revealing the gender of an unborn fetus in order to prevent sex-selective abortions, though evidence suggests the information gets out."

It seems sons are favored because while it can be quite expensive to marry off daughters, sons and their families benefit when marrying because they end up with elaborate dowries. Also, only sons can light the funeral pyres of their parents. Hence, if a daughter is born, parents—even grandparents—have no qualms about saddling the little one with a title making it clear she wasn't wanted, and there's no celebration in her arrival.

Such things break my heart. As a mother of only females and a grandmother of only males, I celebrate both sexes.

Today, though, I celebrate one male, a man I've never met and surely never will. For this one man, Satara (India) district health officer Dr. Bhagwan Pawar, was so moved upon discovering the plight of those young Indian girls marked as "unwanted" that he immediately set out to make it right.

This past Saturday, thanks to the efforts of Pawar, nearly 300 young girls participated in a renaming ceremony that allowed them to shed the names of Nakusa or Nakushi and become known going forward names of their own choosing. Many opted for names of Bollywood stars, Hindu goddesses, or ones with meanings such as "very tough" or "prosperous, beautiful and good." I can only imagine the sense of pride and newfound purpose each girl felt as she received her certificate legally announcing her new name.

In a society accepting of such blatant discrimination of females, Pawar certainly wasn't obligated in any way to provide the girls with an escape from the horrid names their families had given them. But he did. Because of his selfless act, I have no doubt those girls will not only forever appreciate their new names but Pawar's name as well. I imagine that to them, the name Bhagwan Pawar will forever going forward mean "the one who made me feel unwanted no more."

I know that for me, the name Bhagwan Pawar will forever going forward mean "honorable"...and "the one who did the right thing."

Photo: stock.xchng