Rameshinder Singh Sandhu
The amusing culture of having a nickname continues not only in schools or homes, but also in villages, where the scene is more intriguing, considering that almost every family is branded for some whimsical reason or the other.
My maternal village Butala in Amritsar district, near the historic Baba Bakala shrine, is no exception where many humorous names I have been privy to since childhood. While some make you laugh, some arouse curiosity as there are also many who are known by the names of birds and animals. They may or may not like it but even the streets leading to their homes are commonly identified by some name, and who knows, some letter or courier too might be carrying that imprimatur to lend a helping hand to the village postman. And the names continue, generation after generation. Where was the wedding last night, I once asked a neighbour after a noisy night of celebrations nearby and he replied, “The wedding was in kawan di gali (street of crows) where the DJ went on and on…”
Ask the villagers, why a family living on this street is named after crows, and this is what every tongue with laughter will unfold: “Their elders were more than garrulous — always talking too much, but little does anyone know when the title was bestowed upon them.”
Similarly, there is another street, totyan di gali (street of parrots) for which a majority say their elders always wore parrot-coloured clothes with matching turbans and the story is no different for bugliyan di gali (street of cranes) as their elders mostly wore white clothes.
Not far from the gurdwara is a home called babeyan da ghar (home of priests) as its elders were once priests in the village gurdwara, but then there are also such names that if you take them, you may end up inviting a fight. Better not talk about them, one of them being shurimars (knife-stabbers), for instance.
However, there are also those who take pride in their names. One of them is the Shermar family. As the name suggests, one of their great-grandfathers had killed a lion in some forest and ever since, they have been known by it. Their love for it was evident when just two years back, they constructed a captivating sculpture of a lion even higher than their water tank. Parents with their children would climb rooftops to introduce them to their ‘L for lion’ moment, and many also went for a closer encounter, not forgetting selfies. Of course, it acquired a celebrity status.
But a few months back, as the Shermar family’s young son started falling sick, someone suggested that they bid adieu to the lion for cure, telling them they had taken too much pride in being called shermars. And guess what, it was gone forever as one morning it was handed over to the hammers. It’s been two months but the villagers, especially children, miss their lion. Wish you were still there, gazing daily at the village from high above!
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