We’ve heard some pretty lousy baby names as of late, from Facebook to Like – never mind the likes of Lucifer, Violence and Number 16 Bus Shelter (!). But these names say more about pop culture and our desire to be different than anything else, really.
It’s a whole other story in India, however, where hundreds of girls are walking around with names like Nakusha or Nakushi, which translates from Hindi to English as “unwanted.” This unfortunate name speaks of the country’s preference for boys (in the district of Satara, for instance, there are only 881 girls for every 1,000 boys – the result of female fetuses being aborted or just sheer neglect that leads to a higher death rate among girls, according to The Washington Post).
This past weekend, more than 200 Indian girls named “Unwanted” took part in an official renaming ceremony. They chose news names that would give them a fresh start in life and, most of all, some dignity. Some girls chose to name themselves after Bollywood stars such as Aishwarya or Hindi goddesses like Savitri, while others opted for more traditional names such as Vaishali (which means “prosperous, beautiful and good”).
One 15-year-old girl, named Nakusha by a disappointed grandfather, chose the new name Ashmita, which means “very touch” in Hindi. She told The Associated Press, “Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me this new name, and that makes me very happy.”
It’s a small step in what will no doubt be a very long road for gender equality in India, but the actual ceremony and what it represents is heartwarming. The girls even received flowers and certificates with their new names on them and, most important, a new sense of worth.