I Want My Baby To Have A Hindu Name – I Just Don’t Want It To Be ‘KaKa’

88466373When it comes to this pregnancy, there are some things I’m completely sure about. Not to say that I’m inflexible about changing my mind in the heat of the moment, but for now, I know that I want a natural childbirth, to labor at home for as long as possible before going to the hospital, and to make all the mandatory baby purchases in my ninth month so as not to jinx the pregnancy. On the other hand, I have no freaking clue what to name our baby.

It’s kind of nerve-wracking having to come up with a name that will pass the resume screen test, that will make the child feel good about themselves, and that won’t irritate me after yelling it out repeatedly. There is so much pressure, from others and from myself, to come up with the perfect baby name! I do know, however, that I won’t be turning to strangers for advice.

I always imagined that my babies would have Hindu names just like I do, something that can make them feel more connected to their culture despite being enmeshed in a very western lifestyle. So the first thing I did was order a book of Hindu names off of Amazon. It didn’t take me long to get through the 500-page book, because so many of them were so easily rejectable.

All the book got me was closer to what NOT to name my baby. Like Aryan for a boy – I actually really like this name but living in the U.S. that name is just not going to fly. I don’t want to raise a skinhead. Then there are the Hindu names I can’t help but giggle at like Haha, the son of a God, or Kaka, a crow or Adam’s apple.

The one name from that collection I kind of dig is Bodhi because I like the connection to the Bodhi tree that Buddha sat under to achieve enlightenment, but I definitely got schooled because I always thought it was a boy’s name and it’s actually a girl’s name! It sounds really strange for a girl, and also since I live in the San Francisco Bay Area my Bodhi would have to compete with all the other Bodhis running around Berkeley with their hippie parents.

After the book failed to lead me to even one name I could add to my list, I turned to online databases. The problem is, there are so many that I can’t even get halfway through the B’s on any site without closing my browser in boredom. There’s no way I can get through the alphabet, so I pick random letters to search – I’m drawn to A, D, N and S. But now I’m overwhelmed not by the number of names but by the number of syllables. Clearly, Indian parents back in the day never did the Yell Test for some of these. I try one for kicks and scream Sitalaprasada in a very mom voice across the house. Fail.

I come up with a brilliant plan to search Facebook next. At first I’m just looking at my own friend’s list, but I think it would be weird to name my baby after a friend. So then I pick some key social butterflies who I know have lots of Indian friends. One friend has 1000 people on her friends list! I go through them and bingo – there are a couple to add to the list. I click on randoms on her list and look through their lists. This becomes a rabbit hole of Indian baby names but at least for the most part they are modern and not more than three syllables. I end up adding ten names to my list after an hour.

You must be wondering where my husband is in all of this. He’s a little slower about searching for names so he’s only added one name to the list that he came up with on his own. He did veto a few of mine (fair enough, I’ll do the same to him), and he also told me he really loves my name the most. I’m not so into naming children after myself but I’m open. Maybe a middle name?

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  • Jen

    We had lots of trouble agreeing on names, too! I am sure you guys will find something when the time is right. For what it’s worth, I think Bodhi is lovely for a girl! I see your point about the name being very popular where you are living though. My husband is from Northern California and flat out rejected the name Brody (which I loved) because it was “too California” and he didn’t want our son to have an extreme sports lovin’ Bro’s name. :) I suspect he only has that association with the name because he is surrounded by those types of folks and I guess the name Brody is common where he is from. Good luck with your name search!

    • JLH1986

      Where I live Bodhi and Brody are not common names at all! Madison and Emma and Sophia and Jaxson galore though.

    • Jen

      We are currently living in GA, and Brody would definitely not be a common name here. We are surrounded by the names you mentioned. However, we move every few years and it is kind of cool to see and hear names that are popular in the area. We were in Germany before here, and I love some of the German names we heard. I particularly liked Ryker (it sounds so manly!) and Heike for a girl, but ended up going with the more traditional (and easily pronounced) Alexander.

    • JLH1986

      Right? A friend moved to the area from Colorado and what was super popular there Alexandra, Xander. Not so much here. It’s very interesting to me how it can be so different a few hundred miles away. I know 6 different Nevaeh and I don’t have kids! But my friend from Colorado had never heard it!

  • elle

    I totally get this article. I really wanted to give my son a Turkish name but I never imagined how difficult it would be to find one that’s modern and an American school teacher could pronounce. We did find one though so I would say just have patience, keep looking and the name you are looking for will come.

    • MerlePerle

      Do you mind me asking what you chose?

    • elle

      No, not at all. His name is Aydan and its pronounced I-den.

    • MerlePerle

      I like that name a lot!

    • SarahJesness

      Most teachers I’ve had couldn’t pronounce my last name on their first tries, even though it’s pronounced exactly as it’s spelled. So I’ve grown up assuming that people are idiots who can’t pronounce any name if they haven’t seen/heard it before. But that’s my own personal issue, I totally get what you’re getting at.

    • guest

      My husband’s Turkish, so when we decide to have kids we’ll be looking at some Turkish names too. I like Eren for boys, and I know my family will be able to pronounce it. My husband has mentioned liking the name Umut though, which for me is definitely a no.

  • tSubh Dearg

    I’m quite keen on Danish names for my future children, as my paternal grandparents are Danish. But I have yet to find one that’s suitable. Bent is obviously out because that’s just asking for trouble. I love the girl’s name Karoline (pronounced Cowleena) but I don’t like the English pronunciation and it would be a losing battle to try and get people to say it the Danish way.
    I think I’m just going to end up using my grandparents’ names as middle names (or possibly first depending). Good luck in your name quest!

    • Guest

      My husband lobbied hard for Soren, and we ended up using it for the middle name. He was going off the deep end initially though, trying to talk me into Thor, Bjorn or – once he found it in a book – the combo name of Thorbjorn.

    • MerlePerle

      Scandinavian names are really popular here in Germany. I love Ole and Lasse and my son almost became a Bennet.

    • tSubh Dearg

      I’d love to use Ole but it’s too close to the Irish (Gaelic) for drink and I can just imagine the nicknames that would lead too! :)

    • Jen

      Have you tried Nymbler.com? You can enter like 6 names that you like and then it will make suggestions based off those.

    • tSubh Dearg

      No I haven’t but I will definitely check it out. Thanks.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      a woman in my college called her son Torsten and her daughter Freja! I thought they were the coolest names!

    • tSubh Dearg

      I quite like Soren. I would have loved to use Freya for a girl but a friend of mine called her little girl that recently, so I crossed it off the list. One of my cousins is called Anders but here in Ireland he’d end up being Andy which kind of defeats the purpose.
      My trouble is that a lot of the names I like are really the Danish pronunciation over the English pronunciation of the names and not names that are particularly Danish. Though Torben is growing on me.

    • darras

      I feel your pain! I am English and my husband Norwegian, finding a name that sounded the same in both languages was an utter nightmare. Best of luck to you!

    • tSubh Dearg

      Thanks! We’re also debating which surname a baby would have since I’ve kept mine and it is much cooler than his. ;)

    • Garavriel

      My middle name is Tove and I love it. My mormor and morfar were both born in Denmark and came to the US as teenagers and I’ve been quite a few times to visit family. I would definitely like my future kids to have a Danish middle or first name.

    • Boots

      Sometimes you can get lucky – our son is Gabriel. Same spelling in both Polish & English and nearly the same pronunciation.

  • Alex Lee

    http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTM2NzA5Njk1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMzkyOTY3._V1_SX640_SY720_.jpg Bodhi approves.

    With my children, my wife and I got to pick their American names and my parents got to pick their Chinese names. Multiple personality disorder has not set in yet, but I am keeping an eye out.

    • Diya Naidu

      I am way too uptight to hand over baby naming to others! There’s another Indian tradition where my sister-in-law would get to name my child but HELLS NO.

  • Alfreda Wells Morrissey

    My daughter’s first friend was from Indian parents and they named their little girl Gia. We are in Quebec in a very bilingual area so it needed to be French and English friendly. I thought it was beautiful, although I am English so have no idea of the cultural meaning or anything. I have no idea what area of India they were from either but I thought the name was beautiful. I also love Bodhi. The only person I heard of with that name was a boy so it was sealed in my head as a boys name. I had no idea where it came from but always thought it pleasant sounding.

    We had some issues naming our children because we wanted them pronounced and spelled the same in French and English since I am English and my husband is French. His brother was teased for having a really French name because he went to an English school in Ottawa. I also hate typing accents, I am very lazy that way, so although I will go to the effort for somebody else to show respect for their name, I do not really want an accent on a name I may have to type multiple times a day.

    Good luck in the search. It is really a very personal decision. Once the baby is born, name and baby will be connected and it will just fit.

    • Diya Naidu

      Yes! I don’t want my child to have to correct people or get teased, both of which happened to me. But I still really like my name so maybe a challenging name builds… character?

    • Alfreda Wells Morrissey

      I always have to spell my name for people but I have always liked it because it was unique.

    • tSubh Dearg

      I spend my life spelling my surname as it very unusual for Ireland. It does break the ice with new people though, which a bit of an advantage.

  • Larry Drew SG

    Is this a trend breaker for black people naming their kid African “sounding” names?

  • Maria Guido

    Naming a baby is HARD! And it would make me sad that the mother doesn’t get to pass anything along, too – boo on that.

    • Diya Naidu

      Yes! Thank you! So much boo.

    • Lackadaisical

      All of my kids have two middle names as one is a family name on their dads side (a Scottish clan name fiercely held onto by a generation who merely have a Scottish grandmother and are as English as can be). Why not follow his tradition and start one of your own with an extra middle name. First name unique to the kid, middle name for you, second middle name for him and then last name. If the bean is a boy you could find the closest boys name to your own and for a girl the closest girls name to his rather than giving your kid a name that is another gender.

    • Boots

      That’s the tradition in my husband’s family as well, so both of our children have two middlen ames. Only downside to ‘family’ names is that they can really only be used once – we called the dog Monty before we had kids… Can’t really bring Montgomeryback now without that iIndiana Jones vibe…

  • Nica

    Funny, I’ve only heard Bodhi for boys in my neck of the woods (metro NYC). I never heard of it as a girl’s name until today!
    I love the name Diviya for a girl. Similar to yours and very, very pretty!

    • Diya Naidu

      That IS pretty. I still insist Fetus is an option though.

    • aliceblue

      On the plus side, you could probably be sure that he’d be the only “Fetus” in his class. :) Also, agree with Nica re Bodhi as a boy’s name (in the S.E. here); guess it is regional.

    • Fondue

      I have a client named Divya, and I’ve always thought it was a very pretty name.

    • Laura

      One of my sweetest students is named Divya, so I’ll admit I’m a little partial to the name. Prerana and Niyadi are two other girls I’ve taught, and I had a little boy named Vihan one time.

      Unrelated, but my mother gave my sister and me her maiden name as our middle names. I resented it as a child–I wanted a “normal” middle name like the other kids–but now I’m glad I have something from both sides of my family.

  • Larry Drew SG

    What’s wrong with Raj?

  • Rachel Sea

    I grew up with a male Bodhi, but gender associations with names do switch periodically, so I don’t think anyone would bat an eye if you used the name for a girl. When I was a kid all the Tylers and Dylans were boys, and now they are girls.

  • SA

    I’ve only seen boy Bodhis too (South). I used to love that name for a
    child, before I even met one. Then I worked at a day care where there
    was one and that child’s mother danced on my last nerve so I decided I
    could never. I just connect the name Bodhi as “one with a mother that
    is a piece of work”.

  • helloshannon

    i like Priya but i see that on lists all the time so maybe it is too common among other Indians? I know someone who’s daughter is Priya though and always liked it.

  • Lackadaisical

    Most Asian kids at my kids school get a traditional name that they use at home and an anglicised version for school. If you like a name that other people struggle to pronounce you could always look for the most similar English name for a nickname for school.

    As a kid there were plenty of names that my class and I thought pretty and had no difficulty pronouncing (unless my friends were to polite to correct me). I remember a Shalini and a Manisha who were never teased for their names as an example. Kids don’t always tease as much as us mothers fear.

  • Jayamama

    My daughter’s name is Jaya (JAY-uh), and it turned out to be Hindi. It means victory. We gave her a completely normal middle name – Nicole – in case she doesn’t like it, and that ended up also meaning victory. So if she’s a complete failure, it’ll be quite surprising. :P

  • CW

    There are a lot of really pretty Hindu girl names with L’s in them- Kalyani, Leela, Minali, Nalini, Sarala, etc.

  • brebay

    I went to school with a Hindi girl named Shivani (maybe Shavani) I was always so jealous of her name.

  • Audrey

    My favorite Indian name is Latika, I think it’s so beautiful. Good luck with the name search, it’s so hard to find something that ticks all the boxes!

    • Diya Naidu

      I totally love that name!! I ruled it out because of Slumdog Millionaire but maybe that’s dumb.

    • Diya Naidu

      I totally love that name! I ruled it out because of Slumdog Millionaire but maybe that’s dumb.

  • rebeccavm

    My Indian neighbors just had a baby girl. They wanted her to have a Hindi name the average American could pronounce, so they gave their top three choices to a delivery nurse and asked her to read them. The winner? Nivi.

  • NeedsImprovement

    My mom ended up giving me her maiden name as my first name, as her maiden name is a common female (formerly male) name. So, I have cousins with my first name as their last name, which I have always thought was really cool. I agree that it is weird naming a kid with the same first name as you, but I know that if I ever have kids, I’m definitely passing my name on in middle name form because a cool name is a cool name!