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What is in a name indeed | Fiction Writing |

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

One day my mom and her college bestie were musing over what they would name their first born babies. My mom had a liking for the word Shaleenta as is means decency/modesty and so she derived the name Shaleen from it, for a boy.

Then I was born and so she modified it to suit a baby girl – Shalini.

I have looked up my name on internet searches plenty of times as I love to read what pops up – “Shalini means Intelligent; Sensible; Talented; Charming; Modesty.”

You see, its my way of consoling myself as I hankered all the time over it not being an exotic name. If I had my way, my name would have begun with a Z – something which I had expressed aloud to my horrifically scandalized parents. I was age ten at that time!

“Ssssh! That’s a Muslim sounding ……,” they had trailed off even as I protested that I was in love with Zara from the Paki series Tanhaiyen and that’s what I want to be called from now on.

Boy oh Boy did I get walloped for this – both physically and mentally. I overheard relatives discussing me in hushed tones with plenty of eye-rolling while my older cousins concocted tales of torture.

“You are adopted”

“You were possessed by a Djinn when you were born.”

“Your feet are going to turn backwards and you will develop fangs.”

Even as I was fighting the urge to hurl something at them, my oldest cousin leaned over and whispered conspiratorially, “only I know the truth.” Then she sauntered out of the room.

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What is in a name - coffee cup - pad - pen- berries - flowers

Intrigued, I followed her to the garden where she paced and sighed as she mulled the difficult decision of letting me know. “No one is supposed to tell you, you know.”

Assuring her of keeping the secret, I begged her to tell me.

“You were found in the Masjid by the water tank. Dr. Sajid uncle had gone to do his bit for Eid and the Imam sahib requested his help with you. He brought you over and handed you to Ayah amma and we were all made to pretend that you are part of the family. Haven’t you ever wondered why you call your parents Chacha- Chachi and mine Badey Papa and Badi Mummy.”

I let out a loud wail, fat tears dropping rapidly from my eyes. She cast a look heavenwards and then hopped off calling out loudly, “Chachi, Shalini is making up lies again.”


In August I had joined a writing workshop and this story was part of a HW exercise. I am now publishing on my blog as I really liked how it turned out. Our assignment was to find out how was our name given to us, who named us, was there any opposition to the name, any alternates suggested? One part of the tale was to be true and one part to be fictional.

You could read another one of my fictional tales here

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13 thoughts on “What is in a name indeed | Fiction Writing |

  1. Gosh, what a brat that cousin was!!
    Loved this story, Shalini! Is it really fiction?

    I remember I pestered my mom to rename me Amrapali!, after I saw that film starring Vyjayantimala. I was so in love with that name. I asked her why she didn’t give me such exotic name, and why Shilpa, which was so common. At least she could have named me Avantika, or Anamika.

    1. Ha ha Shilpa – Amarpali!!! Wow now thats a very exotic name babes and I applaud you for wanting it 😉 As for my tale, a part of its fiction and can you guess which part?

  2. Ha ha, I enjoyed this. Reminds me of one of my older aunts telling her youngest sister that she was adopted and then she tried to tell her older and say that their parents found this ‘green thing’ in the dustbin that turned out to be her older sister!

    1. Ouch thats really not a nice thing to say t kids though- I know I made a joke out of it too. We can be so obnoxious na? I remember all the nasty things we said to each other in our spats as kids.

  3. Hahaha, I can’t believe your cousin did that 😀

    You know, I hate my name! Soumya means smooth and soft-spoken and I’m anything but that! I often ask my parents what they were smoking when they decided to name me that.

    1. Ha ha – I know what your name means and have found it to be a very graceful name. I dont think many people are there who are happy with their name. I have to say that this cousin bit is the fictional part of the tale – everyone really believes this. I am patting myself on the back!!!

    1. Arent we all on that boat Dashy? I wish we could all get to change our names to what we like when we are a little grown up- without hurting our parents feelings.

  4. I am so glad my mom named me Rajlakshmi instead of Chandrama. Is the history behind your name true? That’s so thoughtful. Btw I used to make similar jokes on my siblings though. Not good I know 🙂 But they were smart.

    1. Ha ha indeed. I am not sure what you would have endured had you been named chandrama 😉 Part of this story is true and part is fiction- can you guess which is which?

  5. This was a lovely read. I liked the history behind your name, Shalini. Shalini is a beautiful name. My name means polite in Malayalam. During tagging in college all seniors used to take a stab at my name’ you don’t look so polite’. But I’m polite and humble, right. I wanted my name to be Kavitha or Karthika. But now I am okay with Vinitha. My sister’s name is Vijitha. I used to tease her that mom and dad found a beautiful name for me and then changed one letter and named you because they didn’t want to be bothered spending time on finding a name for you. I am so proud of myself.
    I loved this writing exercise. Let me see if I can come up with something like this. I take it the first part is true and the second part is fiction? Did I win the prize, Shalini?

    1. Oh yes you are polite and humble – I cant anyone not seeing that when they first meet you.

      Ah we all are so mean to our siblings na? What fun it is always!! HA HA!

      Yes you own the prize- that’s exactly what it is. I made up the second part as I wanted some mischief in this story. I would love to read what you do with this -waiting for it Vini!

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