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Category: Indian baby names

Unusual Names: On being named Shanti

shanti

by Shanti Knight

In my relatively short lifetime of  23 years, reactions to my name, both my own and those of others, have taken quite a journey. In the beginning, it was one that promised little more than mispronunciation. For the first year of my life, even my own grandpa called me “Shanty.” Before I traveled to the Netherlands, Japan, France, India, and many other places, I spent my childhood in a Midwestern town of 8,000, nestled between cornfields and tucked into the toe of Indiana’s boot.

I read an article recently about the power of our names, which said that name sounds, popularity and meaning can influence the paths we take in life. Shanti is a name that has attached me to a culture (it’s a vernacular and prayer word that means “peace” in Sanskrit and Hindi) with which, partly because of the name itself,  I feel a comfortable connection despite my own very different ethnic heritage of Irish, English and French bloodlines.

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pippi

Novelist and guest blogger JULIE BUXBAUM, whose new book AFTER YOU comes out in paperback this week, writes about the difficulty — or is it the impossibility? — of deciding on just one baby name.

My husband and I are both what we like to call, euphemistically, “decisionally challenged.” I’ve been known to become paralyzed when faced with the cereal aisle in the supermarket. He won’t commit to a vacation destination until we’ve looked at a map and exhaustively researched all continents. So it came as no surprise to anyone that two days after our daughter was born we still hadn’t chosen a name.

Sure we had discussed the topic endlessly during the forty weeks of my pregnancy, had read Beyond Ava & Aiden out loud to each other, had plenty of time to come to a mutually agreeable option, but somehow the only thing that had stuck was a nickname. Pippi. Short for pipsqueak. Cute, but I wasn’t putting that on a birth certificate.

In our defense, we were working with too many restrictions. My husband is of Indian descent and was born and raised in London. I’m a Jew from New York. It turned out we had very different ears when it came to names. Oddly, he was into initials–think, EJ, CJ–which to me were more appropriate for a boy growing up on a farm in the Midwest, not a biracial girl being raised in London. Ironically, despite being the American in the couple, I tended towards names popular in England—think Grace, Amelia, Cecilia.

Add to the problems created by our differing ears and accents the fact that I wanted to honor my late mother, Elizabeth, with an E name (or if we got desperate, I was willing to go for an L for Liz). In my novels, I had already used a couple of my favorite E names (Emily, Ellie) for my main characters, so those were off the table. One more rule, as if we didn’t have enough already: both of us thought it would be nice if the name had an Indian feel to it.

Of course, the first name that we came across that we both loved—Skylar (spelled Skylar if I had my choice, Sklyer, if my husband had his way) — fit none of our criteria. Not Indian. Not an E or an L name. Every family member from both sides was unimpressed, and yet, we were in complete agreement, a rare thing in a decisionally-challenged couple. We were decided…until we weren’t.

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