The small, remote Indian state of Meghalaya has long been known for the colorful names of its residents.
The state typically makes international headlines during election years. Actual candidate names have included…
- Adolf Lu Hitler Rangsa Marak
- Billy Kid A. Sangma
- Boldness Nongum
- Bombersingh Hynniewta
- Clever Marak
- Darling Wavel Lamare
- Fairly Bert Kharrngi
- Field Marshal Mawphniang
- Frankenstein W. Momin
- Friday Lyngdoh
- H. Britain War Dan
- Highlander Kharmalki
- Hilarious Dhkar
- Hispreachering Son Shylla
- Hopingstone Lyngdoh
- J. Ulysses Nongrum (He has sisters named England, New Zealand, Finland and Switzerland.)
- Jhim Carter Sangma
- John Manner Marak
- Kenedy Marak
- Kennedy Cornelius Khyriem
- Laborious Manik S. Syiem
- Moonlight Pariat
- Oral Syngkli
- Process T. Sawkmie
- Rain Augustine Lyngdoh
- Rockfeller Momin
- Romeo Phira Rani
- Sevenson Dhar
- Stafing Jove Langpen Pdahkasiej
- Teilang Star Blah
- Tony Curtis Lyngdoh
- VeecareNicia Lamare
- Zenith M. Sangma
Here’s what Adolf Lu Hitler Rangsa Marak (who was born in the late 1950s) had to say about his name:
“Maybe my parents liked the name and hence christened me Hitler,” he recently told the Hindustan Times newspaper.
“I am happy with my name, although I don’t have any dictatorial tendencies.”
Reporters have been writing about the names in Meghalaya for at least a decade, but the strange names have been around a lot longer than that. “My erstwhile escort explained that Khasi parents are fond of naming children after great personalities of the West,” said the author of a 1956 article about Meghalaya’s names. (The article also mentioned Khasi sisters named Million, Billion and Trillion.)
So, why are strange names the norm in Meghalaya? I’ve found various explanations.
One travel article suggests the roots are religious. The names are the “legacy of the missionaries’ work,” it says, though “children now are just as likely to be named after the latest gadget as a saint.” (About 70% of the state is Christian, which is notable, as India overall is only about 2% Christian.)
Another source blames Britain:
The region’s unusual names stem from the state’s close historical links with Britain, explains Agence France-Presse: in colonial times, missionaries and soldiers would visit the hilly state’s capital Shillong, known as the “Scotland of the East,” to escape the overbearing heat of much of the country, and its residents began naming their children with random English words as a nod to that influence.
“Often they don’t know the background of the names. They get attracted to these names for their quest of modernity,” Sanjeeb Kakoty, a history professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong, told AFP.
Yet another source adds two more possibilities. First, that people try to “sound knowledgeable by naming their children after great leaders.” Second, that the names are “part of a culture where laughter is considered important.”
Meghalaya’s three major tribes, the Khasis, the Garos and Jaintias all have Laugh Clubs. Giving their children whacky [sic] names is part of the fun.
“We share the most brazen of jokes at these clubs,” says local historian Milton Sangma.
Which might explain why one of the candidates is Tony Curtis, better known as a Hollywood legend.
“We believe if we laugh heartily at least once or twice a day, we will live long.”
(Laughter clubs have only been around since the mid-1990s.)
Which of the names on the list above do you like best?
Image: Seema Agarwal
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