Yesterday my colleagues were deeply thinking how to write my name in Japanese. Anything foreign including the names, objects etc are written in Katakana script. Thus it is easy to identify by seeing the Katakana script that the thing or person is an outsider to Japan. My first name: Jayaprakash itself is little longer for Japanese people and after coming to Japan, the name is cut short to Jaya. As Japanese people add san to every name, they call me Jaya-san. In fact, Jaya alone is female name in India. When the colleagues told their desire to call Jaya-san, I did not show any hesitation. After all, what is in a name…..a rose is a rose…..
Things and people are divided broadly as Japanese and non-Japanese. This classification makes the things easier for Japanese people to understand things better and differentiate. The end purpose is not yet known to me. Hiragana and Kanji are used for Japanese things. Japanese names are written in Kanji.
Yesterday, one of the new systems required all the names to be entered in Kanji. It was necessary to put my name in Kanji. After much discussion, translation of my names in to English and then to Japanese they came with some suggestions. In India, names have meaning. Hindu names are based on Sanskrit language and each name has one meaning. For example, my first name Jayaprakash is a combination of two Sanskrit words Jaya and Prakash. Jaya means success and Prakash means light. The total meaning is some thing like ‘Light of success’
Converting the ‘Light of success in to Japanese Kanji, my name will be 成功光 (success light). There is no Japanese name like this and the colleagues told it is not a good name in Japanese language. Family names are used in Japan and they asked me the meaning of my family name in English. My family name in my mother tongue is Kottampilly. Some of the old Malayalam-Tamil meaning of Kottam in English is ‘New’. Pilli stands for Village. Modern Malayalam language and many of the new generation Keralites do not know these meanings. This Kottampilli has many variations in the southern states of India. Some of the people living in the border areas of Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra and Karnataka have family names like Kottapilli, Kottampilli, Kottampally, Kottapalli etc. While I was in Riyadh, one of my friend from Andhra Pradesh and another friend from Karnataka has same family name as Kottampilli. Interestingly according to them also, the regional versions of Kottam is New and Pally is village.
Recollecting the old Riyadh friends, I translated my family name as ‘New village’ The new village in Japanese language is ‘Atarashi Mura’. 新しい村. Japanese people do not use Hiragana while writing names. They just take 新 from新しい and村 to make the name新村. This is pronounced as ‘NIMURA’ in Japanese.
Now, I got a Japanese name – Nimura-san. 新村
Interesting experience! Japanese names have their origin in the nature. The mountain, river, village, bridge, chopsticks, bell ring, trees etc are the major inspirations for Japanese names. If translated to English, some of the Japanese names can be read as Blue tree (Aoki), Middle Field (Nakada), Middle river (Nakagawa), Upper field (Ueda), Tree village (Kimura), Paddy village (Tamura), Middle village (Nakamura) etc.
Similar naming system has been followed in India too since ancient time. Our family names also bear some meaning in the old language, which many new generation people can not recognize. Sanskrit names are meaningful, but recently in the name of fashion, baby names are twisted and it is hard to find any meaning in any of the existing language. A great percentage of population still follows the traditional way of putting names in India too.
The names taken from natural things show the civilization’s affiliation with the nature. It is a kind of union achieved in the society by calling human beings the names of natural things. The preservation and maintenance of nature comes from within. People carry the mountains, villages, trees, animals and rivers wherever they go, while they sleep, wake-up, eat and go to school and always with them! This is the ultimate example harmony of human societies and nature!