Archive for Random Thoughts

‘English’ names for Chinese – For the gentlemen

Continuing from my previous post on ‘English’ names aka names which are short and easily romanisable (A to Z) with Sanskrit / Indian / Buddhist roots for my Chinese friends, here are some name options for the Gentlemen

Navīn (also written as Naveen): new or newness

Navin : related to number 9; sailor

Vishwa : Universe

Vishwa Shanti Stupa is a Pagoda (Buddhist worship place) built by the Nipponzan Myohoji sect of Japan in Vaisali – one of the places where Buddha visited

Kumara (popularly shortened to Kumar) : Boy, Prince, son – as per context

Bodhi : Enlighment ; literally means awakened

In Buddhism is the understanding possessed by a Buddha regarding the nature of things

Related: Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century CE. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Ch'an(Sanskrit: Dhyāna, Japanese: Zen) to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the Shaolin monks that led to the creation of Shaolinquan

Vinaya : (fashionably shortened to Vinay) literally means 'leading out'; education; discipline


Vinaya Pitaka is the regulatory framework for the Buddhistmonastic community. The teachings of the Buddha, or Buddhadharma can be divided into two broad categories: 'Dharma' or doctrine, and 'Vinaya', or discipline. Another term for Buddhism is dharmavinay

Siddhartha (fashionably shortened to Sid) : one who has achieved his goal

Siddhartha wasa the birth name of The Buddha when he was a prince. He eventually became Siddhartha Gautama or Gautama Buddha

Yuva : young boy. Can be combined with Raj to become Yuvaraj meaning 'prince'

Raja : (fashionably shortened to Raj) – King

Ayur : root of the word Ayurveda (the knowledge of long life) which is the Indian system of medicine

Yogī : practitioner of Yoga. The word is also used to refer to ascetic practitioners of meditation in a number of South Asian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism

Rahul : Conquerer of miseries

Buddha's son was called Rahul. Rahul is one of the most popular names in India currently

Manav : man ; human being

Amitābha (can be shortened to Amit) translates into Infinite Light

Amitābha is a celestial buddha described in the scriptures of the Mahāyāna school of Buddhism.

Neel – Blue. The name is short and catchy and sounds quite western too. Blue is the colour of Turquoise which is one of the highly regarded stones by Buddhist devouts

I will keep updating this post!

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‘English’ names for Chinese – For Ladies

Continuing from my previous post on ‘English’ names aka names which are short and easily romanisable (A to Z) with Sanskrit / Indian / Buddhist roots for my Chinese friends, here are some name options for the Ladies

Tārā –  Star
Tārā is a female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism who appears as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is known as the “mother of liberation”, and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements. In Japan she is known as Tarani Bosatsu, and little-known as Tuoluo in Chinese Buddhism.
Apsara – An Apsara is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
Kaya – Body
According to Mahayana philosophy, the Buddhas have three bodies (trikaya), or three aspects of personality: the Dharmakaya, the Sambhoga-kaya, and the Nirmana-kay
Navya: Newness
Tanu : Self, Person, form or manifestation ; thin, slender
Wua Tanu – Sacred Bull statue is a Buddist Amulet in Thailand against black magic
Jala – water
Jāla – Magic, net embracing all views
Discourses of Buddha :  ‘Atthajala’ (Net of Essence), Dhammajala, (Net of the Dhamma), Ditthijala (Net of Views), Anuttarasangama Vijaya (Incomparable Victory in Battle).
Nita – well behaved, correct, led,
Anita – full of Grace, mercy, favor, variety , a leader, Without guile
Anita is also a fairly popular western name these days.
Anita Mui Yim-fong was a popular Hong Kong singer and actress
Uma – sky, friend
Umā – splendour, tranquility, light
Probably the most popular person with this name is Uma Karuna Thurman who is a practising Buddhist Hollywood actress
Nāda: mystic sound; subtle sound accompanied by an effulgence
Nāda yoga is an ancient Indian metaphysical system. It is both a philosophical system, a medicine, and- as the name suggests- a form of yoga.
Nīta : guided, gained, well-behaved
Nīti :  proper behaviour, morality
Niti was one of the lower caste (sic) persons whom Buddha handpicked to become a monk. However, Niti is better a Girls name than a Boy’s name
Sita : literal meaning is furrow but is famous for a famous character from Hindu Mythology
She appears in the Hindu epic of Ramayana where she is the wife of Hindu god Rama (avatar of Vishnu) and is an avatar of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and wife of Vishnu. She is esteemed as a standard-setter for wifely and womanly virtues for all Hindu women. Sita is known for her dedication, self-sacrifice, courage and purity.
Sri : Radiant, diffusing light, treasure
One may come across both guys and girls names Sri. In the context of girls, it is quite likely a shortened version of Sridevi which is other name of the Hindu Goddess of Wealth. Sridevi is famous actress in Bollywood.
Veena – stringed Indian instrument.
It is a popular Indian name with a nice ring to it.

Nayana / Naina : Eyes . I have heard due to the fascination for eyes, some Chinese girls have picked up this name. As mentioned earlier, the person who picked up this name inspired me to write this post.

Niva (fashionably shorted to Niv) – fundamental, root , foundation
Veda  – Knowledge;  Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. Buddhism also holds Vedas in high regard but does not accept it as an absolute authority.
Vidya – Knowledge.
Anu : (shortened version of Anuradha) Causing happiness;  Is a lunar mansion (loosely translated to ‘star’) in the Hindu astrology
Rani : Queen
One of the leading Bollywood Actress is named Rani Mukherjee
Mīra / Meera : Ocean
It is a fairly popular name. Historically, the most famous person with this name was a Hindu princess of 16th Century who became a Hindu Mystic singer and has composed poems in praise of her favourite God – Lord Krishna –  which are still popular devotional songs.
Famous people with this name include Mira Nair – Academy award winning American-Indian director, Mira Leung – Chinese-Canadian figure skater.
I will keep updating this post

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‘English’ names for Chinese – Indian / Buddhist Flavour

I have been living in the east for a few years now and spent a good part of my career in China and related territories. I even have a Chinese name which sounds very similar to my actual name in Mandarin and way off in Cantonese. Let me save that story for another day. I have been amused, appalled and sometimes even feeling nauseous hearing the ‘English’ names of several Chinese.
Some of my junior colleagues in Shanghai are named Juicy, Sissy , Glossy and what not. I saw a waitress in one of the popular clubs I frequent  in Hong Kong who calls herself Kinky. Every culture has its lingual nuances. One of my friends argued that Candy is a cute name but I am sure a educated westerner wouldn’t want to name their newborn ‘Candy’. Then I wonder, the ‘English’ names are really ‘Chinese English’ names. In that case, why go for one when the English speakers find it totally funny. I bit of scratching on the surface on why someone can proudly call himself ‘Monkey’ , my Chinese friend explained to me that pick up names when they are in school and college. With that explanation I can totally understands where they are coming from. If my classmates had officially retained the nicknames they got / acquired , they would have been called the Hindi equivalent of ‘nudist’ , ‘kiss’. Thank God, they were sensible enough not to put it on their ID cards.
The other nuance that I observe is that they take up religious Christian names as their ‘English’ names. It would be funny seeing A ‘Chris’ being a devout Buddisht. What most of the Chinese are really looking for is a name that can be easily romanised and pronounced by most of the world. I had a Chinese colleague of mine who went to India for a three month training and with the usual fascination of the Chinese towards bigger eyes, found out that eyes in Hindi are called ‘Nayana’ and a derived girls name would be Naina. Long story short, my colleague returned to Shanghai as Naina Chen.
That inspired me to put down a few names of Sanskrit origins which are contemporary, short , easily romanised and has lot of cultural context to the Chinese through Buddhism , Taoism or related philosophies. I will be happy if volunteers keep on adding to the list.
You will have separate blog entries for Girls’ names and Boys’ names. If any of my Chinese friends wants a Indian / Sanskrit name which can be easily romanised and easy to pronounce feel free to write to me. I can help you to find a name with meaning closer to your Chinese names

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Why Chinese ancient knowledge has survived more than Indian system?

It is very fascinating to me to see that Chinese medicine dominate the healthcare in Hong Kong. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine is at best just helping people from losing their hair or easing their bowel movement. For people how know about ayurveda, will endorse that it is a fairly advanced system of medicine. Similar story for therapautic massages, or say martial arts – Kalaripayyatu is far gone when Shaolin is venerated. I really do not want to get into the analysis of if one  system was stronger than the other. But at a high level, I can say the counterparts in Chinese ancient body knowledge and of Indian are both nearly of the same merit. Then, how are Chinese methods surviving and thriving so well, making the Indian system envious.

If I am forced to explain that in one sentence – Colonisation happened before commercialisation in India and vice-versa in China.

I am hoping to research this area one level more and publish those thoughts. But think of it. The British came with their system of medicine (of other things) and the semi-literate (but well knowledgable) village doctor was discredited. Had this village doctor understood the concept of commercialisation, branding and scientific analysis of the product, he would have given a good run for the money to the new system.

While in China, the got colonised quite late and quite briefly. The system was better equipped to learn about the ‘ways of the white man’ and the body of medicine got institutionalised well to guard itself aganist the near annhilation from the western mode of medicine.

What say?

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‘What caste is …?’

My mom made an ISD call to find what caste was Anjan. I had no clue. The funny thing was Anjan was my childhood pal, about whom I knew everything – likes, dislikes, first crush, favourite food, passions et al. ‘Caste’ did not ever feature in ‘everything’. Anjan was one of the MEB’s (Most Eligible Bachelor), serving Naval officer with all things one can admire about.

My mom had apparently seen a girl and wanted to know what ‘caste’ Anjan belonged so as do the match making. Did it matter to Anjan what caste she was, hell know but parents were hell bent on matching it.

Caste emerged as a social structure in the Indian society and has outlived its utility in most of the places. Anjan is a Brahmin (priest class) serving in the Navy and hence performing duties of a Kshatriya (warrior class). His father has his own business and adheres to the role of Vaishnavas (business class). But suddenly when it comes to marriage, parents remember what class they originally belong to.

Casteism is anchronistic phenomenon in the Indian urban society but a favourite past time of people for ocaassions like marriage. Suddenly, it becomes ‘us and them’

It would be really interesting to see how the new country with 700Mn below 25years who have entered the new millenium with internet connections, mobile phones and mobile jobs will eventually alter these old institutions.

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Chak De! India

My temptation to compare the movie to ‘Miracle’ vanished 15 mins into the movie when the team building started. A nice touch of national integration without jingoism, fantastic cinematography, stellar performance by each of the actors makes the movie a potent mix. Its only other movie after ‘Jo jeeta wohi sikandar’, to have nail biting suspense in a ‘underdog’ sport.

Shimit Amin has deftly done the scenes focussed more on people and spirit than the actual game itself. So, you live with the character ignoring the possible conspicuous technical errors done by actors in a skilled sport like hockey.

Chak De! India

I loved the haryanvi and Punjabi characters, so true to life and hilarious. The bringing together of disparate people from a suave chandigarhi to uncouth jharkandi, and breaking their differences and moulding them together is second only to Lagaan. The need for the women to assert was put very delicately brought out without regular ‘nari shakti’ trites.

I dont know why unlike Miracle the film-makers have not credited the inspiration behind the story. The movie is based on Ranjan Negi who was the hockey goalkeeper of the Indian team during the Asian Games 1982. During the Asian games, India faced a defeat with the score of 1-7 against Pakistan. This was a humiliating experience for Negi. Later in his life, Negi coached the National Women’s hockey team and the team went on to win Gold at the Manchester Commonwealth games.

The pace is right, no item numbers, little of the yash’s overdoses, it is a must see!!

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The 3 Layers of Love

Describing love is a little like Heisenberg Principle. ‘The more accurately you try to describe the more away from it you get’. Ergo, you can either describe (measure) it or be in it. I am just describing it.

There are 3 layers of love in a lasting relationship. (you have heard it? tarry my friend). I avoided the use of ‘stages’ because it would imply a chronology.

1. Spark:  It is that momentary foolishness that blinds you. Those wobbling of legs, being tongue-tied etc all fall in to this category. Sparks happen all through out the life with so many people, but like its name it disappears in a ‘moment’. Spark is essential to spice up the relationship. In a mature relationship, it need not be the wobbling of the legs but some surprise, a romantic getaway

2. Fulfillment: This is the stage where, to use Scott Peck’s words, the couple should spiritually enhance each other. In simple words, it represents those activities and moments which the couple enjoys doing together – like hiking, going to movies, singing together et al.

3. Co-Existent: This is the fundamental need, nothing romantic about it but constitutes nearly 3/4th of the ‘transactions’ in a relationship. These needs are very basic: physical need, security, societal pressures, work sharing, role playing. This is very ‘animal’ and essential need.

Just look around and analyse the relationships around you. I found most of the couples ‘co-exist’. (please note that the opinions are based on Indian middle-class life).  While arguing about arranged marriages, my parents often quote ‘Do you think uncle xyz is not happy?’. While I dont want to get into the debate of ‘what is happy?’, I simply believe what my parents are calling ‘happy’ is a healthy ‘co-existence’.

Failed ‘love-marriages’ are simply because they make decisions on a prolonged spark and semi fulfillment. Just because they love to see movies together doesnt mean that you will enjoy with that person the rest of your life.

Co-existing lovers. I have known romantic couples who get into the grind of life and forget the basis of their relationship – spark & fulfillment . Mundane needs like sex, bringing up children, doing household chores become a part of their existence. The just exist and fail to Live

An ideal relationship, in my mind, starts with a spark, finds both fulfillment and co-existence. It is important to have sparks  going in the already old relationship also. A surprise getaway, an unannounced trip, a bunch of red roses should do the magic…

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‘Are you a virgin?’

<Inspired by a real question but fictionalised. Any characters resembling any person dead or alive is purely intentional. Names changed. Opinions are largely in Indian middle-class perspective>

‘Are you a virgin’? , It struck Anshu right on the face when she asked it. Like, near death experience his life flashed before his eyes, the girls he had tried to woo, the girls who tried to woo him, those evenings at the disco, those drunken days…. those days of forced celibacy. Being a virgin was a matter of pride for him, a indicator of his self control, the pillar of his personality, the foundation of his thought that relationship should not be based on just physical interaction.

‘Are you a virgin?’ sounded really cool, when Mahima Choudhary asked in Pardes . We all gossiped about it and really felt that Indian Cinema had come of age. Almost a decade later when Sarla asked him this question, he went through the near-death experience.

Arranged marriage had already become a nightmare for Anshu like many a men in India because one has to conform to a system he didnt believe in but had no choice than bow to the societal pressures falling on conservative boy who grew up in the hinterland. He was forced to go through the charade of meeting girls and asking about their ‘long-term goals’ (sic). He liked bold girls, one with substance, but this one was especially bold and she started off our discussion with this question.

He recovered a minute later and replied ‘ What would you prefer?’ She rhetorically replied, ‘ I want my future husband to be a virgin’. He drew a long breath and said ‘Sarla, before I answer your question, let me give you a perspective’

‘Dont judge a person in binary – virgin or not. There are 3 kinds of virgins and 3 kinds of non-virgins. The first kind of virgin is because of the society. He is afraid of what would happen if he crosses the line drawn by the society. The second type is because of lack of opportunity. He is all set to ‘do it’ but there are no takers. The third type is the one who believes, love should precede physical relationship and hasnt taken any relationship beyond love. Type I is a coward, Type II is a horny loser, Type III is of the noble type’

‘Non-virgins are again of 3 types. The first kind because he got into a relationship which blossomed into love and furthered into love making. The second kind is the one who is found lurking around the one-night-stand and has sleazy escapades. The third has paid money to lose his V. ‘

Type I is the true lover. Type II is a horny hog. Type III is a dirty dog.

I consider a true lover who has severed his old ties more desirable than any type of virin and a coward only better than a dirty dog. ‘

‘A Type I or II virgin wouldnt be able to be as loyal as the Type I non-virgin. I prefer to be a true lover than any other kind of virgin’

She was fretting impatiently while he was giving her unsolicited advise. Then she must have been thinking ‘Just tell me yes or no’

The discussion for me was over there. Anshu nonchalantly started walking away muttering ‘ The world is not black and white’. While she was just about to stamp ‘no-virgin’, Anshu turned back and said ‘By the way, I am virgin’

Anshu told me this story over a couple of drinks. I asked him why he walked away with just one question. He replied ‘She was not of my type’. Sometimes just one question screams out many a answer.

I was reflecting on how our generation is like a half boiled egg – the outer layer is firm but inner layer is so fluidy and confused. I relate to Anshu quite well because we are of such similar backgrounds. Having brought up in the hinterland of the Hindi belt, being a (pre-marital) celibate, tee-totaler, non-smoker is a sign of noble man. The values were fine when the world was so black and white but not anymore. People who have violate the Hindu tenet of ‘not crossing the seven seas’ going around the world, have seen the firm foundation of ‘values’ wobbling on its knees.

Anyways, Anshu is yet to find his life companion. With his permission, I decided to blog his theory because I thought it would bring things in perspective.

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Turning Left

Funny while I am thriving on the capitalist world, my thoughts have suddenly turned left. I am one of the examples of ‘shining India’. While I walk through the representatives of ‘wealth’, ‘progress’ in the countries I have lived for the past couple of years and then compare it to home, I wonder – ‘Is this progress really worth it?’

The GDP in India has grown by 9% while the people below the poverty line has remained steady. More Maybachs and Rolls Royce rolling on the street while same number of farmers committ suicide every year.

Capitalism is a dangerous thing when social security does not exist in a country. If progress of a country is reveled by noting the increase in the number of sales of coke bottles or detergents, we are missing something fundamental. While I was in the B-School, I was glad to know that we were the 4th largest economy and rested on the fact that we will be the second by year 2050 (or whichever). Would being the top GDP company make us any better country? Seeing the direction we are going, the answer is no.

We rank in the bottom 10 percentile in HDI, Woman Rights and all the related indices. A country cannot advance if the wealth is not evenly distributed. Dont mistake that I am propagating the message of communism. We need a more socially conscious market. The public-private partnership should give a (now famously proven) ‘headstart’ for the poorer masses in terms of better health, education and exposure.

We should stop forgetting that India, as Gandhiji said, ‘ is the land of villages’. Notwithstanding the fact that my family income must have increased by 15-20 times post-liberation, I wonder if we really made any progress over these years. The same number of people die out of starvation, 1/3rd of our people are still illiterate.

It helps to look a little left while riding the mammoth of capitalist economy!

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Best Bollywood movies of 2006

Easily, two movies unianimously emerge as the best movies of 2006 – Rang de Basanti and Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Each of these movies approaching contemprory India from two different poles, merge at the equator of basic principles born out of the struggle for Indian independence. 2006 brings together the two group who never saw eye to eye on the fundamentals but still strived for the same goal – moderates and the extremists.

Rang de Basanti – the last movie I saw before leaving India, through a mix of imagery, excellent editing, weaves two tales – one of the freedom struggle and one of current problems. What could be a utterly despicable act – murder of the minister – doesnt look so bad when juxtaposed against the Bhagat SIngh’s story of heroism. A critcally acclaimed and a commercially success movie brought out interest in the martyrs who died for the struggle.

Freedom struggle in my mind is a critical period in Indian history not just because of the hackneyed ‘driving away the british’ argument but because it created ‘India’ which was a mythical concept. <More on revolution>. The movie also draws subtle parallels by potraying wayward youth converging on a goal and achieving it comparing it of times where the none had imagined the nations destiny and small principalities came together to launch a successful struggle. Not to mention the good quality comedy that keeps the movie warm all along.

Lage Raho Munnabhai – Its a subtle irony that a man who shunned materialism and spiritually led a national movement is a proxy for materialism thanks to his face printed on the currency notes. I have read Gandhi’s global gyan read out out-of-context, displayed on the public urinals not understanding how to apply it. By attributing fixed meaning to words, we make them mortal. Words become immortal when their meanings evolve and interpreted according to the context. $$$ immortalised Gandhism by applying them to the modern day context. the movie enhances the value of gandhian ideals by decreasing the unipolarity of the gandhian way – either this or nothing else. The fundamental reason the movie hit the right chord is that it potrayed Gandhism as a possible option to solve a problem, not the only way. I am myself a Gandhivadi while taking sides on the nature of freedom movement, but LRM very delicately convinced me that ‘Gandhism is not THE way but a good first coption’.

Never before a comedy movie was so pregnant with meaning since the days of Charlie Chaplin and never had a precedence in conveying a moral.

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